Indian minister wants major policy U-turn to save the girl child

Let her live.
Let her live.
Image: Reuters/Fayaz Kabli
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India’s minister for women and child development, Maneka Gandhi, has suggested a rather counter-intuitive idea to deal with the country’s skewed gender ratio.

She suggests that the country should lift its over two-decades-old ban on prenatal sex determination, and in fact, make it compulsory for pregnant women to determine the gender of an unborn child.

Women pregnant with a female child can then be tracked and foeticide be prevented, Gandhi said.

“In my personal view, the woman should be compulsorily told that whether it is a boy or girl child whom she is going to give birth,” Gandhi said at the All India Regional Editors Conference in Jaipur on Feb. 1. “It should be registered to be able to check whether they have given the births or not.”

“We cannot keep catching people doing [illegal] ultrasound,” she said, adding that the current rule is not a permanent solution to the problem of female foeticide.

Prenatal sex determination—or testing the sex of a fetus—is common in most countries but was banned in India in 1994. The ban was aimed at preventing sex-selective abortions, common in many Indian states.

India’s overall sex ratio has improved over the past decades, but still continues to be skewed towards men. According to the 2011 census, India had 943 women to every 1,000 men. In 2001 census, the number of women to every 1,000 men was 933.

New Delhi, the country’s capital, is among the bottom five states in India in terms of sex ratio with just 868 women to 1,000 men. Some of the other states that fair poorly on this parameter are Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Gandhi’s suggestion has received a strong reaction on social media. And some believe that such a policy should have been implemented years ago:

But some others have raised concerns because many pregnant women in the country still don’t have access to basic healthcare services—forget sex determination tests: