Even as the government comes up with methods like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative to curb the widespread evil of female foeticide, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi on Monday said she believes sex determination tests should be made compulsory instead.
"In my personal view, the woman should be compulsorily told that whether it is a boy or girl child whom she is going to give birth. It should be registered to be able to check whether they have given the births or not," Gandhi said at an event in Jaipur.
However, the minister said that it was just an idea that she was putting out and being discussed. But there was no conclusion yet, she said.
It is a different way to look at this problem (female foeticide), which could be solved with this idea, she said.
"We cannot keep catching people doing (illegal) ultrasound," Gandhi said, adding that arrest of such people was not a permanent solution.
The statement has expectedly sparked controversy due to the low sex ratio in the country. The 2011 census report showed that there were just 914 girls per 1000 boys in India.
The minister said that under the suggested policy pregnant women would be registered, allowing authorities to keep an eye on the parents and ensure the child is delivered safely, reports Zee News.
Gandhi also said that couples who go for an abortion will have to submit a medical certificate, citing the cause for the termination of pregnancy.
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act was passed in 1994 to prevent sex determination of a foetus. Among the measures include that a doctor cannot reveal the gender of a unborn child failing which they could be jailed, while a couple seeking information could also face prosecution. Doctors have in the past argued against the law saying that it introduces too much procedure and that the entire onus on preventing female foeticide lies on them.
However, despite the stringent law and public campaigns that has been place for over 20 years the government has struggled to stop female foeticide. In many cases of female foeticide doctors have been at the centre of helping couples determine the sex of a foetus. Even in Haryana, where the sex ratio hit a decade high for the first time in December 2015, one of the major factors cited was the effective implementation of the PCPNDT Act.
Keeping track of doctors, which are far smaller in number than the number of pregnant women, would seem the easier thing for the government to do. It also isn't clear how the government plans to keep track of pregnant women across the country given the public health system in India is hardly the most effective one. Maneka Gandhi has said her view on sex determination is her personal opinion. It's perhaps best it stays that way until a far more comprehensive solution is arrived at.
All images sourced from: Reuters