Experts differ on tracking deliveries to prevent female foeticide

New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) Union minister Maneka Gandhi’s enunciation of an “alternate point of view” that a foetus be tracked from conception to save the girl child has been welcomed by many experts while others are skeptical about it.

Inaugurating the All India Regional Editors’ Conference in Jaipur on Monday, the minister said: “There is an alternate point of view that if each pregnancy could be registered and the sex of the foetus made known to parents and if it happens to be a female, the delivery should be tracked and recorded. Such a system will help ensure that a foetus is not aborted only because it is a female.”
She also said that this issue needs further debate and had requested the media for suggestions.
The national capital’s sex ratio recorded in the 2011 census was 866 females to 1,000 males. But according to the government’s birth and death registration report for 2013, the ratio improved slightly to 895:1,000. The average for the whole country was 940:1000 in 2011.
“It is an excellent new approach to the problem. It is a different view and a new line of thought as compared to previous thought. Some states have shown that trends are reversing and there is an increase in female ratio. It is not that the previous method is wrong,” Dr. Neerja Bhatla, professor of Obstetrics and gynaecology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told IANS.
“But to implement the idea it would demand huge infrastructure, logistics and several other parameters. They have to track each and every pregnancy and births in the country, track manpower required for ultrasound, track all the data, adhar cards and how the system works. This is a huge task but nothing is insurmountable. It is about how much we need, when and how. This is about men, money and management. It requires a lot of thinking,” she added.
Bhatla also added that looking at the country’s narrow health-care budget and the prevailing budget crunch to deal with many diseases, including cervical cancer, it is going to be a huge challenge for the government.
“It is also for the government to decide whether it is to br implemented in the whole country or only in those states where reverse trends have not been seen,” she added.
Nitisha Sharma of Inaya Foundation, a NGO, said the suggestion would not “practical” in a state like Rajasthan, which suffers from a skewed sex ratio – 883 girls for 1,000 boys. Girls in the desert state, which is the largest in term of area, are considered a liability.
“Girls are not welcome in parts of the state. If you look at the sex ratio it has shown further drop. The sex ratio which was 909, 10 years back, declined to 883 in the last census. In these circumstances the move in state like Rajasthan does not seem practical.
“Look what happens with sex determination tests. It is illegal, still it is going on. So if gender determination tests are to be allowed then it has to be in a proper way and method with proper planning, polices and regulations so that the girl child is not killed in the womb,” Sharma told IANS.
Haryana and Punjab are two states which have been notorious for female foeticide among all states in the country in the past nearly three decades.
“This will open a pandora’s box all over again. With strict laws and monitoring, sex determination tests were not being done openly. If these are allowed again, people with go in for sex determination and then try to find excuses to abort the girl child,” Dr. Preeti, a gynaecologist in Chandigarh, told IANS.
Five northern states, Haryana (12 districts), Punjab (11 districts), Jammu and Kashmir (five), Uttarakhand (two) and Himachal Pradesh (one) and union territory of Chandigarh (one) account for 32 worst districts in the country in terms of female foeticide.
Out of the 100 worst districts in India for sex ratio, Haryana accounted for 12 districts. Neighbouring Punjab has 11 districts among the worst 100.
“If sex determination tests are allowed, strict monitoring will have to be done to track the girl child. Otherwise, the foeticide problem will continue,” Geeta Kumar, a social activist in rural area of Haryana’s Sirsa district said.
Haryana, which is at the bottom among all states in sex ratio, recently drew comfort from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio broadcast where he mentioned that Haryana had been able to slightly reverse the reducing sex ratio.
Haryana’s sex ratio stood at just 879 females per 1,000 males as per the 2011 Census. The state claimed last month that, for the first time in over a decade, the sex ratio had crossed the 900-mark. The sex ratio, as per claims of the Haryana government, now stands at 903. This is still far lower than the national average of 940 females per 1,000 males.
Given Haryana’s track record in sex ratio, Modi had chosen Haryana to launch the ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ (save girl child and educate her) campaign from Panipat in Haryana on Jan 22 last year to counter the adverse sex ratio.