Sex Selection and Sex Determination in the Womb
Introduction To PCPNDT Act, 1994
In the 90s, Ultrasound machines became popular in India. Originally, disease detection was the primary function of the machine. But this Patriarchal society misused it for Sex Determination in the womb, therefore it led to the abortion of girl child. In India, families preferred male child over the female child. Because of social discrimination of women and preference of male over females, therefore a huge gap has occurred in the sex ratio of our country.
In 1994, Parliament enacted the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994. After over a decade in 2003, they amended and implemented the act strictly. Prohibition of sale and use of ultrasound machines were the primary functions of the act. In short, only registered facilities can use ultrasound machines. Most Importantly, it prohibits the prenatal diagnostic techniques for the determination of sex. Hence, leading to female foeticide. Although, it affected the radiologists and Sonologist on a large scale. it is one of the most important legislation for the country.
Requisites for the Act
It is very easy to understand and abide by the requisites of the act. Following are the few basic requisites of the act namely:-
(i) Registration of Genetic Counselling Centers, Genetic Laboratories and Genetic Clinic: All the clinics or laboratories which uses ultrasound or imaging machines or scanner or any other technology which is capable of sex determination of fetus needs to be registered under section 18 of PCPNDT Act. [Section- 18]
(ii) Written Consent of Pregnant Women and Communicating the Sex of Foetus: No person other than the specialist as prescribed in The Act can perform such test. Before running the tests, the specialist needs to explain all side effects of the procedure to the concerned pregnant women. Moreover, it requires to obtain the written consent of the concerned in the prescribed form. And in the language in which she can understand such form. Hence, she can give consent after proper understanding. Also, the concerned must be provided with a copy of a written consent form. Moreover, no person conducting such test should communicate the sex of the fetus to pregnant women or any other relative of her. [Section – 5]
(iii )Maintenance of the Records: For minimum of 2 years, the record must be maintained in physical form. Also, if any criminal proceeding has been filed against the clinic, such records must be kept until the case is closed. [Section- 29]
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Salient Feature of the Act:
Section 4: Regulation of Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques.
This section controls the function of the Genetic Clinic and Laboratories. Hence, only registered clinics can use prenatal techniques. Given that, techniques must be used for detecting abnormalities in the fetus. Also, this section bans the use of such laboratories by any men or through other means, to conduct prenatal diagnostics.
Section 4(2) specifies the Abnormalities for which techniques should be used strictly. Such as Chromosomal Abnormalities, Genetic Metabolic Diseases, Haemoglobinopathies, Sex-linked Genetic Disease, and Congenital Anomalies. If any person or clinic or laboratory found conducting techniques for any other reason, such as Sex Determination. Such an act will be in contravention of this section and will be punishable according to the rules laid down by the Act. Further, only certified personnel are allowed to run tests. Also, it requires the satisfaction of the doctor, for which reason has to be recorded in writing, satisfying the following condition:
(a) Age of the pregnant woman is above thirty-five years;
(b) The pregnant woman has undergone two or more spontaneous abortions or fetal loss;
(c) The pregnant woman had been exposed to potentially teratogenic agents such as drugs, radiation, infection or chemicals;
(d) The pregnant woman or her spouse has a family history of mental retardation or physical deformities such as spasticity or any other genetic disease;
(e) Any other condition as may be specified by the Central Supervisory Board.
Most importantly, The person conducting ultrasonography must maintain the proper record of the tests for at least two years. And if any petition has been instituted against the clinic, the clinic must maintain the record as long as the case has not decided. Any discrepancy found will be in contravention of Section 5 and 6 of the
Section- 6: Determination Of Sex Prohibited:
On and From the commencement of the Act, any Genetic Clinic, registered or unregistered, or any other man should not involve himself in any kind of Sex determination technique. Here, Techniques also includes Ultrasonography for sex determination. And this section also talks about strictly prohibiting the use of Sex Determination Techniques for Selection Of Sex.
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Recent Trends and Legal Aspects
The PCPNDT Act was implemented to safeguard the girl child in India. Every now and then, the court has provided the material required for the implementation of this act. Many recent Supreme Court’s judgments were in favor of the implementation of the Act. Therefore, this act basically is to penalize those who indulge in Sex Selection Techniques,
The Act also constitutes a Central Supervisory Board (CSB) to exercise the power and perform the functions of the Act. CSB is coming up with different ideas and suggestion to fight the menace of female foeticides in India. Functions of CSB is to advise the Central Government on the policies regarding sex selection techniques and create public awareness to educate people regarding Gender Equality.
In many recent cases, such as Sabu Mathew George vs Union Of India And Ors. the Supreme Court ordered the Appropriate authority to block all the advertisement regarding Sex Selection Techniques from specific internet sites. And further ordered to constitute a separate authority to monitor website activity.
Sex-Selective techniques had a negative effect on society. It has created a huge gap between male to the female sex ratio of the country. Infanticides, female foeticides, and sex-selective abortions have resulted in the loss of millions of girl child. It is a gross violation of basic human right i.e Right to life, to not let one feel the warmth of the sun and free air. For that, first of all, we need to improve the social status of women. Also, we require to implement the Act strictly. We also need to create awareness regarding the side effects of the techniques and the Importance of girl child in the family.
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