The Union Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry is considering stricter penal action against families opting for gender-based sex selection in an effort to arrest the falling sex ratio across the country. It also seeks to now calculate the child sex ratio at birth replacing the existing national policy for calculating it from 0-6 years of age. The move comes following a sharp decline in the national sex ratio and recommendations by the National Advisory Council to net the gender disproportion.

WCD secretary Prem Narain speaking to the media said: “There is serious concern about the skewed sex ratio that the country has been witnessing. The NAC recommendations seek to specifically address the issue of the low sex ratio at birth. The recommendations call for both strengthening and modifying existing interventions as well as for developing a comprehensive national policy for improving the sex ratio at birth. We feel that there is a need to look at how many children are being born and their gender to ensure that policies are formed to protect the girl child at birth itself.”

He added: “The NAC recommendations have sought to strengthen the current legal regime to prevent misuse of medical technology for sex selection and plan legislative framework for the future (PC and PNDT Act and ART Bill). Evaluate conditional cash incentive and other schemes while planning schematic intervention for below poverty line as well as middle and high income families. Review gender-related laws and policies including dowry laws related to rape and recommend amendments or ways to strengthen implementation and develop a comprehensive national communication and advocacy strategy for behaviour change. NAC’s recommendation looking at improving sex ratio at birth also seeks to sensitise frontline health workers and other public officials to promote positive social attitude towards women.”

The recommendations are to be soon considered in the Union Cabinet meeting which, according to Mr. Narain, will also look at the WCD’s submission to review and appropriately amend laws, schemes and policies that impact sex selection.

Review mechanism

Mr. Narain said: “Besides this, the NAC has recommended that there be a standing review mechanism to examine all social, economic, development legislation that impacts the status of women and may directly or indirectly impact sex selective behaviour. The Council has also noted that review should make recommendations on necessary amendments or ways to strengthen implementation of laws and policies towards the goal of reducing daughter aversion.”

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