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Two new laws concerning women in India

July 14, 2007

The first law which the government is planning is one to monitor pregnancies…not just to stop the abortion of girl children but to provide good antenatal care to pregnant women. Says this timesnow report:

The central government plans to make it mandatory for Indian women to register their pregnancies with the government. Plans are also afoot to make abortions conditional – i.e. to be carried out only under specified circumstances. The ministries behind the move thinks that such a move will help them stop exploitation of the girl child and correct India’s heavily skewed sex ratio.

This is already snowballing into a controversy if one goes by the views of the various people interviewed by the channel. Renuka Chowdhury, whose brainchild this new policy is, stuck to her stand when questioned – in fact she emphasised that the move will reduce deaths of women in child birth and improve their health…she seemed to imply that this was the main objective.

But where is the necessity to register pregnancies to improve the health of pregnant women? Surely a pregnant woman will approach a free ante-natal clinic happily – if there is one in her area? Why doesn’t the government ensure the presence of one first? The reason is clear – the main objective of this registration of pregnancies is to stop parents from aborting little girls. Its a noble objective but implementation will be very very difficult. Only if you wipe out corruption from our country will this work.

Otherwise this law will be used to make money. Bribes can be taken to hide pregnancies (of unwed mothers) and to give permission for abortions. Innocent people will also have to pay bribes if they want an abortion. And those who actually want to choose the sex of their child will do it anyway. These people are very determined people. Why, so far people have got away with it inspite of there being a law making sex selection illegal (Prohibition of Sex Selection, PNDT Act). Everyone, right from government officials to doctors are involved in the racket and that is why sex selection is continuing. In a previous post I have written about this. Quoting from my post:

Well, how can anyone expect this law to be enforced when the very people who are supposed to enforce it themselves conducted illegal abortions? One of the doctors accused of conducting these illegal abortions is none other than Dr. Gurdial Singh, the district family planning officer in Hoshiarpur, a doctor who heads the district committee constituted to enforce the PNDT Act!

This law (if it becomes one) will cause harassment to hundreds of innocent parents who want an abortion. Frankly I think this proposal, however noble its intention, is a half baked one. I just hope that womens groups do something to safeguard the rights of innocent women who choose to have an abortion. Perhaps the proposed law can be altered in some way so that innocent parents are not harassed by government officials.

The government is amending another law, the Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act. 1987. This will make the offence a non-bailable one and the jail term for offenders has been increased to a minimum of 3 years and up to 10 years. A fine of Rs 15,000/- has been imposed.

But the best thing about this amendment is that the woman will not be punished if she has been forced onto the pyre. The new amendment will bring into its ambit the whole community.

The activity on these two fronts is a positive sign. It shows that the Ministry for Women and Child Welfare is frantically doing something to change the lot of Indian women and to try and change the present system.

(Photo credits: TimesNow)

Related Reading: One man is saving unborn girls in Punjab
India’s sex ratio

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 14, 2007 8:39 am

    It is one thing to provide systematic ante-natal help to women, and quite another to institute by way of Orwellian tactics a way to control the behavior of women. if, in India, pregnant women are coerced by custom to abort female foetuses so that child-bearing to ful lterm is based on sex selection, maybe it might be better to make unavailable generally the tests which determine the sex of the foetus. Abortion is a difficult issue, and maybe should be based on notions of whether a woman is capable of rearing a child to healthy maturity rather on whether that child is male or female. This is clearly an instance where new technologies, if implemented withought thought to overall consequences, can have deleterious effects on a society!

  2. sobiop permalink
    July 14, 2007 9:45 am

    Why does India have gender selection issues? I was aware of why China does, but not India.


  3. July 14, 2007 10:18 am

    India is a patriarchal society and the status of women is low. I have written a lot on this subject on this blog. If you go through my posts filed under the category of
    you will get a fairly good idea as to why.
    Basically, its a vicious circle. Men want women to stay at home and look after the home and when they do, they become an “economic burden” and therefore boys are preferred. Boys are expected to look after the parents in their old age…actually its a very complex issue.

  4. July 16, 2007 5:49 am

    I don’t know enough about Sati, where it still occurs, under what circumstance etc to comment on it, but going by the Renuka C’s track record, and what may be argued as deliberate oversight, these new laws seem more detrimental than beneficial.

    Firstly, RC is as narcissistic as they get. If you watch her interview with Karan Thapar on a show called the Devil’s Advocate, you will know what I am talking about. Her unwillingness to see the flaws and gender biased in the DV acts shows that she is out there for glory rather than to tackle the real issues. She wishes to be seen as the champion of the women’s movement and in her attempts, oversights are fair collateral.

    As for the anti-abortion law, any person in control of their mental faculties will realize how detrimental this law can be for India. With a population crisis that pretty much everyone knows of, an anti-abortion can only be seen as good by those who are unaffected by the butterfly effect it causes.

    Should gender based abortions be allowed? Obviously not, but the fact that this method aggravates the problem more than it solves it is being missed by the MP and hence shows how committed she is to women and child welfare. And for the record, if you force people to have girl children that they wish to abort (because they think women are inferior or such, which is what the act aims to hinder), what, may I ask, will be the fate of that girl child within a family system that finds her unwanted. The deeper more psychological aspects of how a forced pregnancy (for want of a better term) will affect the parents and the child are again grossly being neglected.

    I am sure I could find another few oversights of this law, but the point is that this law is detrimental, or inadequate to say the least.

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