Road to health starts with rights

Road to health starts with rights

TNN | Mar 23, 2013, 06.39 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Neeta Kumar (name changed) from Sagarpur Colony in west Delhi went through the first two of her pregnancies with trepidation. “My in-laws punished me for giving birth to two daughters. I was confined to the house for eight long years and was often beaten up,” she says. So when she conceived a third time, she put aside her scruples and went in for sex determination. Finding a doctor was easier than she had imagined. And to her relief, the test confirmed her third-born would be a boy.

Neeta was lucky she didn’t have to abort a female foetus, but every day some expectant mothers are forced to kill their unborn girls in this city. It is mass murder on a scale not reflected in dayto-day reports of raids at diagnostic centres. But longterm population data exposes it sharply.

Like its neighbours, Haryana and UP, Delhi has never had a good sex ratio but the Census of 2011 showed a further decline in the ratio of girls to boys. Delhi had 868 girls per 1,000 boys in the 0-6 years group, in 2001. Ten years later, the number had dipped to 866.

Experts agree that sexselective abortions are a significant factor for the dip, but the blame for the continued misuse of pre-natal diagnostic tools, like ultrasound, for sex determination lies with the government. Even Punjab and Haryana have managed to convict many violators of the PCPNDT (pre-conception and pre-natal diagnostic techniques ) Act since 2001, observes Bijayalaxmi Nanda, member, State Supervisory Board on PCPNDT, Government Of Delhi. “But Delhi has none (convictions). The number of cases in 2011 stood at 67 and has now decreased to 47. This is due to dropping of cases on technical grounds. The prosecution cases have not been prepared well with strong evidence base and there has been a lack of will to follow-up cases” .

The impunity with which rogue clinics work is evident from their still-nominal rates (no doctor will do it for a small amount if there is a serious risk of going to jail). In places like Sarangpur, you can get the test done for just Rs 2,000.

But where the state has failed, women’s groups are trying to make a difference. In South and Southwest districts , the campaign, Let Girls Be Born, started by the NGO, Centre For Advocacy & Research in partnership with Plan India, has 55 member groups. They raise awareness about sex determination tests and assist women facing pressure to abort female foetuses.

‘It’s a fight for change’

Mitu Khurana is Delhi’s first woman who took her husband and in-laws to court because they were forcing her to get a pre-natal sex determination test done. Khurana’s has been a dogged fight spread over years and her spirit hasn’t flagged. Mother of twins now, this thirty-something who lives with her parents now, calls her struggle a battle against an indifferent system where “the desire for a male child is considered natural”.

In 2005, Khurana, a doctor wedded to another, got pregnant and stood up against her inlaws and husband’s pressure to get a sex-determination test done. She put up stiff resistance . Three years on, she filed a case against them and the doctor. The case she filed was under the PNDT Act. She concedes the delays and systemic failures are frustrating, but she’s undeterred. “I don’t want my daughters and other girls to go through what I have seen.”

“At every stage I was made to feel like a criminal. People said how can a woman file a case against her husband and inlaws and end her marriage over sex determination? The desire for a male child is considered natural. They find is difficult to understand my viewpoint. We need to change this mindset,” she says. The problem with implementing the law lies in the fact that the violators are powerful, she says. “Doctors conduct sex determination tests and they’re a very strong lobby,” she says. But she’s clear. “I’ll fight. The more things have gotten difficult my resolve to seek justice has only grown stronger.”

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