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Dilution slur on sex-test law revision

New Delhi, Dec. 7: Women’s activists are accusing the Parliamentary committee on empowerment of women of diluting the amendments to the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, 1994, which bans sex-determination tests.

The amendment Bill, which seeks to give more teeth to agencies involved in checking the illegal practice, has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha, but is yet to come up for discussion.

In its last meeting on November 27, the women’s empowerment committee, headed by Congress MP Margaret Alva, made recommendations that are a concession to doctors and radiologists resisting the amendments, women’s activists said.

The sole voice of protest in the 40-member committee of women MPs was that of CPM’s Chandrakala Pandey, who put in a note of dissent to the report.

She was the only one to disagree with the majority opinion that pregnant women who agreed to sex-determination tests should be treated as offenders. “We are totally against punishing women when we all know the circumstances which force them to undergo such tests,” said Sabu George, an activist. Among the accusations against the committee are that it has excluded portable ultrasound equipment from the scope of the amendment Bill.

Activists said most of the illegal tests are nowadays done with mobile ultrasound machines.

The committee’s report has added another heading under which pre-natal diagnostic techniques can be used — “for the purpose of medical studies as detailed in medical literature and for research purposes”, raising the hackles of the women’s organisations.

The committee has left out those who abet female foeticide from its purview of punishment. For instance, a doctor recommending sex determination and referring the couple to another doctor will go unpunished.

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