The status of child sex ratio in Madurai continues to be a cause for concern as statistics indicate a fluctuation in the ratio between male and female children in the past decade.

The status of child sex ratio in Madurai continues to be a cause for concern as statistics indicate a fluctuation in the ratio between male and female children in the past decade.

According to data obtained from the government under RTI, Madurai Corporation is one of the two corporations (the other being Chennai) in Tamil Nadu to have less than 970 female children for every thousand male children.

Activists have attributed the difference in child sex ratio in Madurai to the unregulated functioning of scan centres and fertility clinics in the district. “In 2001 there were only 12 scanning centres in Madurai district, whereas the number increased to 256 in 2011. In Melur and Tirumangalam alone, six out of nine scan centres disclose the gender of the foetus, M. Jeeva, director, Society for Integrated Rural Development (SIRD).

He is also the core committee member of the Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion” (CASSA), which obtained the data under RTI.

As part of the CASSA, activists visited more than 30 scan centres in the city last week and identified the centres which function against the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 2002, he said. According to Mr. Jeeva, a complaint would be lodged with the Joint Director of Health Services soon against the erring scan centres and fertility clinics.

He also pointed out that the need for rigorous monitoring of the fertility centres and for implementation of laws is becoming stronger. “Only 72 cases have been filed against fertility centres in Tamil Nadu in the past 10 years, and most of the cases on whether the clinics are registered or not. Other aspects of the clinic should also be focused. Most of the clinics with Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) do not maintain proper records on the number and gender of children born through ART.

The district-level monitoring committee should keep a firm track on such clinics and their records”, he said.

P. Phavalam, former convenor of CASSA, stated that 1,89,881 girl children had gone missing in the State between 2001-2011. “Despite several campaigns and initiatives, female infanticide exists at large in Madurai. Between 2001 and 2010, data from the government says 5,298 girl children under the age of one have died”, she said. Madurai stands second in the districts with high girl children mortality rate next only to Salem, which recorded 6,402 deaths of girl children in the past decade. “The government should analyse the causes for the deaths and should act upon the reasons immediately.

The district-level monitoring committees should strengthen the vigilance on the fertility clinics, scan centres and also the primary health centres in the villages”, she said while adding that it is the village head nurses who suggest scan centres for most of the pregnant women.

There is a marginal increase in the ratio between male and female children in areas like Usilampatti, Melur and Tirumangalam, when compared with the number of girl children in 2001 and 2010.

“Analysing the reasons behind the marginal increase in these areas will show there are fewer number of scan centres in the region and the kind of centres suggested by the village head nurses”, Mrs Phavalam said.

“A large number of women in Madurai district succumb to family pressure and go for abortion up to 20 weeks from the time of pregnancy. The private clinics however suppress the actual data on abortion to the government. Unfortunately most of the officials do not question the accuracy of the data”, rued Mr Jeeva.

“It is very difficult to monitor the sex selection when there is so much of advancement in technology. Maximum number of fertility clinics which ought to be giving actual details on number and gender of children conceived and born in their clinics to the district level monitoring committee do not do so. The joint directors of health services, despite having the powers of the civil court do not execute their powers”, he said.

“There is no strict law to regulate the private clinics. A strict law should be brought in and implemented to end the illegal practices”, Mr. Jeeva concluded.

In a campaign conducted against sex selective abortion last week in the city, V Radharani, Joint Director of Health Services, confessed that clinics with ART do not submit proper records to the district administration. She told at the campaign that employees from anganwadis in each village would be included in the district level monitoring committee to keep a close vigil on the infertility clinics and scan centres.

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