India Minister Wants Compulsory Prenatal Sex Tests

India Minister Wants Compulsory Prenatal Sex TestsIndia Minister Wants Compulsory Prenatal Sex Tests

India’s Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has called for mandatory tests to determine the sex of an unborn child in a bid to counter high levels of female feticide, sparking fierce criticism from women’s activists.

Prenatal sex tests are officially illegal in India, a policy designed to stop many unborn girls being aborted by parents desperate for a boy.

In a speech late Monday, she said a more effective strategy would be to record the sex of a fetus at the outset of the pregnancy and then monitor its progress, reports france24.

“My view is why not to change the present policy. Every pregnant woman should be compulsorily told whether it is a boy or girl,” Gandhi said.

“When a woman becomes pregnant it should be registered and that way you will be able to monitor right until the end whether she gave birth or not and what happened,” she said in the western city of Jaipur.

Parents and doctors can be jailed for up to five years for asking for or conducting a pre-natal sex test but they are still thought to be widespread, particularly in impoverished rural areas.

A 2011 study in the British medical journal The Lancet found that up to 12 million girls had been aborted in the last three decades in India.

India had 940 women for every 1,000 men, according to the last official census published in 2011, up from 933 in 2001 in a trend that some campaigners say vindicates the current policy of banning sex tests.

Gandhi said she was “just putting out this idea” which was being discussed with her ministerial counterparts.

“We have not reached a conclusion, we are still discussing the pros and cons,” she said.

But women’s rights groups said a change of policy would be a mistake and result in women from rural areas coming under even more pressure from their families to have an abortion.

“This is not a very productive idea, in fact it could make things worse,” Ranjana Kumari, director of the Delhi-based Center for Social Research think tank, told AFP.

“This might work among educated women, but not for large numbers of women living in rural areas who are still under enormous pressure to live up to the social and cultural traditions to have a boy.”

The All India Democratic Women’s Association, a Delhi-based advocacy group, said that Gandhi’s proposal was “shocking” and appeared to aim at absolving the medical profession of responsibility for feticide levels.

“It will fuel a proliferation of illegal facilities for getting rid of unwanted female fetuses,” the organization said in a statement.