Maharashtra’s Public Accounts Committee recommendation making pre-natal sex determination compulsory has got activists up in arms to prevent female foeticide. They plan to issue a statement opposing the move. “These recommendations are grossly violative of the PCPNDT (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique) Act itself, and will impinge upon the MTP Act as well. It is ironical that such a recommendation is being made in Maharashtra, which pioneered the law to curb sex selection,” Kamayani Mahabal, a women’s rights activist, said.
The suggestion was recently tabled in the Maharashtra Assembly by a panel headed by Congress MLA Gopaldas Agarwal. It recommended that the PCPNDT (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994, should bring the parents under its purview. It has suggested that the local health officers in the community should continuously monitor pregnant women to know if they have aborted the female foetus.
“It is shocking that the proposal is being mooted at a time when yet another racket of sex selection has recently come to light in Mhaisal, Sangli. It is quite clear that such a proposal is intended to absolve doctors and to shift the burden to the shoulders of pregnant women. The 2003 amendments to the 1994 PCPNDT Act recognised the lack of autonomy faced by women and had specifically kept pregnant woman out of the ambit of the Act,” said the statement.
“This new proposal will only result in a twenty-four hour surveillance of pregnant women both within the family and by the state authorities. It will unnecessarily target every woman bearing a female foetus. This will adversely impact women’s already poor access to safe abortion. It will fuel a proliferation of illegal facilities for getting rid of unwanted female foetuses. PAC suggestions of surveillance is violation of our fundamental right to privacy and victimization of the woman when the focus of surveillance should be providers who are the key link to practice of sex determination and sex selection,” it read further.
Kamayani said that the activists’ demand is that the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly should reject the recommendations of the PAC.
According to the PAC report, the sex determination test must be done when parents come for sonography and they should be tracked to check if they are coming for tests even after knowing that the foetus is that of a girl child: “When parents come for sonography, compulsory sex determination must be allowed and follow-ups must be done at the local level to ensure the couples come for further check- ups.”
“Since the law only provides for action against doctors (for carrying out sex selection tests), there is no fear of the law among parents.”