India suspends doctors over banned fetal ‘sex tests’
Twelve Indian doctors have been suspended for allegedly conducting prenatal sex tests, a practice banned to stop the abortion of female fetuses that has widened India’s gender gap, officials said Tuesday.
The physicians were suspended on Monday from practicing medicine following a court order, said Archana Johri, an official of the Rajasthan Medical Council watchdog.
“Five of the doctors were found guilty of sex determination practices while the remaining seven violated other provisions of the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act,” she told AFP in Rajasthan state capital Jaipur.
In New Delhi, the Indian Medical Association condemned the alleged violations by the doctors in Rajasthan.
“It is a deplorable practice and we condemn it,” Association Secretary D.R. Rai told AFP.
A study published last year in The Lancet said sex selection of fetuses in India led to 7.1 million fewer girls than boys up to age six, a gender gap that had grown by more than a million in a decade.
The 1996 law designed to prevent the use of ultrasound for prenatal sex tests is widely flouted in India, according to the study by researchers led by Prabhat Jha of the Centre for Global Health at the University of Toronto.
India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh last year labelled the practice of aborting female fetuses a “national shame” and ordered policy planners to increase efforts to stamp it out.
Married women in India face huge pressure to produce male heirs, who are seen as breadwinners while girls are often viewed as a burden to the family as they require hefty dowries to be married off.
India has launched an array of schemes to change attitudes towards girls, including offering cash incentives for families not to abort them, but many have had little impact.