girls carrying water
[Representational image] Centre considering proposal to make sex determination mandatory says Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. Picture: Girls carrying waterWikipedia

Update: 4:20 pm IST: After Union Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi's statement on mandatory sex determination made headlines, the ministry issued a statement clarifying that reports about such a proposal in the Cabinet were "factually incorrect".

"Some of the newspapers have reported that the minister referred to a Cabinet proposal about tracking female foeticide and registering the sex of the foetus. This is factually incorrect. Maneka Gandhi had said that there is an alternative point of view that if each pregnancy could be registered and the sex of the foetus could be made known to the parents and if it happens to be a female, the delivery should be tracked and recorded. Such a system would help in ensuring that a foetus is not aborted only because it is a female," a WCD Ministry statement said on Tuesday.

"It is clarified that the WCD minister referred to this as a point of view which has often been brought up by stakeholders before the ministry. She had specifically stated that this needs further debate and had requested the media persons to give their suggestions. It is further clarified that there is no formal proposal being considered by the ministry on this issue at this stage," the ministry said.

Original Story: The Centre is considering a proposal to lift the ban on sex determination of foetuses and make it mandatory, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said on Monday. The ban was imposed about two decades ago to curb female foeticide in India.

Maneka said the government is also deliberating on a system that would help keep track of women carrying female foetuses.

"In my personal view, a woman should be compulsorily told whether it is a boy or girl child she is going to give birth to. It should be registered to be able to check whether they have given birth," Maneka was quoted as saying by The New Indian Express.

Currently, prenatal sex determination and selection is prohibited under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994. The act was put in place to plug the decline in sex ratio in the country. However, even after almost two decades, India's sex ratio remains one of the lowest in the world. According to the 2011 census, the sex ratio is 918 girls per 1,000 boys aged six or younger. In rural areas, it is 923, whereas in urban areas it is 905.

"A proposal is under discussion in the Cabinet to evolve a system that can easily track attempts at female foeticide (by parents) instead of punishing the fraternity involved in the medical processes. Those registering the sex of the foetus will have to produce a medical certificate or cite the reason for termination of pregnancy," Maneka was quoted as saying by Times of India.

"This will ensure institutional deliveries and virtually abolish the practice of home deliveries in certain areas of the country. Home deliveries pose a threat to a newborn as there might be an attempt on its life," she added.

The government is currently trying to improve the sex ratio in India through its Beti Bachao Beti Padho campaign. It has taken fresh measures to incentivise the girl child for families. 

"For the past couple of decades, Govts have simply been deliberately flabby and weak in implementing PC PNDT, avoiding action to smash the rogue medical industry of sex determination and sex selection. Now, the Govt is saying, let's not criminalise the industry at all - let any crime rest at the door of the parents, let the mother be the locus of all regulation and control. And no, this will not 'work', (sic)" wrote noted feminist and activist Kavita Krishnan on social media.

"These are different strategies. Earlier, the strategy was to not tell the parents. Now, it is about telling the whole world," veteran feminist activist Kamla Bhasin told IBTimes India

"The minister should also say in what way we can ensure there are no loopholes. Medical professionals will have to be monitored along with the parents. The onus is on both," she said, adding: "The intention of the new strategy is not wrong, but monitoring 'money-making' clinics is necessary." 

"Lifting the ban on sex determination after the huge campaign to curb son preference through it, and which has delivered by improving the child sex ratio in Punjab and Haryana from 2001 is a huge mistake. It will free the greedy medical practitioners and criminalise women who are pregnant. So in the process gender discrimination will rise in society," Dr Bijaylaxmi Nanda, an activist and associate professor, Department of Political Science in Miranda House, Delhi University told IBTimes India. On being asked if the law would not equally criminalise fathers, the professor said, "Yes, but women will be taken as the main criminal, and their privacy and dignity is also compromised."