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This New Law In Maharashtra Penalises Women For Female Foeticide. How Fair Is This?

Posted: June 2, 2017
Maharashtra considers mandatory sex determination testing of pregnant women, shifting the burden from doctors and officials to women with little choice.
Suppose there was a surge of burglaries in your apartment complex and you went to the local law enforcement with some information on the subject and they sent you home saying they would look in to it if and when they had the time. Suppose the frequency and violence of the burglaries continued to rise as the local law enforcement officials continued to ignore information brought to them by society members.

Then one day some bigwig was offended by the rising number of burglaries in his district and how the statistics made him look bad – so the local law enforcement officials suddenly woke up and decided to take action. Suppose they decided that every one of you in the society would have your apartments continuously monitored by CCTV, including the bathrooms, just on the off chance a burglar gets caught on camera. Then would you stand for such idiocy?

Yet this is the exact variety of idiocy that a new proposed law hopes to achieve. But don’t worry. It won’t inconvenience everybody. Only pregnant women will suffer, but who cares about them anyway?

The government wants pregnant women to undergo mandatory (since when have women had a say in anything) sex determination tests, and then wants to continually monitor these women to find out what happens to the foetus.

Never mind the gross violation of privacy of pregnant women at a time they are emotionally vulnerable, but has the practicality of monitoring lakhs of pregnant women even been considered? And what happens when the system fails and families who know the sex of the foetus ostracise the pregnant woman, or beat her until she has a miscarriage?

Why does every solution to the gender ratio problem involve trampling on the rights of women, when they are usually the victims? And what exactly is the point of creating new more impinging, and clumsy laws when the ones present are not being implemented?

And this is not all. What about the women who need to have abortions for reasons that have nothing to do with sex selection? It is already difficult for pregnant teens to get safe abortions and this kind of a law is going to make it a lot harder for them.

It is also going to be harder to obtain abortions in case of genetic disorders, if even a legal abortion gets linked to sex selection. On the other hand knowing the sex of the foetus makes female foeticide more likely and those availing of sex selective abortions could use genetic defects or medical complications as an excuse.

Besides, monitoring families of pregnant women by corrupt government officials can result in widespread blackmail and extortion. How can private lives of citizens be brought under government scrutiny?

Finally why make women pay for the flaws of a patriarchal society? Haven’t they suffered enough? Why not monitor law enforcement officials instead, to ensure every complaint about dowry, rape and forced female foeticide is taken seriously and protection and safe haven like shelters are provided for women who make the complaints? Why not fast track the judicial process for handling these cases? It can’t be less practical than monitoring all the pregnant women. Ethically speaking too, it is better to monitor people in their government jobs, rather than pregnant women in their private lives.

Women are already blamed for rape in this country. Now they are going to be penalised for female foeticide too. Why am I not surprised?

First published here.

Top image via Pixabay

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Kanika G, a physicist by training and a mother of 2 girls, started writing to

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  1. & do you think government officials don’t already misuse the anti- sex determination law to blackmail & extort from doctors?
    Sex determination isn’t the problem; sex selection is. What is the harm in wanting to know the gender of my child? The harm comes if I decide to not go ahead with it.
    I’m absolutely in favour of this thought being considered by the Maharashtra government. If the woman or her family decides to terminate the pregnancy, they should be booked, not the doctor.

    • Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. There are reasonable arguments to be made to allow sex determination, but none to make it mandatory. This is an unnecessary invasion of privacy and in many cases can do harm, you are lucky to not be able to imagine.

      The harm is the number of pregnant women who will be physically and mentally tormented by families so as to force miscarriages once the sex of the baby is known to be female. Miscarriage is not technically abortion and no one will be booked. Others will be divorced on trumped up grounds when they are most vulnerable. Only pregnant women will suffer. Like I said few care about that.

      I do not claim that the solution lies in making doctors take responsibility and I have mentioned that nowhere. But putting power in the hands of corrupt officials instead of imposing checks on them seems like a recipe for disaster.

      I believe that and instead of passing laws, that are neither practical nor ethical, the government should focus on building shelters and support systems and providing protection for pregnant women who report family members pressuring them to commit female foeticide. There could be automated complaint numbers and online complaint systems for such problems so police officers cant intimidate/bully women in to not registering the complaint.

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