Ms. Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women & Child Development in the Government of India as of today, has come up with a completely different opinion on how to prevent female feticide in this country. Brilliant brainwaves as she gets always, this idea is as awesome as the disclaimer she made movie-makers put on the screen – This was shot outside India ( because shooting in India is torturing for the animals, if shot in Switzerland Its a blast for them).
This time, she said: “Let the sonographers tell the sex and then track the mother till she delivers.” I can almost find endless loopholes and problems with each word in this statement.
First thing first. Madam, The PCPNDT Act was placed to prevent exactly this. Wasn’t it before that Act when mothers were being told the sex of fetus openly and the onus was on them to prevent the girls from being killed in the womb. Wasn’t that then when society failed to do so and Indian Sex Ratio hit rock bottom. What do you think has changed now? Do you think that better literacy rate has made Indians more responsible, ethical and gender equality practitioners? Census doesn’t agree with you, nor do I. Most developed states like Delhi, Maharashtra and Gujarat have infant sex ratio way worse than the national average while the tribal population of Andaman and Nicobar, or the neglected state of Mizoram has the best ratio in the country.
We might celebrate that rural India has a better infant sex ratio than its urban counterpart, but poverty can be a confounding factor here. Most cannot even afford the basic scans for fetal anomalies, it is logical to guess that they won’t pay extra to know the sex. It is easier to abandon the child later (As blunt as it may sound, but there are much more instances of child mortality, girl trafficking etc. in rural population than urban). I can’t comprehend the reason why someone kills a girl in the womb; I have seen High ranking officials doing so and illiterates and poor fighting their family for their girls. I think it is where we fail as a society.
Doctors and Medical Activists are pouring in support for Madam Minister because it lessens our legal burden. As a fraternity member, I should be supporting this. But it is illogical to support it, even for this reason. There is a whole lot of unnecessary logistics involved. Private practitioners will have to have compulsory registration of each patient (Or how else will you know who was told what), reinforcing the Clinical Establishment Act which is being protested by all Private doctors and small setups (due to the cost and space required in maintaining the records). An extra register will have to be maintained by the doctors, weekly reports will have to be sent to authorities and reviews will be needed. Too much of clerical job.
Then it will be a headache for you too. How are you going to follow up each delivery? ASHA and Aanganwardi workers most probably will be given the task. Not to offend, but why do you think that doctors are corrupt enough to tell the parents illegally the sex of unborn child now for money, but these workers won’t report an illegal abortion as a natural one for the same reason. How are you planning to differentiate a deliberate abortion from a natural one? Sex is determined at 12 weeks and delivery happens in 40th. 28 weeks of 24X7 surveillance is practically impossible.
It will just dilute the responsibility. Right now it’s only the sonographer at fault if he/she chose to reveal the identity, but in the future, it can be anybody’s fault, the worker, the parents, the in-laws, anybody. Do you think that the mother will protect her own? Do you think she will fight for the baby? In a country where most girls don’t have a say in till when they can study, what they can wear, whom will they marry, when they can have sex(marital rape is not even considered rape) and when they can conceive, do you think they will have a say in what they will give birth to?
Let’s not be this cynical. Let’s assume that for once the mother chose to fight the odds. Will she be safe then? When brides are being killed for a mere sum of 20,000 or so in the name of dowry, do you think that she will not be killed for resisting the abortion, and for trying to give birth to a “liability”. The only way I think you can prevent this, is by creating “The Maika System” described in Immortals of Meluha.
These all arguments were logical. Let’s get some emotional perspective. Let’s assume a perfect couple, who wants to have 2 girls and a boy. They want to raise all their children equally well; maybe they will pamper the girls even more. They gave birth to a boy first, and then came a girl. Then the third conception was found to be a boy, and under the new law she was informed. They wanted a girl; they aborted, tried again and gave birth to a girl. The story leaked into society, went viral on social media and they were applauded. Considered heroes, they were praised left right and center, were hailed as campaigners of gender equality, women empowerment and what not.
Now consider another scenario. What if their first two children were girls? They were so happy at their births that they went nuts. They were raising them with as much pomp as possible. They conceived for the 3rd time and again it was a girl fetus. Now what? Anti-Abortion Act in India is not sex-selective yet, but when you put MTP Act and PCPNDT Act together, that is the context. Now in good intent, just to have the joy of raising both boys and girls as they had wished all along, they abort. Will they be applauded? Or will they be disgraced, and if a criminal responsibility is placed, maybe even jailed for this act. Activists will come name calling, shouting that why can’t they just accept god’s gift? Why do they long for a boy when girls are equal to boys in all respect? Will it be fair for them to be disgraced? Without your proposed amendment, they would have accepted whatever gender of the baby was, because they were good people. But this emotional turmoil can even wreck good intent.
It might be a good Idea (It works perfectly well in the west, it allows parents to plan well in advance, for when the baby will arrive, how to better raise him/her), but as a society, India is not ready for this. As a citizen, I feel so.
If you want to help doctors, you can start be making provisions that we are not harassed by stringent laws. Owning a sonography machine is like the worst nightmare a doctor can have now, owning to the countless paperwork involved. Make it more streamlined and effective.
As a doctor, I laud your thought of taking the onus off our back. But the time is not right. We will bear the cross for a little more time, till the society is ready.