Among all the "out of the box" ideas, surely this one has to take the cake, and the cherry on top of it. When Maneka Gandhi, the minister for women and child welfare announced, thoughtfully no doubt, that it would be better to determine the sex of the fetus, and monitor women carrying a girl child to full term, rather than disallow sex determination all together, it drew a sharp response, and rightly so.
Even though the minister clarified that this was just a passing remark, for many of us, it momentarily set the clock back... it also was a throwback to the days of "family planning" (and we know who was behind that!) That was a time in the '70s when Big Brother was constantly watching you, and now could it be "Big Sister" keeping an eye on your pregnancy if you were going to have a baby girl, and throwing you in jail, if perchance, you had a miscarriage? Because, in this case there would be direct suspicion. Anyone losing the baby for whatever reason would be deemed a criminal, unless proven innocent.
And this remark by Gandhi unfortunately, was reminiscent of the fact that the ban on sex determination is so often misunderstood.
Living in the UK one encounters horrified "feminists" often enough who collate the ban on sex determination tests for Asians, as a major loss of fundamental rights. On a radio show I once had to fight off one such "feminist" who felt that Asian women must have the right to know the sex of their child. And, she felt that they could go ahead and abort it, if they so wanted. My explanation about the deep decline in the sex ratio drew little sympathy from her, as undoubtedly, abortion was a right hard fought for in the West, and disallowing it, for any reason, seems trampling upon a human right.
This, of course, is one of the reasons why feminist fundamentalists refuse to recognise the differing realities in India, where the ban on sex determination is one way of making the entire process, of having a baby, gender neutral. It actually ensures that, if doctors are scared of the law, more girl children, slowly but surely, will be born. The fact that this has not been the case does not mean that this law is poor, just that it has not been well implemented.
The other problem with Gandhi's remark is that it shows an appalling lack of understanding of the ground reality in India. How and where would women be monitored, even if the government pushed through this absurd thought?
We are aware that India barely has enough hospitals to cover urban areas, and a negligible number in the rural areas - so who would do the "monitoring" and how would it be done ?
Apart from the lack of the facilities to carry this idea forward, we must remember the trauma and fear most of the pregnant women in India already live under. And, even in a rarified atmosphere, there is need for privacy.
The spotlight on gender, however, must be kept firmly on the doctors.