A dull murmur rose among the assembled audience. Seeing that her revelation had created the desired effect, Mrs. Phavalam went on "....... And amidst this fall in the Child Sex ratio (CSR) across the country (from 927 females against 1000 males in 2001 to 914 against 1000 males in 2011), a doctor, who was identified and suspended for Sex Selective abortion is now seated in the State Advisory Committee for PCPNDT (Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act. It is this poor style of implementation of this Act that has led to the decline in CSR."
- Campaign Against Sex Selection
- Campaign Participants
Mrs. P. Phavalam, a civil rights activist, was speaking at a recent event organized in Chennai city in South India by CASSA (Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion) to discuss strategies in halting sex selective abortion..
The PCPNDT Act
The Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 1996 commonly known as the PCPNDT Act, is a law formulated to prevent sex selective abortion in India by making gender determination of the fetus unlawful. Simply stated, it is illegal to try and find out if the baby in the womb is male or female. Advisory committees were introduced in each state to implement this Act following judicial orders. But as in many government provisions, even these advisory committees are non effective and in majority, are cramped with medical practices (sometimes tainted ones as mentioned by Phavalam).
Uninterested authorities, Undisturbed nexus galore
"The poor implementation of this Act means people have access to determine the fetal gender, which further increases the scope of sex selective abortion," Mrs.A. Gandhimati, another civil rights activist told Medindia in the sidelines of the event. Adding that she and her organisation had filed over 400 petitions against various scanning centres across the state for illegally determining the gender of the fetus, Gandhimati alleges that no action has been taken so far. "It is as if they are not interested in this issue," she said.
Tilting the gender balance: Fertility centre as the new player
"Adding to the Sonography centres are the fertility centres, readily helping obsessed parents conceive male children via ART (Artificial Reproductive Techniques). This nexus is turning rampant with some fertility centres reaping the benefits. We have seen cases where a 60 yearr-old woman wished to have a male child through ART," said Ranjani K. Moorthy, another Researcher and Civil Activist.
The Pune and Himachal Model
Offering a solution to the misuse of ART and better implementation of PCPNDT, Mrs. Sheila Jeyaprakash, an advocate seeking to set right the lopsided sex ratio in India said, "We should bring in a system wherein the Fertility centre submits monthly or Quarterly reports to the State Authority, which includes various aspects relating to every individual case they receive, especially when the scan has been performed, because chances are that the parents have been alerted of the child's gender. And we could also make a provision in which it is compulsory to specify the gender of the aborted fetus. This way we would be able to identify the fertility centres that indulge in wrongdoing. The PCPNDT Act, though widely blamed for being ineffective, has been very useful in Pune and Himachal Pradesh. This is because the authorities in these places involved more of civil participation in their advisory committees through NGOs and activists. Such civil activist participation technique must be adopted in Tamil Nadu as well."
The alarming fall in child sex ratio recorded in India's latest census and the birth of fewer female babies in recent years is a matter of serious concern. Social activists blame it on governmental apathy and the popular preference for a male child that runs deep in the Indian psyche and culture. A whole hearted effort from all quarters to regain a healthy male and female ratio is a vital step in steering any country onto a successful future.