Mandatory sex determination : A boon or a bane?

Women and Child Development minister, Maneka Gandhi has proposed to make mandatory sex determination test in a bid to fight female foeticide. She says that her ministry is trying to device a way to track pregnant women through this compulsory test. In her words “There is no point in increasing the people (doctors and technicians) in prisons, which are already overburdened”. While her reason may seem flaky, what needs to be seen is whether the idea has practical merit, whether it can indeed be successful in curbing female foeticide, or just another unsuccessful attempt?

While currently there is a law which makes sex determination tests illegal, it would not be wrong to say that many such test are done clandestinely, and abortions are carried out on the basis of results of such tests. And, it would also not be wrong to say that it is fairly difficult to crack down on all the people who carry out such practices.

Maneka Gandhi’s idea that pregnant women carrying girl child be tracked after they have registered the sex of their unborn child, while unique and merituous on paper may be difficult to execute. The first question is how do you track the pregnant women? Or how can you confirm that the number of women registered for the sex determination test are the correct numbers, especially in the rural areas, where child delivery at home is still very much a reality.

There are already laws in place to track pregnant women. The union government tracks pregnant women through Accredited Social Health Workers (ASHAs) and anganwadi workers. Under the flagship program of the Union Health Ministry, National Health Mission, the pregnant women have to register at the nearest anganwadi centers and with the ASHAs who can then ensure that they are immunized and taken for delivery to a hospital. What needs to be assessed is how effective are these tracking measures and how successful they have been.

Probably then, we could gauge whether Maneka Gandhi’s suggestion could be turned into a glowing reality. Her suggestion, if it does see the light of the day can be an effective and logical way to curb the practice of female foeticide which even now is rampant in our country

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