Proposal to scrap sex determination ban is absurd
Persistent problems often require modern solutions. That, unfortunately, is not how the Indian Medical Association’s proposal to the government and parliamentarians — to fully repeal the Pre-Conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 — can be described. The IMA said the ban on sex determination has achieved little by way of tackling the actual problem of sex-selective abortions and trapped doctors under an avalanche of paperwork in which even minor mistakes can cost them dearly. The association has, in the past, asked for certain sections of the legislation to be watered down, but this is the first time it has proposed a complete repeal. Such a proposition from the country’s apex medical body is astounding; while it is tasked with looking after the interests of doctors, its job also involves protecting the greater good of the larger community, of which women and girl children are a significant part.
Rescinding the entire legislation ought to be out of the question. A mere look at census data on India’s sex ratio reveals its appallingly skewed nature as well as its steady deterioration. The ratio for children between the ages of zero and six years plummeted from 927 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2001 to 919 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011. As if this were not enough, another estimate by the government showed that the numbers declined from 906 in 2012-14 to 900 in 2013-15. While these figures do bolster the IMA’s argument that precious little has been achieved by way of prevention of sex-selective abortions under the law, it should be clear that the problem does not lie with the law itself but with its implementation and the conditions that make it easy for those with vested interests to flout. These factors include the lack of education and awareness as well as the societal and cultural attitude towards girl children in India. The concern of doctors being made to handle paperwork must be addressed: perhaps there is a case for raising a particular set of employees who can take over the task. At the same time, in keeping with the opinion of many doctors across the country, instead of entertaining the absurd appeal for repealing the ban, the lacunae in the law must be examined so that it can be reimagined and better implemented.