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India 360: Are sex determination tests misused?


Jul 04, 2007 at 03:01am IST

With newspaper headlines screaming from the top A couple with daughters seek a son, the controversy has come to light after a Mumbai-based couple petitioned the Bombay High Court to permit them to balance their family which already has two daughters.

While the Court has reserved its order for the time being, it's an informal comment by the Chief Justice contemplating the ill-effects of such a move that's re-ignited the nationwide debate.

The CNN-IBN show India 360 brought up the question: Should pre-natal sex determination tests be allowed?

On the panel to discuss the question was petitioners’ lawyer, Ratna Bhargavan, member, Vimochana, Donna Fernandes and senior gynaecologist, Dr Puneet Bedi.

Female foetuses terminated

The question was first thrown to Ratna Bhargaven and she was asked as to whether her clients asked for the rights to determine the sex of their unborn but conceived child or did they ask for the right to use medical techniques to select the sex of their child before conception?

Ratna Bhargavan said that her clients asked for the rights to sex determination before conception.

So was it the Constitutional right of the clients to go for sex determination before the conception of the child?

Donna Fernandes throwing light to the matter said that the law was very clear on the issue and it said that pre-conception or after conception the sex of the child was no to be disclosed as it is a violation for the law and was an offence.

So did not pre-natal sex determination tests reinforce the anti-girl child existing social status?

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Fernandes said, “The tests not only reinforced the existing anti-girl child status but methods including ultra- sonography and the scanning facilities is blatantly misused to terminate female foetuses as a result of which the sex ratios especially in some areas of Karnataka is coming down in a lightening speed.”

She suggested that in order to arrest the trend it was important to that the Pre-natal Diagnostic Test Act was totally implemented.

Right To Choose Embryos

So was the reservation to the order made by the High Court to be taken as an observation about the couple asking for a third male child?

“It is not an observation it has been wrongly reported by the media. The judge also during the time of trial had asked the couple as to what was their opinion was so it is not an observation,” said Bhargavan.

There are also medical reasons as to why couples go for sex determination tests, sometimes to avoid preventing to the passing on of a genetic disorder. The UK allows sex determination in the basis of avoiding the passing of a genetic disorder.

Dr Puneet Bedi said, “The terms which the lawyer is using has been used over the last 30-35 years that initially when sex determination was argued as a solution for population solution the paper came from AIIMS and it was supposed to be a population control method and they said in the foreseeable future since the technology is expensive only few people can use it but it won’t affect the sex ratio. But I want to clarify that here you conceive the embryos and reject the female embryos and re-implant the male embryos.”

And when asked if the couple are asking for sex determination, they might want to know the traits of their child, Donna Fernandes said, “When there is a knack which clearly prohibits revealing the sex of the child I can’t understand how the court could pass an order in favour of the couple when it is very clear that they have children whom are girls and it is highly probable that they are doing this for nothing les than a sex selection.”

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