Call for a ban on Sex Selection
Son preference is one of the most evident manifestations of gender discrimination in our society. Sex- selection has become a rampant phenomenon and the technologies that are misused for this very purpose are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The use of advanced medical science and technology has made sexual discrimination and the elimination of female babies even before birth an invisible deed. The earlier more crude and visible forms of eliminating females such as choking infants on rice husk have given way to using technology to select sperms carrying the Y chromosome in order to be able to conceive a male child! The widespread practice of sex determination brings to fore a lot of issues linked to it. Medical science and technology are being misuse by medical practitioners who provide such options for people at large. They posses the skill and expertise to use these technologies and are also economically benefiting from them by their misuse. By indulging in such practice they not only violate the law but also the professions own code of ethics and conduct, which also puts forth sex selection as a concern of medical ethics. Most importantly, sex selection also is a breach of human rights as far as women are concerned. The selective elimination of women even before birth is a breach of their right to equality and existence.
|1.||Mean ideal number of:|
|2.||Percentage who want more sons than daughters||33.2|
|3.||Percentage who want more daughters than sons||2.2|
|4.||Percentage who want at least one son||85.1|
|5.||Percentage who want at least one daughter||80.1|
The Creation of Legislation
Though the Act has been in place since the past six years the latest sex ratio figures of the 2001 Census (table 3&4) reveal alarming trends. The Census figures of the 0-6 age group show a steep decline in the number females especially in states like Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Within Maharashtra economically better off districts such as Aurangabad, Sangli and those on the 'sugar belt' show the most adverse sex ratios. In February 2000, two NGOs CEHAT, MASUM and Sabu George, an individual activist filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court. The PIL seeks to accomplish the following objectives-
·To activate the central and state governments for rigorous implementation of the central legislation, and
·To interpret the legislation and/or to demand amendments to ensure that the techniques that use pre-conception or during-conception sex selection are also brought under the purview of the Act.
|Sex Ratio||Number of Districts|
|Less than 800||16|
A Detailed Look at the Issues Raised in the PIL
The Course of the PIL
For the hearing on the 6th of January 2003, though the states/ UTs were given more than a six weeks period to file their affidavits only 12 of 35 had done so till the 4th of January namely- Chandigarh, Maharashtra, Uttaranchal, Manipur, Nagaland, Pondicherry, UP, Kerala, West Bengal, Orissa, Rajasthan and Goa. Given this non-compliance by most states the Court adjourned the matter for 4 weeks. What follows is an overall analysis of the affidavits submitted.
Functioning of the Advisory Councils
Nature of violations reported by the Appropriate Authorities
Failure to regulate registered bodies
On the hearing on the 6thof February, most of the State counsels complained of not getting a copy of the analysis submitted for the judges' convenience by the petitioners and their lawyer. The states of Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Meghalaya, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh did not submit their affidavits. The SC then gave all respondents 3 weeks time to return with their comprehensive compliance affidavits.
Medical professionals, the medical associations and state and national medical councils follow the code of conduct strictly. With an emphasis on assuming responsibility to self-regulate so as to ensure that sex determination / sex selection is not practiced. Unethical practitioners should be identified and blacklisted.
The regulatory authorities should formulate standardized and transparent protocols for monitoring so that there is no unnecessary harassment of providers. The media (print, TV, electronic etc.) should not communicate any message, which is contrary to intent and spirit of the Act (messages which legitimise the practice of sex selection/sex determination). The Information and Broadcasting Ministry should take the necessary action to enforce this directive. The awareness/ advertising of safe legal abortion services should not get affected in the monitoring of media.
At the Centre:
1. CSB commissions studies of sex ratios at birth every 3 years at State level. This information should be collected independent of the routine Health Department sources and birth registration data. The analysis of sex ratios at birth is an unbiased indicator of the effectiveness of the implementation of the PNDT Law and related efforts. CSB place a detailed report to the Supreme Court once every three years beginning from 1
2. At least one women's rights organisation with relevant experience on the issue should be represented in the CSB
3. All equipment having the potential of sex-determination and facilitating sex-selection identified by appropriate authority must be registered at point of sale and information pertaining to buyer and user, their qualifications etc.. district-wise must be reported annually to the appropriate authority and the latter should make this information public.
At the State/UT:
1. Lists of Appropriate Authorities at district and sub district level with their responsibilities should be published and widely circulated in newspapers reaching both the urban and rural communities.
2. These lists should also be disseminated through the electronic media such as TV, radio and should be flashed every fortnight so that the public have information about the authorities
3. These lists should be sent to both public and private hospitals and clinics. Care should be taken that these lists are displayed in prominent locations easily accessible to the public.
4. Awareness building material developed by the state should be locally relevant and should be developed in co-ordination with women's groups and local NGOs.
5. The IEC programme should create public awareness against the practice of prenatal sex determination and sex selective abortion. Care should be taken to emphasize that abortion is the reproductive right of a woman but sex selective abortion of the female fetus selectively discriminates the rights of the girl child.
6. Awareness programmes taken up by the state should also cover high schools, colleges, public and social institutions among others. The state should collaborate with local NGOs and women's groups and conduct awareness programmes in the region. All material developed by the state should be widely disseminated to both public & private health and educational institutions and NGOs
7. Quarterly reports furnished by the states/UT to the CSB should include:
With an emphasis on assuming responsibility to self-regulate so as to ensure that sex determination / sex selection is not practiced. Unethical practitioners should be identified and blacklisted.
Article 1. For the purposes of the present Convention, the term "discrimination against women" shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
Article 2. States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake:
(a) To embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation if not yet incorporated therein and to ensure, through law and other appropriate means, the practical realization of this principle;
(b) To adopt appropriate legislative and other measures, including sanctions where appropriate, prohibiting all discrimination against women;
(c) To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination;
(d) To refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation;
(e) To take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise;
(f) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women;
(g) To repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.
Article 3. States Parties shall take in all fields, in particular in the political, social, economic and cultural fields, all appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men.
Article 5. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:
(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;