The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 was adopted by the Parliament of India in 1994 to address the problem of the declining sex ratio in India. The Act banned the use of prenatal sex determination after conception to stop the gender-biased sex selection that was being reported in alarming numbers in the country. Sex selection is the act of identifying the sex of the foetus and aborting the foetus if it is of the ‘unwanted’ (female) sex.
The Act prohibits the use of ultrasonography for the purpose of sex determination of the foetus by all laboratories and clinics. It also penalizes all persons engaged in or helping in the conduct of the prenatal diagnostic technique and conducting the PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the Act, as well as the sale, distribution, supply, renting, etc, of an ultrasound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting the sex of the foetus.
The Act was amended in 2003 to bring the technique of pre-conception sex selection and the ultrasound technique under the ambit of the Act. For any violations of the provisions, the Act provides the following penalties and punishments –
(i) for doctors/owner of clinics:
- Up to 3 years of imprisonment with fine up to Rs 10,000 for the first offence.
- Up to 5 years of imprisonment with fine up to Rs 50,000 for a subsequent offence.
- Suspension of registration with the Medical Council if charges are framed by the court and till the case is disposed of, removal of the name for 5 years from the medical register in the case of the first offence and permanent removal in case of a subsequent offence.
(ii) for husband/family member or any other person abetting sex selection:
- Up to 3 years of imprisonment with a fine up to Rs 50,000 for the first offence.
- Up to 5 years of imprisonment with a fine up to Rs 1 lakh for a subsequent offence.
(iii) for any advertisement regarding sex selection:
- Up to 3 years of imprisonment and up to Rs 10,000 fine.
While the Act has been lauded for achieving modest success in restricting sex-selective abortions, numbers portray a different story. According to India’s 2011 Census, while the overall female-to-male ratio has improved marginally as compared to the Census of 2001, the child sex ratio has seen a steep decline.
As per the 2011 Census, the child sex ratio (0-6 years) has actually witnessed a decline from 927 females per thousand males in 2001 to 919 females per thousand males in 2011. As disclosed by the then Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in a written reply submitted to Rajya Sabha on December 2013, only 143 persons have been punished in India for conducting sex determination tests since its formulation in 1996. Evidently, just the formulation of this policy has failed to achieve its goals. To improve the skewed sex ratio in India, the need goes beyond policymaking, to address cultural and social norms, behaviours, beliefs of people and organizations that foster gender bias.
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References http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=154290 https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/indias-child-sex-ratio-has-reached-emergency-proportions -un-study-45424 https://www.ncpcr.gov.in/view_file.php?fid=434 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=10343
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