Two new laws concerning women in India
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)