Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sitting targets in the womb(SATYAMEV JAYATE)

In the 1970s, technology enabled the killing to be done one step before birth. It became possible to determine the gender of the unborn baby at a stage when abortion was possible, and legal. Originally conceived as a government solution for terminating foetuses with severe medical problems, pre-natal testing also revealed the gender of the foetus. Parents, eager to avoid having a girl child, decided to terminate female foetuses. Doctors, seeing a lucrative business ahead, offered sex determination tests and abortions to willing parents. For a country struggling with a population explosion, this seemed like an easy answer to keeping the numbers down. The thinking was that in the desire for a male child, parents continue to have girl children till such time as a boy was not born. Terminating the pregnancy of a girl foetus would eliminate this aspect, it was felt. 

Activists and authorities soon realised that what was happening was a systematic elimination of girls, and warnings began to be sounded about its dire consequences. After a partial ban in 1976, government hospitals and clinics no longer offered pre-natal testing, but the monster had been unleashed. The private sector had, literally, scented blood. The lure of money overrode any inhibitions some unscrupulous doctors may have had.
Sex determination became even easier with the introduction of ultrasound technology in [the early 1990s]. This did away with the painful practice of amniocentesis and other dangerous methods. Sonography became a corner-shop service, offered in mobile vans and often as a “package” along with the subsequent abortion.

In the 1980s the drive against female foeticide and sex determination techniques gained strength. In 1982 the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) launched the first campaign, in response to a pre-natal diagnostic clinic which was openly advertising its services, terming daughters as liabilities to the family and a threat to the nation, and encouraging expectant parents to rid themselves of the “danger”. More campaigns came up in different parts of the country, the move for an all-India ban on sex determination tests gained momentum, and the Pre Natal Diagnostic Tests (Regulation and Prohibition of Misuse) Act, 1994 (called the PNDT Act) came into force in January 1996.

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