After the recent incidents of female foeticide in Maharashtra, IMA demands strict action against doctors conducing pre-natal sex test

Child sex ratio has improved, but illegal sex-determination practices are still going on in the state and country. Six lakh girls are eliminated per year in India. Identifying the sex of the foetus at genetic level is huge business. We need to take concrete steps to stop this says Varsha Deshpande

After the recent incidents of female foeticide in Maharashtra, IMA demands strict action against doctors conducing pre-natal sex test

To curb pre-natal sex determination in the country and to save the girl child from being terminated in the womb the government enacted a law. But due to the lack of proper implementation the law has still not proven deterrent for those who indulge in corrupt practices.

In the last two months Maharashtra has earned a bad reputation and has witnessed two cases of illegal sex determination and illegal abortion. Because of to this the Indian Medical Association has now written a letter showing their concerns against the illegal pre-natal sex determination.

“We are highly disturbed. There is no place for such practices in an ethical world of medicine. We condemn these incidents and are completely against it. Medical practitioners who do illegal sex determination and abortion, should be awarded with strict punishment, if he/she has been held guilty by the law,” said Dr Ashok Tambe, President, Indian Medical Association (IMA) Maharashtra.

Dr Tambe added, “Along with the doctor who breaks the law, relatives also should get punished so that other people will learn lesson and won’t dare to take any illegal steps”.

In terms of precautionary steps, we educate doctors across the state, about not doing illegal sex determination or abortion, through committees like, doctors against sex detection and PCPNDT (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) says Tambe.

In March, police had arrested Dr Babasaheb Khidrapure, in connection with the death of 25-year-old Swati Jamdade. Sources say Dr Khidrapure had conducted an illegal abortion at Bharti Hospital in Mhaisal, a border town between Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Thirteen people including Jamdade’s husband and three doctors from Maharashtra and Karnataka were arrested for running, what police officials believe was an inter-state abortion racket.

While investigating the case, police had found nineteen female foetuses dumped near a stream at Mhaisal village in Sangli district of western Maharashtra.

In February, Dr Baliram Nimba Shinde from Nashik was arrested for allegedly carrying out sex determination tests and medical termination of pregnancy. The doctor was charged for violating Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT).

To curb the rampant practice of sex-selective abortions, the government had banned the sex determination test, which had led to gender imbalance.

In 1994, the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) or PCPNDT Act, made sex-determination illegal. Any individual, including a doctor, can be punished for revealing the sex of a foetus, to prospective parents or members of the family. An amendment in 2004 bans gender-selection even before conception, such as by choosing embryos of the preferred gender before they are implanted in the uterus in an in-vitro fertilisation procedure.

According to the latest data of National Family Health Survey (NFHS 4) in Maharashtra, the number of female child born per 1000 male is 924, as compared to 867 recorded in 2005-06, the national level for the number of females born for per 1000 male is 919 in 2015-16 as compared to 914 recorded in 2005-06.

Speaking to My Medical Mantra, Varsha Deshpande, National Inspection Committee Member for PCPNDT Act said, “Child sex ratio has improved, but illegal sex-determination practices are still going on in the state and country. Six lakh girls are eliminated per year in India. Identifying the sex of the foetus at genetic level is huge business. We need to take concrete steps to stop this,” said Deshpande.

The Lek Ladki Abhiyan, a movement which was started by Deshpande, has carried out 49 sting operations at diagnostic centres and maternity homes that conduct sex determination and carry out abortions.