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CHILD Protection & Child Rights » IV. National Mechanisms » Child Related Legislations » Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994

Sex selection is a deep rooted problem in India. Families who discriminate against girl children prefer to abort the child before it is born. The boy child is preferred since he will carry on the family name, provides for the elders and is not a burden on the family at the time of marriage. In 1994 the Government of India in an attempt to stop female foeticide passed the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act. In 2002 the act was amended. Following is an overview of the act in its amended form.

In order to fully understand the provisions of this act it is important to know two definitions as given in the act. Embryo refers to a developing human organism after fertilization till the fifty-sixth day. Foetus refers to a developing human organism from the fifty-seventh day after fertilization till birth. The act firstly outlines provisions about the regulation of genetic counselling clinics, genetic laboratories and genetic clinics. All such clinics have to be registered under this act, and all medical professionals employed must have the appropriate qualification to conduct pre-natal diagnostic techniques.

The act prohibits the medical personnel from conducting or helping anyone conduct sex-selection. All medical equipment regarding pregnancies shall be sold only to registered clinics. All pre-natal diagnostic techniques are banned except for the detection of chromosomal abnormalities, genetic metabolic diseases, haemoglobinopathies, sex-linked genetic diseases, congenital anomalies, any other abnormalities or diseases as may be specified by the Central Supervisory Board; only as long as there is a potential threat to the child as outlined in the act. No person is allowed to divulge the sex of a child in any form of communication, no clinic or person is allowed to conduct sex determination tests, and no person shall commit the act or sex selection or aid in doing so.

The act calls for the formation of a Central Supervisory Board and outlines all logistically matters concerning the board. The purpose of the board is to advise the central government regarding sex selection techniques, to insure the implementation of the act, to create public awareness about the act, to lay down a code of conduct for clinics, etc. Similarly State and Union Territory Supervisory Boards will also be created. The will aim at creating awareness, and review the actions of all authorities regarding pre-natal diagnostics.

Each state and union territory will also have an 'Appropriate Authority' appointed, who will be responsible for registration and maintenance of clinics in their jurisdiction. They must also enforce codes to be observed by clinics, investigate violations of this act, take legal action against violators, advise the supervisory boards on changes in technology, etc. They have the power to issue warrants, summon people with information, and ask for any document to be produced regarding the information. To aid the Appropriate Authority the government will also form an Advisory Committee.

The act has a section that lists all offences and their penalties that can be committed under this act. Under this act is it also an offence to advertise techniques used for the purpose of sex-determination. People who contravene the provisions of this act are liable to serve prison time and a fine. But women who have been forced to by their husband or family to undergo pre-natal diagnostic techniques will not be prosecuted under this act. Companied and people in the position of responsibility in companies can also be charged for violation of this act.

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