New Delhi: Several women's organisations on Friday strongly opposed Union Minister Maneka Gandhi's suggestion that prenatal sex determination be made compulsory to check female foeticide and asked the authorities not to "dilute" the PCPNDT Act.
"It is most unfortunate that a minister tasked with the responsibility of protecting and advancing the interests of women and especially the girl child has completely failed to recognise the context that sex selection continues unabated and with impunity across the country," said Kirti Singh from All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA).
The activists noted the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 was formulated to address the manner in which unscrupulous health professionals and corporate profiteers have misused technology and made sex selection into a lucrative business venture.
"We call on the minister and the authorities to ensure that the PCPNDT Act does not get diluted, under whatever guise. The Modi government must not pander to the interests of commercial ventures, at the expense of the girl child," said Sabu George, a social activist.
The Union Minister for Women and Child Development had kicked up a row by suggesting that sex determination test should be made compulsory to track women pregnant with a girl child as a measure to check female foeticide, at a recent function in Rajasthan.
"In my personal view, the woman should be compulsorily told whether it is a boy or girl child whom she is going to give birth to. I am just putting out this idea. It is being discussed though there is no conclusion yet," she had said.
The activists maintained that the minister's proposal was an assault on women's right to privacy and will also impinge on their right to abortion, at a time when access of women to safe and legal abortion services was being curtailed with many losing their lives due to unsafe abortions.
"It is farcical to assume that a government that cannot properly monitor and implement the PCPNDT Act would be in a position to monitor the approximately 2.5 crore pregnancies, which is the average number of children born in the country every year," said Usha Srivastava from National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW).
Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Mohan Rao said that the proposal was aimed at "shifting the onus of
responsibility on to the pregnant woman".
"This will let off the actual wrong doers, and instead criminalise pregnant women who already bear the brunt of the society's gender discrimination," he said.