India is not known for its high standard of gender equality. A standing example is the prevalence of rampant female foeticide throughout the country. The implementation of the PCPNDT Act (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act) is another way to try and placate the radical scenario with respect to female foeticide. This Act tries to control the misuse of sex determination techniques. Its the irony of ironies that one on hand we are technologically moving ahead but on the other we are grossly misusing the technology to not give a child the basic right, a chance to live. The use of technology to such perverse measures does not really speak highly of the Indian mentality with regards to the girl child.
The statistics are also a cause for concern.
YEAR - SEX RATIO
Females per 1,000 males
1901 - 972
1911 - 964
1921 - 955
1931 - 950
1941 - 945
1951 - 946
1961 - 941
1971 - 930
1981 - 934
1991 - 927
2001 - 933
Source: Census of India, 2001.
If we are to take a look at the census report we would agree with the serious issues raised by raised by the Supreme Court in CEHAT Vs Union of India.
The Supreme Court, taking a serious view of the onslaught of sex-selective discriminatory practices by the medical fraternity, and the connection it may have with the use of pre-natal sex determination, directed the Centre to implement the PC & PNDT Act in all its aspects. The order came following a public interest petition filed by the centre for the Enquiry of Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT), the Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (MASUM) and Dr. Sabu George, who had done extensive research in this area.
Salient Features of the Act:
The Act provides for prohibition of the technique for sex determination of the foetus, prohibits the advertising of the technique and also provides for regulation of the technique including penalties for offending parties.
The exceptional circumstances for the usage of the technique includes:
detection of any of the following abnormalities, namely:—
(i) chromosomal abnormalities;
(ii) genetic metabolic diseases;
(iv) sex-linked genetic diseases;
(v) congenital anomalies;
(vi) any other abnormalities or diseases as may be specified by the Central Supervisory Board;
any of the following conditions are to be fulfilled, namely:—
(i) age of the pregnant woman is above thirty-five years;
(ii) the pregnant woman has undergone of two or more spontaneous abortions or foetal loss;
(iii) the pregnant woman had been exposed to potentially teratogenic agents such as drugs,
radiation, infection or chemicals;
(iv) the pregnant woman or her spouse has a family history of mental retardation or physical
deformities such as, spasticity or any other genetic disease;
(v) any other condition as may be specified by the Central Supervisory Board;
Section 5 of the Act also insists on the importance of women’s written consent. Section 24 lays down that unless the contrary is proved the court shall presume that a pregnant woman was compelled by her husband or relatives to undergo the test and such person shall be held for abetment of the offence.
The Act also provides that the Genetic counselling centres and clinics will be registered under the Act and will be under the scanner. The Central Supervisory Board will advice and aid in implementation of policy matters with regards to the Act. There is also an Advisory Board in place to facilitate smooth functioning of the Act. The offences under this Act are non-bailable, non-compoundable and cognizable.
It is very sad indeed that the unprotected so-called burdensome girl child needs a legislation to protect every human’s basic right- the right to live. Is this a mark of civilization is the question every Indian should be asking.