Health

Activists Cry Foul as Doctors Seek Amendment to Pre-Natal Sex Determination Law

Radiologists say that the PNDT Act, which is the main legal weapon against female foeticide, unnecessarily harasses them.

Sejho Singh(left), Jagmati Sangwan (centre) and Sabu George (right) address the press conference.

Sejho Singh(left), Jagmati Sangwan (centre) and Sabu George (right) address the press conference.

New Delhi: Women’s rights activists are worried that Friday’s protest by radiologists demanding amendment of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (PC-PNDT) Act may be a reaction to the recent conviction of doctors for illegal sex determination in Maharashtra and Haryana. In a press conference organised by Aid Action and the All India Democratic Women’s Association(AIDWA) on Saturday, they denounced the strike by the Indian Radiological Imaging Association (IRIA) as unethical, noting that the sex determination industry is a lucrative business for doctors, as a consequence of which the country still suffers from high rates of female foeticide and skewed sex ratios.

The activists quoted UNICEF figures, saying that more than 7000 cases of female foeticide occur daily in India. However, the corresponding number of convictions are abysmally low. Evidently therefore, the Act has not been adequately implemented.

The activists are concerned that the strike is a move to dilute the law, which in any case, has seen poor implementation. Activist Sejho Singh said, “If you haven’t implemented the law, then how does the question of an amendment arise?”

Singh believes that the killing of female foetuses is systemic genocide that has worked its way into the fabric of our society. “We have counted the number of Jews in Germany, but have we counted the number of girls here?” she said.

Another activist claimed that in most reported cases, doctors who violate the Act are let off by the police with a fine of anywhere between Rs 1000 to Rs 12,000. She said that they are worried that if the Act is diluted with an amendment, then there will be practically nothing to deter offenders, which could in turn have terrible consequences for the country’s sex ratio and for crimes against women.

Another concern is the portable USG machine,said activist Jagmati Sangwan, who has worked extensively in Haryana. She said that portable USG machines are taken to villages and used there for pre-natal sex determination.

The IRIA, on the other hand, sees the Act as unnecessarily harassing radiologists. In a press release, they demanded that their issues be dealt with in two months. Interestingly, the statement says that one of the ways in which radiologists get harassed, is by “minor clerical errors in filing Form F,” the form which records the name, address and child-bearing history of pregnant women undergoing an ultrasound scan

The activists believe that these ‘clerical errors’ are deliberately done by hospitals and doctors, who do not want to maintain correct records. This helps to manipulate statistics.