New Delhi: Girl child activists on Monday accused the Indian Medical Association (IMA) of trying to “decriminalise” sex determination through its ‘Dilli Chalo’ protest.
Activist Neelam Singh, member of National Monitoring and Inspection Committee (NMIC) of the PC-PNDT Act, told media persons that the IMA was trying to turn sex determination into a civil offence, rather than a criminal offence which it is today.
“Foetal sex determination is a criminal offence in India according to PC-PNDT Act (Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act),” said Ms Singh.
Ms Singh said IMA is trying to make sex determination into a civil offence by stating that there can be clerical errors on the part of doctors.
“If identified by test that it is a female then the foetus is killed. Then how can it not be a criminal offence?” she asked.
When separately asked to respond to the charge by the activists, IMA President KK Aggarwal told IANS that the Dilli Chalo protest on Tuesday is to fight against rising cases of “criminal prosecution and conviction of doctors” in alleged cases of “clerical and administrative errors”.
Mr Aggarwal denied the allegations that IMA was trying to decriminalise sex determination. “What they are saying is wrong,” he asserted adding that the licence of any doctor who performs a sex determination test should be cancelled.
Sudha Sundaraman, General Secretary of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), present at the media interaction, said a 2016 Supreme Court order clearly stated that there should be stringent implementation of the Act.
She said a female foetus doesn’t have a voice of its own and “there should be no dilution or amendment of the Act”.
Smita Khanijow, member of Delhi supervisory board of PC-PNDT, said: “It’s surprising that we have to come together to say this. Doctors should be a part of this and more responsible.”
She said that already the conviction rate for sex determination is extremely low and diluting the Act would be disastrous.
“The unborn child is defenceless and sex determination is profiting through a crime,” Satish Agnihotri, former Secretary of Women and Child Department, Odisha, said.
He added that sex ratio is increasing in Maharashtra, Haryana and Rajasthan, states where the implementation of the Act is stringent.
“I’ve inspected a clinic were they had names and bank account details of ASHA workers and a worker told me that she transfers money to ASHA workers for bringing women to do sex determination,” Singh said.
In Delhi, there have only been seven convictions after the Act was passed in 2003 and even a doctor who was caught performing sex determination tests on TV was let off, said Bijayalaxmi Nanda, a professor at Delhi University.
She added that Prime Minister’s ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ initiative is rooted in the PC-PNDT Act and urged that the Act should not be watered down under any circumstances.
Sabu M. George, a girl child activist, said they had to put up a fight to pass the Act in 2003 and alleged that attempts to amend the Act by IMA had political backing.