Govt to examine new methods used for gender determination
“While misuse of ultra sound machines is still prevalent, newer medical technologies are increasingly being used in the name of genetic testing,” said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan here today.
He was addressing members of the reconstituted Central Supervisory Board, the highest body overseeing the implementation of Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 (PC&PNDTAct).
The use of blood tests that give away the sex of foetus represents a new dimension to gender-specific foeticide.
“At IVF-ART clinics, couples are given the option of accepting or rejecting a foetus depending on its sex. While rules are in place to prevent misuse of ultra-sound machines very little is known about recent innovations brought to bear on sex selection.
“Therefore, the Ministry has decided to form an expert group has been taken to identify the approaches and formulate responses in the form of an amendment to the Act,” Vardhan said.
The Minister rued that despite the two decade old PC&PNDT Act, the sex ratio is clearly not in favour of the girl child. The female to male child ratio was 964 to 1000 in 1971, but Census 2011 has shown it to have fallen to 918 females per 1000 males.
Expressing serious concern over the new technologies, some of which are non-invasive, for the purpose of satisfying the urge to have male progeny, Vardhan said, “Unless these practices are nipped in the bud, they will become impossible to curb later”.
He said he would write to all Chief Ministers of states on the need for ensuring better functioning of state and district appropriate committees empowered under the PC&PNDT Act to supervise and book offenders.
There is also need to involve Members of Parliament to keep a check on the implementation of the committees in their constituencies, he added.
The meeting, co-chaired by Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, stated that 100 districts spread over Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra have been selected for the “Beti Bachao-Beti Padao” (Save the girl child- educate the girl child) campaign.
Maneka pointed out that it is mainly the upper middle and rich classes who avail sex selection methods. They have a preference for fewer children and that too a male child. She asked gynaecologists not to pander to their demands.
“Several amendments are necessary in the PS&PNDT Act and hope the Ministry of Health would provide the technical inputs,” she said.
Vardhan also stressed on developing a communication strategy which would make people value the girl child more. “Having laws is not enough. We should end the system of discrimination against women in society which often causes people to abort female foetuses.”