Gender-based abortions will continue to be banned in India with the Bombay High Court, in Maharashtra, a western Indian State, on Thursday rejecting a plea from a couple to permit the wife to undergo a sex determination test.
They said they wanted to ensure that she did not deliver a female child again, they had two already.
The couple, Vijay and Kirti Sharma, based in the commercial metropolis Mumbai, challenged the validity of the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Tests Act (PCPNDT) Act, a 2001 Indian legislation which bans sex determination.
Kirti Sharma had pleaded with the judge that she must be allowed to bear a male child since social stigma was attached to the birth of a girl child in the country.
However, the court ruled that if sex determination test was not banned "it would result in an imbalance in the sex ratio and the girl child would always remain unwanted." Allowing the petitioner's plea would amount to "an insult to womanhood," the order said. Sex selection tests also offended the dignity of women and undermined their importance, the court stressed.
The order has brought cheer to progressive activists who have been demanding strict implementation of the provisions of the PCPNDT Act. Though the legislation was enacted in 2001, there had been instances of violations in quite a few Indian States and a few doctors too were arrested for conducting gender tests.
The need for the implementing the ban is crucial considering the alarming female sex ratio in some north Indian States like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. Studies had earlier shown that in Himachal Prudish there were only 896 girls against 1,000 boys in the age group of 0 to 6 years. In Punjab there were only 874 females for 1,000 men.
Also, the introduction of a United States patented sex determination kit called 'Baby Gender Mentor Home DNA Gender Testing Kit' have raised fears about back-door fetus determination tests. The kit, priced at $275 was sold online on the website www.pregnancystore.com and was popularly known as 'Jantar Mantar' in rural Punjab. It had a built-in-equipment for collecting and sending a finger-prick blood sample to a Massachusetts laboratory from where confidential results were sent via e-mail within 48 hours.
The Indian Medical Association has raised concerns that such kits could lead to mass abortions of the female foetus, which would further skew the sex ratio.
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Women has suggested proper monitoring of the situation and severe punishment for those performing sex determination tests.