Earlier this morning, Prajnya, in partnership with the Centre for Social Policy and Strategy (www.csps.co) and the Madras School of Social Work (MSSW, www.mssw.in), conducted a workshop for 20 graduate students from MSSW. After the workshop, students will carry out surveys across seven zones in the city to assess awareness of sex determination laws and practices among staff at diagnostic clinics.
What Laws govern Prenatal Sex Determination in India?
The Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 governs Prenatal Sex Determination in India. It was enacted to stop female foeticides and to alter the declining sex ratio in India. The act banned prenatal sex determination.
What does the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 say?The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion. By this act, the offenses are listed as including the conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.
The Act prohibits sex selection, both, before or after conception. It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis. These methods, by this act, are allowed to be used only to detect genetic abnormalities, metabolic disorders, chromosomal abnormalities, certain congenital malformations, haemoglobinopathies and sex linked disorders. By the act, no laboratory or centre or clinic should conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus; and, no person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method. Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document, or advertises through interior or other media in electronic or print form or engages in any visible representation made by means of hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas, can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
What does the Indian Penal Code, 1860 say?
The Indian Penal Code does not criminalize sex selection. However, it punishes foeticide under Sections 315 and 316. Section 315 addresses any act done with intent to prevent a child being born alive or to cause it to die after birth, while Section 316 addresses the causing of the death of a quick unborn child. Both offenses are penalized with imprisonment up to ten years, with or without fine.
A special thanks to Kirthi Jayakumar who contributed to this article. Kirthi is a lawyer who is specialized in Public International Law and Human Rights. She runs a journal and consultancy that focuses on International Law, called A38. http://www.athirtyeight.com/