Tackle patriarchy

Tackle patriarchy

Over 16 years after the enactment of legislation to ban sex determination of the foetus, its practice remains widespread. Pregnant women and their kin continue to find out the sex of the unborn child through ultra-sound scans and in the event of the foetus being female are choosing to abort it.

This has resulted in millions of girls ‘vanishing’ even before they are born contributing to a vastly skewed sex ratio in the country. This is reason for concern as a skewed sex ratio will generate an array of social problems. Activists have been pressing for stern action to tackle female foeticide. This resulted in the enactment of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 under which scanning for sex determination was banned.

The legislation provided for stern punishment for violating the law. The judiciary has repeatedly intervened to push state governments to enforce the law. Yet scanning continues to be misused for determining the sex of the foetus. Almost a million female foetuses are aborted every year. Female foeticide is most rampant in states like Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab and Karnataka too has a skewed sex ratio.

A part of the problem lies in the fact that it is hard to convict someone for the crime. For one, rarely are complaints filed. The service of determining the sex of the foetus is provided on demand and neither side is complaining. Doctors and technicians merely smile or frown to convey their information to the pregnant woman. In the circumstances it is hard to collect hard evidence.

Participants at a recent conference in Bangalore have stressed the important role that doctors have to play in fighting female foeticide. Indeed, gynaecologists and scanning technicians must stand at the frontlines of our fight against female foeticide. If they stand firm in not providing the information of the sex of the foetus, female foeticide will reduce. India has leaned on legislation to address the declining sex ratio.

But legislation only provides an enabling environment to tackle social problems. Since social problems have their roots in the minds of people and problems like female foeticide are closely linked to patriarchical mindsets, creation of social awareness is important. People must be made to understand that their girl children are assets to be cherished.