Concern over falling sex ratio

Concern over falling sex ratio

Prodded by the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) to help improve the spiralling child sex ratio (CSR), the women and child development...

Prodded by the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) to help improve the spiralling child sex ratio (CSR), the women and child development ministry now wants to make female foeticide punishable for family members as well. The ministry, which is currently working on a national policy to improve CSR, is set to make this recommendation to the health ministry, asking it to amend the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act to include a specific clause on punishment for family members found guilty of abetting female foeticide. The country's CSR currently stands at the lowest since independence. The situation has become graver with the CSR registering a decline of 927 females per 1,000 males in 2001 to 914 females in 2011. Last year the matter was taken up by the NAC, which made six recommendations for improving this ratio. The WCD ministry has also set up a Sectoral Innovation Council for this purpose. Based on the recommendations made by the NAC and Innovation Council, the ministry is now working on evolving a national action plan for controlling the decline in CSR. According to WCD secretary Prem Narain "women are forced to abort the female foetus at the behest of the in-laws and sometimes even the husband. Although the Act provides for punishment of three years imprisonment of anyone seeking the help of a clinic or medical practitioner for this purpose, we are going to recommend enhanced punishment for the family members found guilty of abetting this crime." The change in perspective is similar to the stance adopted in the anti-dowry law where both givers and takers of bribes suffer equal punishment. Narain added that the WCD ministry was also keen to have the racket of illegal abortions investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation. However, he did not elaborate on how handing over investigation to the CBI is going to make a difference. In April last year the NAC made six recommendations for a national policy for improving sex ratio at birth, the first among which was strengthening the legal regime by enacting new laws and reviewing existing ones like dowry prohibition law and laws related to rape. The move to penalise families is a divergence from the recommendations, which focus mainly on the regulation of ultrasound and Assisted Reproductive Techniques clinics and refurbishing the regulatory structures, limiting family intervention only to counsellors. OPINION
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