Health Ministry urged not to dilute anti sex-selection law

With 17 out of 21 states slipping on the sex-ratio-at-birth, a section of doctors have asked the Union Health Ministry not to dilute the provisions of the 25-year-old anti sex-selection law as demanded by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Notwithstanding its poor track record on conviction, the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act, 1994 is the only legal instrument to deter thousands of ultra sound clinics to carry out scans to know the gender of the yet-to-be-born child.

A section of doctors and public health campaigners on Tuesday demanded no dilution of the law following a meeting, in which the issue was discussed, between the Union Health Minister J P Nadda and IMA.

India's largest association of doctors wrote to Nadda seeking amendments in the law to ensure "strict penalties are imposed only on the commission of sex determination or female foeticide and not for clerical errors like maintenance of registers and filling up forms."

"The proposed amendments will undermine the effectiveness of law to prevent sex selection and female foeticide," argued Sabu George, a doctor and member of the national inspection and monitoring committee, PC-PNDT Act.

In the absence of a monitoring mechanism, no distinction should be made between ultra sound for obstetrics and non-obstetrics purposes. "Such a distinction would be prone to misuse," he said.

In the past, IMA petitioned the Supreme Court with a plea to dilute the law but the petition was turned down by the top court in 2006.

India has 59,000 registered ultra sound clinics. While sex selection is legally prohibited, the practice continues under-ground.

"Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Haryana recorded substantial drops (10 or more points) on sex-ratio-at-birth, suggesting a clear need for the states to effectively implement the law and promote the value of the girl child," said George.

A NITI Ayog report released in February, reported a sordid fact- girl-to-boy sex ratios at birth have declined in 17 of 21 large states, signalling their failure to curb the selective abortion of female fetuses after illegal sex disclosure.

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