MEMORANDUM TO HONORABLE UNION MINISTER OF HEALTH AND FAMILY WELFARE, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
19th May 2006
Dr. A. Ramadoss,
Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare,
We, representatives of Women’s Organizations, Health Networks, Civil Rights Groups would like to draw your attention to the ongoing sex selection and subsequent selective abortion of female foetuses all over the country irrespective of the existing PC & PNDT Act.
More than 40 lakh girls have been aborted before birth since the PNDT Act was enacted in September 1994. But as of today, only one Doctor had been convicted with a prison term and that too in February 2006. There has been a dramatic drop in child sex ratio (0 to 6 years old) in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, Delhi, Gujarat, Chandigarh and Maharashtra as compared to the 1991 Census. Child Sex ratio has dropped to less than 900 girls to 1000 boys. Punjab has an alarming sex ratio of 793, Haryana 820, Gujarat 878, Delhi 865, and Rajasthan 909. These were the States where private clinics providing facilities for sex determination were first established and the practice of selective abortion of female foetuses became popular in the late seventies and early eighties.
Despite the directives of the Supreme Court of India over 2001-2003 to the Government of India and the Parliament’s amendment of the Act in December 2002, sex selection and subsequent abortion of female foetus continues at a large scale leading to a declining child sex ratio against girls. In Delhi alone the child sex ratio has dropped by about 50 points since Census 2001. The birth registration data for 2005 reveals that sex ratio at birth has dropped to 813 girls per 1000 boys. This means that nearly one in seven female foetuses is aborted. Sadly, in the elite South Delhi it is down to one in six.
Almost everywhere in India, sex selection is becoming increasingly utilised to selectively produce boys due to the aggressive promotion by unethical doctors. Foetal sex determination and sex selective abortion is a 500 crore business for medical professionals. Due to the lack of monitoring mechanisms there is virtually no risk for a doctor to be caught for committing these crimes. Therefore given the seriousness of the issue it becomes mandatory that millions of medical crimes related to sex selection and subsequent abortion of female foetus be investigated and criminals punished. Otherwise, in the coming five years or so, over a million female foetuses will be aborted annually. Subsequently, it is very likely that our country will overtake China in committing the largest number of selective abortions of female foetuses. Already in the State of Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab due to the shortage of women, buying women from poorer regions of the country has become common. In the Eastern districts of Rajasthan like that of Alwar and Bharatpur these ‘slave wives’ are bought for fifteen to twenty thousand rupees from the Eastern States of Bihar, W. Bengal and as far as Assam and other N. Eastern States. Given such horrendous potential trends it is tragic that the National Rural Health Mission refused to set a target date by when sex ratios at birth should become equal whereas, China has set a target of 2010. Further, the symbol of one child as the NRHM logo is the most insensitive one given the reality that small families are attained at the expense of girls. Even, the symbolism of the one child as a girl child falls short of bringing out the desired result.
That the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare is not serious about stopping sex selection was evident when it took full pages advertisements in newspapers in Delhi last October claiming that Sex selective abortion is a sin. Converting crimes into sins is a clever way of escaping responsibility for implementation of the PC& PNDT Act. For about the last two years the present Secretary of Health, Mr. PK Hota had made public commitments to undertake stings against unethical medical practitioners. However, till today this has not been done. Recently, when Television channels undertook many sting operations during February and April the Ministry did not even bother to convene an Emergency meeting of the CSB to discuss measures to ensure that these investigations undertaken were taken to its logical conclusion by the concerned authorities. Even the commitment made by the Minister in February to the CNBC Awaaz Channel that the medical professionals who are caught on camera will be proceeded against has not been honoured. It is nearly three months since Dr. PDS Kohli has been exposed to be performing sex-selection, and the Delhi government has still not filed a case on PNDT Violations in the Court. No wonder given such gross inaction by the Union Health Ministry, India is facing global disgrace for the Government’s fundamental failure to protect the human rights of millions of girls to be born in our country.
Women’s organizations, Human Rights activists, Health activists time and again had questioned the poor monitoring mechanisms and lack of implementation of the PC & PNDT Act in the country. Recently, for example when a private Channel between 5-8th April 2006 and the 23rd of April 2006 exposed over 33 Doctors for blatantly violating the PC & PNDT Act the women’s organization had made a consolidated effort to the draw the attention of the government towards the issue. Among these 33 doctors, 21 doctors were from 12 Districts of Rajasthan, 4 were from UP, 6 from Madhya Pradesh and 2 from Gujarat. (Please see the 8 CDs and the list of Doctors attached).
It was only after the continuous pressure built by the women's organisations that the Government in Rajasthan in a half hearted attempt lodged one FIR against 20 of the errant doctors on the 14th of May 2006 u/s 312, 315, 316, / 511 IPC and sec 23 (2) (3) & 26 of the PC& PNDT Act. According to the PC & PNDT Act the doctors are supposed to be booked by the Appropriate Authorities in the courts of the first class magistrate, however, the Government chose to go the police only. Women’s organizations in Rajasthan have further reported that the State Supervisory Board formed under the PC& PNDT Act in Rajasthan with the Minster of Health and Family welfare and the GOR heading it, has not met in the last three years. There are more than 1100 machines registered by the Government of Rajasthan. However to date there has been only one case of violation of the PC & PNDT Act which has been filed in the State in a court in Jaipur. Thus apart from Registration, regulation of the practice of ultrasound is not happening. Registration of machines without regulating the use of ultrasound for determining sex selection amounts to giving license to clinics to do sex determination.
However, this is not an issue which is only restricted to either Rajasthan or to these four States. But sex selection and subsequent abortion of female foetuses have become a practice all over the country inspite of existing law. Hence it becomes important that the concerned authorities at the national level take notice of this violation, take action against the guilty and ensure that the monitoring mechanisms are made stringent.
We demand immediate intervention on the part of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare:
- To immediately intervene and ensure that the States file cases in the Court under the PC & PNDT Act.
- In case the States do not comply with the Directives of the Union Health Ministry within two weeks, the MOHFW should move the case to the Supreme Court
- Transfer all Cases on Sex selection and selective abortion of female foetus related to police investigation from the State Agencies to the CBI.
- Activate all the regulatory bodies in the Union and States for the full implementation of the PC & PNDT Act so as to stop sex selection and subsequent abortion of female foetus. .
Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
Sama- Resource Group for Women & Health
Ling janch evam kanya bhroon hatya virodhi jan abhiyan
Dr. Sabu George