by Steven Ertelt
July 6, 2006
New Delhi, India (LifeNews.com) — The Indian government is proposing amendments to the laws that are intended to stop sex-selection abortions and infanticides of female babies. The move comes after officials suspended eleven doctors last month who illegally used ultrasound machines to tell the sex of an unborn child to her parents so they can have an abortion.
The department of women and child development has recommended amendments to the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act and Rules.
The department wants to put more pressure on local officials to enforce the national law by holding magistrates and divisional commissioners accountable for low male-female ratio in their areas.
The government also wants to create a method of getting retired judges and nonprofit groups together to monitor enforcement in local areas and plans to authorize states to do more enforcement as well.
"These state committees should focus on districts with the worst ratio and conduct surprise checks," an official told the Times of India.
"The authority that monitors illegal abortion and ultrasound clinics should have members who are not from any enforcement agency. This lends impartiality to the process," the official added.
The Times of India reports that the government wants to increase the penalties for those who violate the law, which prohibits using ultrasounds to tell women or couples the gender of a baby so they can have an abortion or kill the baby after birth.
The law has been in place since 1996, but critics say the nation has been slow to enforce it. So far there have been 387 cases filed under the law, but only one has led to a conviction.
"We, in the last over 45 days, have suspended 11 government doctors and are taking action against 30 private doctors on charges of violating the PNDT act and practicing female feticide," a senior official from Rajasthan’s health ministry told Reuters about the crackdown last month.
The convictions followed an undercover television report about doctors using ultrasounds illegally.
The abortions and infanticides have produced a very skewed male-female ratio, which could be as low as 500 or 600 females to 1,000 males in states like Punjab and Haryana.
In March, the first India doctor convicted under the law was jailed. Dr. Anil Sabhani, and his assistant, Kartar Singh, in Haryana, will face two years in prison for violating the new law.
Local authorities sent fake patients to his clinic after reports surfaced showing he was violating the statute.
As many as 6 to 10 million girls have been aborted in the last twenty years according to Italian officials and media estimates.
Based on the gender ratio in other countries, a January Lancet study estimated that 136 to 138 million girls should have been born in 1997 in India, for example, but only 131 million births of girls was reported.
"We conservatively estimate that prenatal sex determination and selective abortion accounts for 0.5 million missing girls yearly," The Lancet article said.
Census figures appear to back the study. From 1991 to 2001, the number of girls per 1000 boys declined from 945 to 927.