In 1988 there was an advertisement in the Diwali special number of a renowned Marathi magazine: “Amniocentesis is a developed science
To misuse it for abortion is a great sin.
Better go in for sex-selection
Read this book. Consult your family doctor for a sure way of begetting sons.” Female foeticide is perhaps one of the worst forms of violence against women where a woman is denied her most basic and fundamental right- the right to life enshrined in Article 21 of Indian Constitution. Elimination of the girl child by way of selectively eliminating the female embryos or foetuses is an age-old phenomenon. It negates the fundamental right to equality guaranteed under Articles 14 and 15 of our Constitution. The traditional mentality of the Indian culture of preferring the boy baby over the girl child combined with the ultra modern technology has only succeeded in boosting the status conscious Indian families to perpetuate their choice making process of the girl child elimination in the most sophisticated and easiest way. To top it all, the ethically conscious medical profession has been able to bring down the already imbalanced sex ratio on to 927 women per 1000 men.
It raises important issues on the interfacing of technology, health and society, of misuse of medical technology, of using techno-centric solutions for social problems, of violation of the principles of medical ethics, of social and demographic implications of such technologies, of the decision making processes involving technology, which can have far-reaching social effects, of regulating the medical profession (specially reproductive technology) both internally and externally, of limits to research and the techno-docs' power 'to play God', of the role and limits of social legislation in tackling social problems; of 'informed consent', and patients' rights and doctors accountability, of the possible fall-out of the advent of New Reproductive Technologies (NRTs) from Sex Pre-Selection Techniques (SPSTs) to non-coital reproduction through IVF- ET or GIFF, surrogate motherhood to genetic engineering; of decision-making process in family and society and women's role (or lack of it) in them. All these interrelated issues mean something to all our lives as it defines the way we see our past, present and future.
Traditionally the patriarchal families got rid of the “unwanted child” either by way of poisoning the new-born baby or letting her coke on husk or simply by crushing her skull under a charpoy. Since modern medical tests have made it easier to determine the sex of the child even before the birth of the “unwanted child”, the number has only shot instead of decreasing. In one hospital, a study showed that out of 8,000 abortions performed, 7,999 were female foetuses. Hence, the government was forced to pass the Pre Natal Diagnostic (Prevention) Act, 1994 in response to the increasing number of abortions performed on women carrying female foetuses. Thus, India's officials banned couples from using "technical means" to determine the sex of a foetus. Although India's Parliament passed the legislation in 1994, it could not become law until all state legislatures approved it. The law finally took effect on January 1, 1996.
The 1994 Act is both prohibitive and regulatory.
Prohibitive: According to the Act the use of pre-natal techniques for the purposes of sex determination are prohibited. The Act prohibits any person conducting prenatal diagnostic procedure from communicating to the pregnant women concerned or her relatives the sex of the foetus by words, signs or in any other manner. The Act prohibits any Genetic Counselling centre, Genetic Laboratory and Genetic Clinic to conduct activities relating to pre-natal diagnostic technique unless it is registered under the Act or to employ anyone who does not possess the prescribed qualifications. The medical practitioners are...