Maharashtra- Women Activists ask govt not to mix sex selection and abortion

PUNE: Activists have demanded that the state government and social originations working in save girl child campaign should not insist on an amendment to the existing anti-sex selection laws and invoke murder charges against persons involved in sex selection.

The demand is gaining momentum in parts of the state and activists fear worse consequences of the same.

The Indian MTP Act allows abortion by a registered medical practitioner, where the duration of the pregnancy does not exceed 12 weeks or 20 weeks (the latter if not less than two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion that continuance of the pregnancy would risk the pregnant woman‘s life or may cause a grave injury to her physical or mental health; or there is a substantial risk to her health if the child were born).

“This will deprive women of their right to abortion, which is unacceptable. There should be continuous and strict monitoring of sonography centres, hospitals and nursing homes and strict action against all unlicensed centres. But this does not mean that safe abortion should not be allowed” said activists working in western Maharashtra region.

“According to the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, sex selection itself is a crime and the doctors involved should be punished as per the provisions of the act. The pregnant woman on whom sex selection is performed or undertaken is not an offender according to the act. This should be upheld in Maharashtra,” said a protest letter signed by organizations such as stree mukti sanghatana, Forum against sex election, akshara, All India Democratic Women’s Association,  among others.

Activists say that by mooting murder charges against people found involved in sex selection , the state seems to be mixing issues relating to sex-selection (Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act) and abortion ( Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act)



Nashik – Relatives stomp on Pregnant woman leading to abortion

Press Trust of India | Updated: April 16, 2013 15:18 IST

Nashik, MaharashtraIn-laws of 20-year-old pregnant woman here have been charged with murdering an unborn girl child after they allegedly stomped on her stomach and beat her, killing the two-month-old foetus, police said today.
The incident took place in the Mhasrul locality where victim Suvarna Gaikwad was being harassed mentally and physically for dowry since her marriage to Khanderao Gaikwad in June last year, they said.The young woman was being tortured to bring a dowry of Rs. 1.5 lakh for building a house. Later, when her in-laws came to know that she was pregnant, they took her to a ‘godman’ Shyambaba Shinde at Niphad, who told them that she was carrying a girl, police said.Suvarna was told to abort the girl child but when she refused to do so, she was allegedly roughed up by her husband, and family, including the mother-in-law killing the foetus on April 4.The matter was brought to light by Mahendra Datrange, President of Nashik unit of Blindfaith Eradicating organisation following which the husband, his brother Vijay Gaikwad, maternal father-in-law Dilip Suryavanshi and one of his kins Jalinder Suryavanshi was arrested yesterday, police said.

Offences have been registered against them under different sections of IPC at panchavati police station yesterday, police said.

Suvarna’s family, which alleged murder of the girl, is demanding the arrest of her mother-in-law Bibabai, Shinde and others involved in the killing

Sex discrimination in India begins in the womb: Study

PTI | Mar 28, 2013, 12.49 PM IST

A study suggests sex discrimination begins in the womb in male-dominated societies such as India.
WASHINGTON: Women in India are more likely to get prenatal care when pregnant withmale babies, according to a groundbreaking study that has implications for girls’ health and survival in patriarchal societies.

The study by Leah Lakdawala of Michigan State University and Prashant Bharadwaj of the University of California, San Diego, suggests sex discrimination begins in the womb in male-dominated societies such as India.

“It paints a pretty dire picture of what’s happening,” said Lakdawala, MSU assistant professor of economics.

In India, while it’s illegal for a doctor to reveal the sex of an unborn baby or for a woman to have an abortion based on the baby’s sex, both practises are common, Lakdawala said.

However, knowing the sex of the baby through an ultrasound also can lead to discrimination for those pregnancies that go full-term, she said in a statement.

In studying the national health-survey data of more than 30,000 Indians, the researchers found that women pregnant with boys were more likely to go to prenatal medical appointments, take iron supplements, deliver the baby in a health-care facility – as opposed to in the home – and receive tetanus shots.

Tetanus is the leading cause of neonatal deaths in India. According to the study, children whose mothers had not received a tetanus vaccination were more likely to be born underweight or die shortly after birth.

The researchers – the first to study sex discrimination in prenatal care – also looked at smaller data sets from other countries.

In other patriarchal nations of China, Bangladesh and Pakistan, evidence of sex-discrimination in the womb existed. But in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ghana – which are not considered male-dominated – no such evidence existed.

“This type of discrimination we’re seeing, while not as severe as sex-selective abortion, is very important for children’s health and well-being,” Lakdawala said.

Given that previous research has linked early childhood health to later outcomes, sex discrimination in prenatal care might also have long-term effects.

“We know that children born at higher birth weights go to school for longer periods and have higher wages as adults, so the future implications here are pretty serious,” Lakdawala said.

The study appears in the Journal of Human Resources.


Mumbai- Over 400 cases of illegal sex tests in a yea , 34 doctors in jail

Sandeep Ashar, TNN Mar 20, 2013, 03.11AM IST

MUMBAI: More than 400 cases have been lodged against doctors for illegal sex determination and  sex selection in the past year, it has now emerged.

Since April 1, 2012, the state government has slapped 403 cases against doctors. About 100 cases among these have so far been disposed of resulting in conviction in 46 cases. About 34 doctors have been sent to jail in 30 cases. Four relatives of the victims have also been imprisoned.


Mumbai- One in two people don’t know abortions are legal, says survey

By, TNN | Mar 18, 2013,

MUMBAI: One in two people in the city’s western suburbs don’t know that abortions are legal but 65% know that it’s illegal to find out the gender of the unborn child, a new survey says. This, public health experts say, shows how the government’s fight to save the girl child could inadvertently compromise the woman’s right to abortion. The result: Mortality rate as high as 8% amongwomen who are forced to approach ill-trained practitioners for abortions.The survey was by Women Networking, an umbrella group of voluntary organizations, in slum pockets across Andheri to Malwani and the results were published last December. It interviewed 700 people, mostly women. “The government is rightly publicizing the PCPNDT Act that prohibits sex-determination tests and sex-selective abortions, but it has not been highlighting the women’s right to abortion. There is confusion among people over the legality of abortions,” said Laxmi Menon, a coordinator with Women Net- working.

Discussions have begun at public health forums about how the state government’s mission to save the girl child is encroaching on her mother’s right to abortion. In 1971, the Union government presented the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act to allow women to undergo abortion for family planning. In 1994, the government passed the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT) to ban determination of the unborn child’s gender.

After the first results of the 2011 Census showed falling sex ratio at birth (number of girl children born for every 1,000 boys) across Maharashtra, the state government cracked down on clinics that failed to follow PCPNDT Act rules. In 2012, 400 criminal cases were filed in courts against doctors and other staff. The Maharashtra Medical Council cancelled the registration of 35 doctors indulging in sex-selective abortions.There are many causes of skewed sex ratios in the under-5 age group. One reason is neglect of the girl child. Policy initiatives don’t look at these issues and only talk about clamping down on abortion

At a meeting of women’s groups in Andheri on February 27, Cehat coordinator Padma Deosthali said the government has been unable to check ‘sex-determination’ and hence shifted focus to controlling ‘sex-selective’ abortions. “In the process, it began cracking down on abortion services across the board,” she said.

The government announced two decisions that ‘stigmatize’ abortions in general. It attempted to ban abortion pills and sought reduction in gestation period for medical termination of pregnancy from 12 weeks to 10 weeks. The anti-sex selection campaign and right to abortion campaign are not on opposite sides, and should be working towards the health rights of women and preventing gender-based discrimination.

Dr Suchitra Dalvie, a coordinator with Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, said the main problem was women have begun accessing unsafe abortion options, such as approaching quacks. Health economist Sundari Ravindra said 15,000-20,000 women die every year due to lack of access to safe abortion practices.


BMC to beef up vigilance in wards with dismal sex ratio

By, TNN | Feb 19, 2013,  IST

MUMBAI: Fifteen of the BMC‘s 24 wards across the city improved their sex ratio at birth in 2012 from 2011.

The B Ward of Bhendi Bazaar and Masjid Bunder recorded the highest sex ratio at birth of 996 girl children born per 1,000 boys.

Areas such as Malabar Hill came a close second; it recorded 979 deliveries of girl children per 1,000 boys in 2012, up from 915 girls in 2011. Borivli, too, registered 979 girl births in 2012, up from 914 in 2011.

These figures are based on the data compiled by the BMC, which issues birth certificates in the city.

Demographics and gender studies experts have attributed the improvement in the sex ratio to awareness drives as well as stringent regulation of maternity and sonography clinics, and sustained crackdown on illegal sex determination.

The largest dip in sex ratio, on the other hand, has been recorded in the C Ward of Bhuleshwar, Pydhonie and Sandhurst Road. The number has dropped from 981 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011 to a shockingly low 860 girls in 2012. The other areas that have witnessed a drastic dip include Kandivli. It recorded 882 births of girls per 1,000 boys in 2012 against 907 in 2011. Dahisar, too, registered a lower figure of 891 girls against 893 in 2011.

Dr Arokya Swamy, demographer at the Indian Institute of Population Studies (IIPS), said theBMC should now focus on localities that have shown a dip and strengthen their vigilance to curb female foeticide.

The BMC, on its part, has already lined up a programme for specific areas where the sex ratio is low or has fallen drastically. The civic body has asked its primary health staff to increase surveillance and immediately report any illegal activity in their areas. “We will also dissect the data so that the reason for the dip can be understood. Effective steps will be taken to improve the situation,” said a senior health officer.

Experts added the drop in certain areas could be attributed to the fact that young couples these days opt for a single child and may choose a male over a female child.

They further said that this data does not pinpoint to any trend, though, as there are cases where a mother may have delivered a female child in some ward and acquired her birth certificate from another.

“There is also a chance that the expectant mother has gone to her mother’s residence for delivery and got a birth certificate from the ward where she lives. Such cases may be few, but cannot be neglected,” said Dr Swamy.


#Rajasthan -Headless court: No judge to hear PCPNDT cases

DNA | Jan 10, 2013, 04:31AM IST

Jaipur:In July last year, a wired media, screaming activists and Aamir Khan’s final cut all jolted the CM into announcing seven special courts in each of the divisional headquarters for “speedy disposal” of cases booked under the PCPNDT Act to check sex selection . The agitation was quelled. The media moved on. The activists moved on. And Aamir Khan moved out.
A visit to the ‘special’ PCPNDT court in Jaipur seven months later, is instructive.
The court does not have a presiding officer. In simple terms, it has no judge to hear the cases, for the last one month or so. “Transferred, but not replaced,” comes the reply. Of the 130 cases registered so far, none of them pertain to the relatives or parents who went in for sex-selective abortion. All the cases – against sonography centres or doctors for not maintaining records, formats under the Act and those caught in decoy operations – are in the initial stage of “pre-charge” or “evidence”. That means, far from reaching any conclusion.
There is one assistant public prosecutor, himself on additional charge from another court, who has to handle the cases single handedly. This includes calling witnesses for summons from anywhere in the five districts falling under Jaipur division, using his own phone. And he has to do all this without any table or chair.
“The doctors bring senior lawyers, with swanky laptops. We don’t even have a phone, leave alone computer. There is no place to sit, either for me or people. The witnesses coming from other districts not only bear hardships, but also all the expenses,” said Ramesh Kumar Atal, the sole assistant public prosecutor in PCPNDT court. Hearings are fixed weekly, he added.
A PCPNDT Bureau of Investigation was set up under the medical and health department for “effective implementation of the Act”. 120 news posts were created. They are all lying vacant.
In the PCPNDT cell of the department, the staff is working overtime in collating, tallying and feeding information online. The small team looks surprisingly efficient and organized for a government department. All of them, save the deputy director, are contractual staff.

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