SC leaves it to government to regulate ads on pre-natal sex tests

15/12/2017 360 Social Issues | Gender issues | View Recent Current Affairs

  • Supreme Court has left the decision to regulate advertisement on pre-natal sex tests to the government to take care of such issues in consultation with the search engines. The court cited lack of expertise as a reason for this.
  • This case had begun in 2008, when an activist filed public interest litigation (PIL) to get the search engines to abide by local law which bans such tests to arrest the falling sex ratio in the country.
  • The government had then set up a nodal body to act as the interface with the search engines on such complaints. The court had passed umpteen orders in which the court warned the engines that they should either follow local law or shut shop.

About The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 2003:

  • The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 2003, commonly called PC-PNDT Act, makes it illegal to determine the sex of the unborn child or even use sex-selection technologies.
  • The law first came into force in 1996 as the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994, in response to the falling sex ratio and fears that ultrasound technologies were being used to determine the sex of the foetus.
  • The law was amended in 2003 to bring the technique of preconception sex selection within the ambit of the Act – essentially, banning practices where medical practitioners try to influence the sex of the child before conception by using techniques such as sperm sorting (where a sperm cell is specifically chosen because of its sex chromosome). The law as it stands not only prohibits determination and disclosure of the sex of the foetus but also bans advertisements related to preconception and prenatal determination of sex
  • According to the Act, ultrasound clinics, genetic counselling centres and genetic laboratories cannot be used for conducting pre-natal diagnostic techniques except for detecting abnormalities such as chromosomal abnormalities, genetic metabolic diseases, sex-linked genetic diseases and congenital anomalies. The Act makes it mandatory for all ultrasound facilities to be registered and for medical practitioners to maintain records of every scan done on pregnant women.
  • Why this act was needed: Since 2000, both high courts and the Supreme Court have delivered a series of judgments, taking a serious view of sex-selective practices by the medical fraternity and the connection it may have with skewed sex ratios. In September 2001, following a public interest litigation – filed by the Centre for the Enquiry of Health and Allied Themes, rights group Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal and Dr Sabu George, who had been pushing for the effective implementation of the PMDT Act — the Supreme Court passed an order for strict implementation of the Act and reiterated it again in September 2003.The rate of conviction has been poor. From 2003 to December 2014, only 206 doctors had been convicted by courts, of which Maharashtra had the highest number at 96, followed by Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. At least 15 states and four union territories had zero convictions all these years.The woman and child development minister’s proposal is that the gender of the child be compulsorily registered and the birth be tracked. Activists have opposed the idea, saying it will only make female foeticide more rampant.
  • Implementation of this act: The main problem isn’t with the Act but with its implementation. State advisory committees that help in implementing the Act do not meet regularly. Besides, there is poor monitoring of ultrasound clinics. Such clinics are required to maintain records of the scans they conduct but the violators are often let off with a fine.

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