The Ministry of Women and Child Development wants to make amendments in the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act to make female foeticide a punishable offence not merely for doctors and medical staff involved in it but also for the family. This marks a fundamental shift in outlook as the rationale of the existing law is that the perpetrators of foeticide are actually victims of a system and it is only those people misusing medical technology who need to be punished.
We realise that there is an immediate need to deter families from practising foeticide. There has to be a fear that if I get caught I will be punished. We will discuss it in the coordination meeting at the Cabinet secretariat on September 25 on the recommendations of the National Advisory Council on improving the sex ratio at birth. But we are only looking at a legal framework to take action against families,not action by the police, said Prem Narain,Secretary (WCD).
The change in perspective will be similar to the stance adopted in the anti-dowry law where both givers and takers of bribe suffer equal punishment though there is a move afoot to make giving dowry a lesser offence than seeking it.
The NAC in April made six recommendations for a national policy for improving sex ratio at birth,the principal among them being strengthening of the legal regime by enacting new laws and reviewing existing ones like dowry prohibition law and laws related to rape.
Incidentally,the move to penalise families is a divergence from the recommendations which focus mainly on the regulation of ultrasound and ART clinics and refurbishing the regulatory structures,limiting family intervention only to counsellors.
The NAC is learnt to be in favour of continuing with the present legal framework where families are thought to be victims rather than perpetrators of the offence.
Among a slew of legal measures proposed is one to include electronic content in the Indecent Representation of Women (prohibition) Act and an increase in fine from Rs 5,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
We are proposing to increase jail term to three years but it is for the Law Ministry to accept or reject it, Prem Narain added.
The ministry is in the process of creating a centralised database to help track missing children.