Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In a selective mode

Edit, Hindustan Times, Decmber 11, 2007

The means and manner in which female foeticide and infanticide have been addressed in our country are worthy of intense scrutiny. The latest suggestion has been offered by Minister of Health Anbumani Ramadoss in the Rajya Sabha, and will soon be discussed by the Central Supervisory Board, the body tasked with enforcing the Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques Act (PNDT) and headed by the minister.

The minister intends to make the penalties for violation of the PNDT Act more stringent, including life-term. Considering that battling female foeticide and infanticide has been an ongoing war with limited results, stricter monitoring is certainly welcome. But one wonders whether it is the existing penalties that fail as deterrents or the inability to push through charges and close the loop of justice. For in the same breath, the minister himself has gone on to say that the conviction rate is extremely poor. So, more severe penalties are unlikely to improve the conviction rate.

The steadily declining sex ratio in the country, especially in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh — home to some of the most affluent sections in India — cannot be corrected through the confiscation of ultrasound machines or giving incentives to families where girls are born either. Which brings us to the crux of the problem. Delicensing of practitioners should be an immediate step, pending acquittal. In the current status, the onus should be on the doctor to prove his innocence.

It has been established that sex selection and foeticide, the worst form of discrimination against girls, is chiefly practised among wealthy, educated (if they can be called that) urban families. What purpose do incentives serve here? On the other hand, the medical fraternity and support staff are known to misguide the poorer, illiterate patients on ultrasound results, playing on anti-girl prejudices and encouraging abortions, all under the guise of ‘guidance’. The minister may want to review the modalities of the successful experiment by district level officers in a cluster of 79 villages near Ludhiana a couple of years ago. Deterrence (enforcing the law), counselling (community education) peer pressure (holding last rites after abortions to unnerve the family and doctors) and incentives for informers were the tools used to bring about an appreciable change in attitude.

Incentivising informants is a good idea, as is random supervision of the 32,000 ultrasound clinics in the country. Roping in the judiciary towards improving conviction rates is also a positive step. But at the end of the day, are there enough foot soldiers to carry out the battle of supervision? State governments must have a greater level of accountability for their state’s enforcement of the PNDT Act. Public campaigns are a must but a slower route towards impacting mindsets. Let’s just start with curbing doctors’ malpractices and find the means to push through convictions.

3 comments:

mini said...

WHAT CAN BE DONE – Says Paramjit Singh, sarpanch (village chief) of Khaniyan in Fatehgarh Block, "Unless girls are given equal rights, no amount of sloganeering is going to help. Only concrete action like education, jobs, a proper status in society and legal rights will make a genuine difference to girls' status." Tanwant Kaur, Sarpanch of Salani village, concurs: "The dowry system has to stop, and daughters must be welcomed, not treated as a burden. We have to have a social movement to encourage boys to marry without dowry."
As noted by the Seventh National Conference of All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), held in Bhubaneshwar in 2004: "The fight to save the female fetus and the girl-child from elimination is a political struggle linked to the discriminatory policies and cultures that strengthen patriarchy."
AS Ms. Rewa Nayyar, Secretary RIGHTLY POINTED OUT IN 14th Meeting of the Central Supervisory Board (CSB) of PC&PNDT Act held on 14th June, 2006

Lack of awareness about the PC&PNDT Act and the legal provisions contained in it among general public, expectant mothers and medical community at large. She further emphasized that general public is not aware about the implementing agencies, as a result of which, they do not know where to go in case they notice a violation of the Act. She also pointed out that since the special legal Act like PC & PNDT Act are not well known as a result they are little attended which consequently result in fewer convictions. She stressed on the importance of wider publicity and awareness in this matter so that there is a fear of violating the provisions of this Act. She also mentioned that awareness is required to remove the confusion about provisions of the MTP Act vis-à-vis PC & PNDT Act. Further, she stressed that one should look into the reasons behind female feticides like fear of upbringing a girl child, the cost of her marriage and dowry, fear of violence against her and its consequences etc. and try to eliminate these reasons and not the female fetuses.
Dr. Ranjana Kumari a member of the PC & PNDT ACT Central Advisory Board made Several recommendations and suggestions to the Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss. Some of the suggestions made by Dr. Ranjana Kumari, on Behalf of the NGOs and activists are as follows:
1. Every month a monthly report to be made available by the State Governments on the trends in sex ratio at birth through hospital records and birth registration data to the public.
2. A national level survey should be launched and all the clinics providing the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic services in the India should be registered.
3. There should be speedy trial of the pending cases in the court to ensure timely and effective action.
4. List of all ultrasound machines both mobile and others along with the names of the owners and the clinics available in the country should be made public.
5. An immediate meeting with all the Chief Ministers should be called under the chairpersonship of the Hon'ble Prime Minister so that the problem is addressed by each one of them in their jurisdiction.
6. To ensure that strict monitoring and auditing of clinic records and all monitoring reports and the detailed status and on court cases should be available for public scrutiny and mechanisms should be devised to facilitate partnership with civil society organizations/individuals in monitoring and social auditing of the clinics registered under this law.

I personally feel that the
Appropriate authority should have links with the Local police stations, as that's where there is maximum probability of a women first approaching in case of anybody pressurizing her to abort.
The punishments should be more severe, female feticide should be given the same status as a murder. The more severe the punishment, the more people will abstain from doing it for a few bucks.
While there is a willingness to recognize the value of women, especially their economic contribution and supportive role within the family, there is resistance towards taking concrete steps to end dowry, or son-preference rituals.
Ø Disregarding religious scripts which disrespect women
Ø Strengthening women's rights and empowerment through international pressure and local movement
Ø Mass aware ness about human right values
Ø Non cooperation movement against all activities which promote gender
Ø The wider struggle for the economic rights of women, including equal property rights, has to be linked with the struggle against sex selection.
Ø The depiction of women in the media, and the role models that are played out have a deep influence on the youth of the country, and there have to be effective strategies to counter it.
Ø Shaming of families found to be indulging in sex determination and sex selection. They should be publicly shamed, so as to discourage other families from doing same. In fact it should be looked down upon and treated with same contempt as a murderer of one's own daughter would be
Ø There is a need to bring the question of declining sex ratios on the agenda of the ruling parties. Unless there is the political will, strategies to combat sex selection will remain only on paper. To build that political will is the major challenge facing us.
changes in outlook of women themselves
Ø women must respect herself and other women
Ø need to be united for the cause
Ø Never support man for exploiting another woman, and never exploit another woman yourself.
The medical community –
Ø Advocates and common people can blame doctors but may not be able to change them. Ostracism from within the medical community and role models who can reinforce positive and non-discriminatory behavior of doctors is critical.

Ø violating ethical and moral values for gain should be severely punished

Ø awareness about legislation

Ø ban on quacks

Ø faster and more strict punishment for medical professionals who conduct sex determination in their clinics

changes in advocacy-
Ø Banking on the immense power of internet today- as internet and social networking are the major pass times of the youth of today, internet has also found its way into majority of homes, and the power of internet can be banked upon as a tool to reach the youth and the middle and high strata of the public.

Ø Focusing on the youth in schools and colleges can help undo the damages as they are likely to come in family way a few years later. As the future generation of India the choices they make will have an impact. Also it is much easier to make a impression on the minds of the youth than on the minds of the middle and old aged people who have grown with an certain idea.

Ø Also in recent past the youth has become a very powerful and motivated class which is ready to revolt against the injustices and the wrong mindsets of the people.

So perhaps targeting more the youth of today as in schools and colleges will make a difference. Also encouraging more and more girls to study and become economically self reliant will go in a long way to decrease the prejudices against the girl child. Recently I heard about a scheme in which free education was provided for the second daughter of the household with two daughters is a good idea. Perhaps tax benefits can also be given to couples with two daughters as an added incentive.

prassoon said...

Female Feticide – A Mysterious Propaganda
=========================================
Here is a common man’s arm-chair research and analysis about this issue based on the available historical census data of India in comparison with two other countries China and USA.

http://prassoon.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/12/female-feticide-a-mysterious-propaganda.htm

Celina Jetly said...

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