Sex Determination Tests In India Fueling Rise In Sex-Selective Abortions
The widespread use of tests to determine the sex of a fetus in Indiaare fueling an increase in sex-selective abortion, government officialsand advocates said Tuesday at a meeting examining the issue, Reuters reports (Bhalla, Reuters, 8/21).
According to a UNICEFreport released in December 2006, about 7,000 fewer girls than expected areborn daily in India, and about 10 million fewer girls than expectedwere born in the past 20 years. The most recent Indian census figuresfound that the gender ratio decreased from 947 girls per 1,000 boys to927 girls per 1,000 boys from 1991 to 2001.
Minister for Womenand Child Development Renuka Chowdhury last month announced that theIndian government is planning to create a national registry of allpregnancies and abortions performed in the country in an effort to curbsex-selective abortion and infant mortality. The government would liketo have public and private health centers, hospitals and maternityhomes in the country record pregnancies and abortions. The governmentalso aims to increase the number of health workers who will locate andprovide care to pregnant women in rural areas.
The country in1994 approved the Prenatal Determination Act, which bans the use oftechnology, such as ultrasounds and sonograms, for the purpose ofsex-selective abortion. The law also bans advertisements for prenatalsex determination, as well as the practice of preconception sexselection (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/3). According to Reuters,more than 400 cases have been filed under the law, resulting in onlytwo convictions -- a fine of 300 rupees, or about $7, and another fineof 4,000 rupees, or about $98.
Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre of Social Research,a New Delhi-based organization promoting women's empowerment, asked,"Is 300 rupees the cost of a girl in India?" She added, "We areobviously not doing enough, as we would see many, many more convictionsbeing made." According to officials, there are plans to increasepunishments for sex-selective abortion from three years to five yearsin jail with a maximum fine of 10,000 rupees, or $240, to 50,000rupees, or $1,215, as well as to boost enforcement of the law.
Officialssaid it is difficult to catch and charge physicians, patients and otheragents involved in sex determination tests and subsequent abortions inprivate clinics, adding that people can be charged only when there isconcrete evidence. "Sex selection has been the main culprit for thedeclining female-child ratio in the country," Pravir Krishna, a seniorofficial from the Indian Ministry of Health and Welfare,said, adding, "Technology has given us a lot of benefits, but this isone aspect of technology which has given us a serious problem" (Reuters, 8/21).
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