Amend the law to correct sex ratio

It needs more teeth to deal with female foeticide

sweta-ranjan

Sweta Ranjan | June 1, 2011



The question that struck me after seeing the India census 2011 report is: Is the Pre-natal Diagnostic Technique (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Act a toothless piece of legislation? That seems to be the case as the sex ratio has turned from bad to worse. While the normal ratio for children between 0 and 6 is about 950 girls to 1000 boys, the 2011 census shows that the number of girls has shrunk from 927 in 2001 to 914 in 2011.

Experts say that some sections of the Act are partly responsible for the skewed ratio. A few amendments in the PCPNDT Act could help curb the situation.

Effective implementation:
Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research has been raising concerns and exhorting the government to bring in amendments to the PCPNDT Act to prevent continued misuse of technology. She says, “The ratio is miserable because health is a state subject and some states have performed pathetically in notifying the authority. The state governments have to wake up, constitute the authority and notify it, otherwise such crime would keep taking place and no one would be booked.” The Delhi high court also recently observed that the growth of diagnostic clinics could not be effectively regulated.

Stringent punishment:
It is evident from the data that the lawbreakers need to be dealt with more strict rules. Though there is a punishment of up to seven years jail under the PCPNDT Act, the wrongdoers easily hoodwink the law. If the punishment is made more rigorous, then a ‘fear factor’ among the sinners would develop. Ranjana Kumari says, “We have recommended for a more stringent punishment under this Act. A fright needs to be developed among the rule breakers. We should work in the direction of how the sati pratha was dealt with. Sati stopped only after it was dealt with strict regulations. All involved in the crime should be booked under PCPNDT Act also.”

Make manufacturers accountable:
All ultrasound machines should be registered with the government but only a few do it. Because the ultrasound machines are easily available, the unscrupulous offenders misuse it. “We have proposed to make even those companies accountable who manufacture these machines and they should also be booked if the machines are provided to wrong hands,” says Ranjana Kumari. New technologies should also be brought under the scanner and stopped from becoming a household technology. Websites encouraging the sex identification of a fetus should be completely banned and the amended Act should bring them under the lens by making regulations against their advertisements and marketing.

Nab the quacks:
The term ‘sonologist’ under the law is ambiguous. It should incorporate the requirements in terms of qualification, teaching and skills to identify and register as sinologist. Ranjana Kumari reveals that a known doctor from AIIMS told her that in Kurukshetra many females who aborted their children after sex identification realised only later that they were carrying baby boys in their womb and it was because of the quacks they approached that they had to lose their children. 

Create awareness:
Stringent punishment and awareness should go hand in hand to tackle this menace. Sadly, many of the cases of female feticide happen in educated families, which indicates that education equips a person to become professional and improve the lifestyle but it does not really improve the value system, says an activist. The government needs to do work effectively in this direction by launching a new awareness campaign and ensuring district-level monitoring.

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