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India to jail illegal ultrasound owners to combat foeticide - report

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 16 Jan 2012 15:07 GMT
Author: Ariana Wardak
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NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) – India is cracking down on the widespread practice of female foeticide with stricter policies, including jailing practitioners that conduct illegal gender tests on unborn babies, the Indian Express reported on Monday.

Female foeticide -- the abortion of female babies -- is banned in India but remains rampant across the country's northern belt, where a deeply-rooted preference for sons exists.

Activists say ultrasonography has fuelled the rise in abortions of girls, with some practitioners using the technology to conduct sex determination tests, resulting in parents terminating pregnancies involving  girls.

According to the report, an expert board decided on Sunday to impose stiffer penalties on those who violate the law, including jailing owners of illegal ultrasound machines for up to three years. Previously, only a fine of 15,000 rupees ($290) was imposed.

"The practice of charging a fine and regularising it will not be followed," said a member of a specialist board, which focuses on implementing the 1994 law.

"Instead, the machine will be confiscated and the owner liable for prosecution (which) could result in a sentence of up to three years," the official was quoted as saying.

The board also decided to increase the registration fee for ultrasound machines to 25,000 rupees ($486) from 3,000 ($58), limit the number of machines registered per radiologist, and make it mandatory to report any change of address.

The report said practitioners would also have to follow strict guidelines in the disposal of old machines and must have completed a certain level of training.

India's 2011 census showed that fewer girls have been born over the last decade compared with boys, suggesting female foeticide has continued unabated despite it being outlawed.

While the overall female to male ratio has improved since the last census in 2001, the number of girls under six-years-old has declined for the fifth decade running. There are now only 914 girls to every 1,000 boys, compared with 927 a decade ago.

((Editing by Nita Bhalla))

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