Saving the Girl Child: Mandatory Sex Determination Debate

The Union Woman and Child development Minister Maneka Gandhi stirred a debate while advocating making sex determination during pregnancy mandatory and registration of sex of the child compulsory, in order to check the menace of female foeticide by tracking the birth of the child right from the moment of registration. Doubts were raised over the efficacy of the idea and possible misuse of the provision.

Understanding the logic

The logic of the minister is that monitoring and arresting people for revealing sex determination is not feasible and cannot offer a permanent solution. It is estimated that around 55,000 pre-natal diagnostic clinics exists throughout the country. So it would not be practical to effectively monitor and arrest the law breakers. Secondly, registering the sex of the child would ensure that the families will have no other option other than to bear the child, even though they are not willing to have a girl child. Thirdly, this idea would encourage women to have institutional deliveries as opposed to giving birth at home.

Criticism and objections to the proposal

Though the intention of the idea is to check female foeticide, it suffers from inherent drawbacks. The minister says that it would not be feasible to effectively monitor the ultrasound clinics and catch the offenders. In this context, if the government cannot check 55,000 ultra sound clinics then how it is planning to keep track of 29 million annual pregnancies is a question worth asking. Given the limited resources, it would not be possible to monitor this huge number of pregnancies.

Secondly, this move will legalize pre-natal sex determination and help in the further mushrooming of the ultra-sound scan clinics, thereby further complicating the problem of tracking and monitoring the process.

Thirdly, this idea may ensure that the girl child is born, but is silent about the discrimination faced by the girl child after birth. In rural areas, still there are practices of female infanticide and naming the girl child inappropriately such as Nakusa, meaning unwanted. So, critics argue that it is not only important to ensure the delivery of the girl child but equally important is ending the discrimination faced by the girl child. According to them, money and effort spent on this can be used to create awareness among the people.

Lastly, this idea would undermine the genuine abortion needs of a woman by encroaching upon women’s reproductive rights and may also lead to unsafe abortions. It is also in a way, squarely puts the blame of sex selection on the women by criminalizing her and since the police and system will go after her, she may have to face the ill consequences of the act for which she may not have full control of. Also, there is every possibility that expectant mother of a girl child may be subjected to several forms of atrocities.

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