Make child sex-determination must: Maneka Gandhi’s idea is revolutionary, but it hasn’t been thought out
Union Woman and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi suggested that child sex determination during pregnancy be made compulsory, the gender of the child registered right from that moment, and the birth be tracked. She said this at the All-India Regional Editors Conference in Jaipur on Monday, while responding to a question about people employing different means to detect the gender of an unborn child, in contravention of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act.
After her statement generated a substantial debate, Maneka’s office issued a statement clarifying her stand and said: “Some of the newspapers have reported that the Minister referred to a Cabinet proposal about tracking female foeticide and registering the sex of the foetus. This is factually incorrect. What was discussed by the Minister was that effective implementation of the PCPNDT Act is one of the ways to check falling child sex ratio.”
Statement and clarification aside, the fact of the matter is Maneka Gandhi did say that female foeticide can be checked by making sex determination compulsory and tracking the mothers and which is where the problem lies.
India is among the countries with the worst child sex ratios in the world. The 2011 Census showed that the child sex ratio has dipped from 927 girls in 2001 to 919 girls in 2011. Child sex ratio shows the number of girls per 1,000 boys between the ages 0-6. The data proves that India has an abysmal record when it comes to reining in the cases of female foeticide. Latest Census numbers also cast a shadow on the adequacy of measures which are helping in educating people to not prefer sons over daughters. Reports said that with 919 girls per 1000 boys, child sex ration in India has reached its lowest levels since 1961. Hindus, who make up 80 percent of the population of the country, saw their child sex ratio come down from 925 to 913 between 2001-2011, in line with Muslims, Christians and Buddhists.
Now, let’s revisit what Maneka suggests.
The Union minister said, “Hamari ek raai hai… we’ve even read in newspapers about a blood test which tells the gender immediately, so till when will we make criminals of people? Better still, we change the policy and make it compulsory to tell a pregnant woman if it is a boy or a girl, and get her registered. Then you will be able to monitor it, whether she is born or not.”
The idea is brilliant and there’s no denying that. Whenever a family tries to abort a girl child, the system cracks down on them. We will need a system which will diligently track and honestly monitor the mother and the child and not only till the delivery but a year from the birth of the baby. But is it too good to be true?
In a country as vast and as corrupt as ours, the suggestion, if practiced, will be counter-productive and riddled with holes. First of all, by making sex-determination compulsory, ‘diagnostic centres’ which perform these services will mushroom out of control. They will be legal and hence thrive better. And how will tracking the mother help at all?
Who will track the mothers and what their families are putting them through in a country over populated like India where patriarchal system is deep-rooted and sex-selective abortion is rampant.
“The concept is extremely catchy but you cannot find an easy solution for such a difficult and a deep-rooted problem,” Varsha Deshpande, Satara-based social activist who is also national inspection committee member of Health and Family Welfare Ministry in the government of India, told Firstpost over the phone. Deshpande said that a person like Maneka who is extremely sensitive about issues relating to women needs to be more careful of the statements she makes. “There is a lobby of doctors and corporations who are using her to make their ends meet. This is not Beti Bachao, this is doctor/technician bachao. Maneka is committed to the cause, but how is it possible to track all these women and their children. That apart, if this rule really comes to effect, the government will be attacking abortion rights of women,” Varsha added.
Social and women rights activists maintain that it is a much smarter idea to track the diagnostic centres, its doctors and technicians rather than the mother and the child. However well-intended Maneka’s statement be, the minister’s suggestion could overthrow what she intends to achieve. The police and the system will then go after the mother, who in this setup, has less or almost no say on whether to give birth to a girl child.
“There is already a system in place which is more or less working, it is at least picking up, but Maneka wants to uproot this system and replace it with a new one which is riddled with holes. Who will track the child? Who will track the mother? Who will track those million centres? Delivery happens in public hospitals, homes and even roads and fields – where all will the government go and track these deliveries?” asked author, women’s rights activist and legal scholar Flavia Agnes.
“The statement is a sensational one and that’s all the purpose is. She (Maneka) does not realise what she has said and I don’t know how she is going to undo it. But it is an irrational statement,” Agnes told Firstpost.
Mitu Khurana, a Delhi-based paediatrician, who is hoping to set a legal precedent after taking her husband and in-laws to court for ‘conspiring to kill her twin daughters in the womb’, said:
“This is an attempt to take away the responsibility from the doctors and shift the blame on the women. See if you cannot monitor a few thousand doctors, how do you plan to monitor millions of deliveries? Who is going to monitor that. This is just going to encourage female foeticide. How about the spontaneous abortion? Will you put the blame on women for spontaneous abortions? Everytime the abortion is not induced, it can happen by itself also. So how do you differentiate if the woman had gone for an abortion or it was a spontaneous abortion. It is against the basic women’s right of abortion. Even the UN has said that abortion is a right of a woman. They are taking the onus from the doctors who are doing illegal gender determination and putting on the poor women. Also, if a family finds out it is a girl child, the expectant mother would be subjected to several forms of atrocities. If a woman, identified carrying a female child, is beaten up she will suffer a miscarriage.”
India’s silent war on unborn girls in the womb is being highlighted by a courageous doctor who claims that her husband pressured her to abort her daughters after an illegal ultrasound revealed their gender.
Having seen her case thrown out for lack of evidence in September after a preliminary hearing, Dr. Mitu Khurana, now 39 and a hospital administrator in New Delhi, talked with LifeSiteNews Friday about her appeal to a higher court to consider her charge against her husband, Dr. Kemal Khurana.
She claims that he arranged for an illegal ultrasound to discover the gender of her unborn children a decade ago, an act prohibited by 1994 legislation. The prohibition is so widely flouted that, according to UNICEF 7,000 girls were aborted each day in India up to 2005.
“I am doing this so that my daughters grow up in a world where they do not have to face the violence that I faced,” Dr. Khurana told LifeSiteNews. “I have been blessed by God with supportive parents who I now live with. But many parents just tell their daughters to stay with their husbands’ families and make the best of it. So I do this for social change.”
Dr. Khurana alleges that when she got pregnant in 2005, her in-laws soon began to hint at abortion. “They began saying, ‘Two will be a burden,’ but I did not immediately understand quite what they meant. I didn’t know I was carrying girls or that they did,” she said in an earlier interview.
Later, she said, her husband admitted that when she went to hospital with kidney pains, which he may have induced by poisoning her, he arranged for an ultrasound test that determined that her twins were both girls. Both he and the hospital deny the charge, claiming that the tests were routine under the circumstance – a claim a lower court has clearly accepted, as it dismissed Dr. Khurana’s accusations. “It was completely one-sided. The judges, the lawyers the police, they all think this [gender selection] is completely acceptable,” she told LifeSiteNews.
Her accusations go beyond the claim that the 1994 law banning sex-selection ultrasounds was breached, including 11 legal actions. Dr. Khurana claims that her husband (one of those cases is her pending divorce suit) not only pressured her to abort her daughters, but assaulted her (and them) by pushing her down a stairway, then locking her in a room for a day to prevent her getting medical help. Her complaints to police were met with indifference.
Indian doctor alleges husband tricked her into having ultrasound to reveal sex of her children
An Indian paediatrician who has accused her husband of tricking her into revealing the sex of her unborn girl twins and then allegedly pressurising her into aborting them is waging a landmark legal battle over the case at India’s high court.
Mitu Khurana, a 39-year old doctor from Delhi, refused to abort the two girls and has become a cause celebre for campaigners against sex-selective abortions that have reached “emergency” levels in parts of India.
In the first case of its kind, Dr Khurana is taking legal action against her husband who she claims asked doctors to take a surreptitious ultra-sound of her unborn twins while she was in hospital in 2004 suffering from a stomach complaint.
“If, despite all the evidence I have, the accused are allowed to escape then no other women will ever try to prosecute for this type of crime,” Mrs Khurana told The Sunday Telegraph.
“Ultrasounds in India always happen behind closed doors because every doctor knows it’s a crime and will never give the results in writing. If I lose this case it will close the door to any women who want to file complaints in the future”.
Her husband, Dr Kamal Khurana, has vehemently denied the allegations which are the first of their kind to be brought under a law that prohibits the gender testing of foetuses which was introduced in 1994 to curb the endemic practice of aborting girls.
The preference for boys over girls in India for both economic and social reasons has led to dangerously skewed gender ratios, with one study estimating that some 12 million Indian girls had been aborted over the last 30 years.
Last year the United Nations noted that the dwindling number of Indian girls had reached “emergency proportions” and was contributing to violent sex crimes against women.
An organization in Delhi recently investigated 89 hospitals around the capital and unveiled giant sex discrepancies in birth rates. One clinic was found to have delivered just 285 girls for every 1,000 boys over the last year.
Mrs Khurana’s case, which was recently thrown out by a lower court due to lack of evidence, implicates her husband, Kamal, and the Jaipur Golden Hospital.
According to the court papers, Mrs Khurana alleges she was taken to hospital after having an allergic reaction to some food.
नई दिल्ली। अपने ही पति पर बिना अनुमति लिंग जांच कराने का मुकदमा दर्ज कराने वाली महिला डॉक्टर ने निचली अदालत के फैसले को सत्र अदालत में चुनौती दी है। मेट्रोपॉलिटन मजिस्ट्रेट ने महिला के पति व आरोपी डॉक्टरों को सुबूतों के अभाव में बरी कर दिया था।
महिला डॉक्टर मीतू खुराना फिल्म अभिनेता आमिर खान के टीवी शो सत्यमेव जयते से सुर्खियों में आईं थी। महिला ने अपने ही पति के खिलाफ एंटी फोयिटल सैक्स डिटर्मिनेशन कानून के तहत मामला दर्ज कराया था।
मीतू खुराना ने सोमवार को रोहिणी की सत्र अदालत में याचिका लगाई। इस पर सुनवाई के लिए 19 नवंबर की तारीख तय की गई है। खुराना के मुताबिक उनके परिजन शुरुआत में यह कहते रहे कि दो बच्चे बोझ की तरह हैं। शुरुआत में वह समझ ही नहीं पाईं कि उसकी कोख में दो बेटियां हैं।
Dear Prime Minister,
We appreciate your statement while launching Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign, you said that female foeticide is a sign of ‘mental illness’. You further said that if this discrimination does not end it could cause a “terrible crisis” soon because of a lack of women in the country.
While appreciating your effort, we are sharing a hard reality of those who raised their voices against this mental illness’. A mother who showed courage to save her unborn daughter finally ended bleakly. A ten-years struggle for the first woman in India to file a case against her husband and her in-laws under laws banning sex determination of fetuses ended when, a trial court in Delhi dismissed her case in September 2015.
Dr Mitu Khurana, a Delhi-based paediatrician, whose story was also shared on Satyamev Jayate, lost the 10 yr old fight and accused was discharged. Despite torture and violence at the hands of her husband and in-laws, she has fought to save her twin daughters from being selectively aborted. In 2008, Mitu Khurana became the first woman in India to file a case against her husband and in laws under this act. Married in 2004, Khurana became pregnant with twins in April 2005, and, in her complaint to the court, she alleged that her in-laws pressured her continually to determine the sex of the foetuses.
Dear Prime Minister, we know that you are serious about eradicating this maniac. Your statement while launching the campaign, as “the Prime Minister of this country had come to them like a beggar and was begging for the lives of daughters, has strengthen a mother’s faith in society and justice. This is not only about Dr Mitu Khurana, the fight is of every Indian who has a daughter, of every Indian who wants India to be a safer place. The Fight is of every woman who wants to/will want to save her daughters. The fight is of every unborn girl who was/will be killed for being a girl.
Hereby, a mother, a women and whole India is looking to you to provide justice, and ensure that Mitu Khurana shouldn’t be the last woman in India to file a case against culprits under this act.