Relaxation in prenatal diagnosis rules can be misused, fear activists

Women organisations have opposed the Union government’s order relaxing prenatal gender testing norms, as they fear it would be misused during the period lockdown.

In an order issued earlier this month, the Centre relaxed norms of Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Rules, 1996, guiding ultrasound clinics that have the equipment to determine the sex of a foetus. Till now, they were supposed to maintain detailed records of scans undergone by each woman who visits their centre and submit it to the local appropriate authority. This rule has been relaxed under emergency provisions of COVID-19. They are not required to maintain such records till June 30.

Scanning centres are considered essential services under the health emergency and the centres are likely to witness huge rush. Detailed documentation of scans is time consuming and the relaxation would help the scanning centres spend less time on technical formalities and more on actual work, point out officers.

However, women rights activists say this is nothing but a legal loophole to allow malpractices. Sharada Gopal, convenor of Jagruta Mahila Okkoota, feels that such a loophole sould not be allowed under the pretext of an emergency. She urged the government to withdraw the relaxation immediately. “Prenatal sex determination almost always leads to female foeticide as Indian families desire sons over daughters. Even with strict rules in place, the government is unable to reduce female foeticide and the gender ratio is still very unhealthy. If in such situation, the rules are relaxed, doctors, parents and paramedical staff will join hands in carrying on the evil practice of foeticide openly,” she said.

Anjali G.B., founder of Dalit Mahila Kalyan Samiti, suspected that the government has acted under pressure from some associations of medical professionals who have been opposing pernatal sex determination rules. “They have argued that they are time consuming and not as useful as they were meant to be. They have made use of the emergency for wrong gains,” she said. She threatened legal action by women organisations if the government did not rollback the exemption immediately.

An email sent to the Director-General of Health Services, New Delhi, seeking a response was not replied to.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 12:12:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/relaxation-in-prenatal-diagnosis-rules-can-be-misused-fear-activists/article31464252.ece

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