BOOK EX­TRACT ABOR­TION AND THE STATE

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IT was in 1975 with the Re­port of the Com­mit­tee on the Sta­tus of Women in In­dia (CSWI), `Towards Equal­ity,’ that the is­sue of de­clin­ing sex ra­tio as an in­di­ca­tor of the sta­tus of women was brought into the pub­lic dis­course. Mazum­dar, the main ar­chi­tect of the re­port, points out, ` For the Com­mit­tee on the Sta­tus of Women in In­dia, the de­clin­ing sex ra­tio was both a dis­cov­ery and the most con­vinc­ing mea­sure to pro­vide body and sub­stance to its grim find­ings’. It was around this time that am­nio­cen­te­sis was in­tro­duced in the All In­dia In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sciences in Delhi. The test which was mainly to de­tect con­gen­i­tal ab­nor­mal­i­ties came to be mis­used for the pur­pose of sex de­ter­mi­na­tion lead­ing to sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion. A sam­ple sur­vey of am­nio­cen­te­sis in AIIMS to find out about foetal ge­netic con­di­tions man­aged to en­rol 11,000 preg­nant women as vol­un­teers for its re­search. The main in­ter­est of these vol­un­teers was to know the sex of the foe­tuses. Once the re­sults were out, these vol­un­teers who were told that they were car­ry­ing fe­male foe­tuses ex­pressed the de­sire for an abor­tion. This was fol­lowed by a protest launched by women’s groups. This ex­pe­ri­ence prompted the Health Min­is­ter at the Cen­tre to ban sex de­ter­mi­na­tion tests in gov­ern­ment-run hospi­tals in 1978. Since then, the pri­vate sec­tor started ex­pand­ing its ten­ta­cles in this field so rapidly that by the early 1980s am­nio­cen­te­sis and other sex se­lec­tion tests be­came bread and but­ter for many gy­nae­col­o­gists. The ac­tive in­volve­ment of women’s groups, women’s move­ment and civil so­ci­ety groups emerged at this stage of the de­vel­op­ment of the is­sue. Women’s groups in Delhi, Mum­bai and other places is­sued a state­ment against such tests. A loose coali­tion of such groups was formed with the Cen­tre for Women’s De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies, Re­search Unit on Women’s Stud­ies, SNDT Uni­ver­sity, Mum­bai and the Vol­un­tary Health As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia. The main pur­pose of this coali­tion dur­ing this phase was to cre­ate a pres­sure group which would high­light the is­sue mainly in the me­dia. In 1985, a group of ac­tivists from women’s groups and peo­ple’s science groups in Mum­bai agreed on the need for more con­sis­tent ac­tion in ban­ning sex de­ter­mi­na­tion tests, see­ing the ex­tent to which they had spread. A joint ac­tion group called the Fo­rum Against Sex De­ter­mi­na­tion and Sex Pre-se­lec­tion (FASDSP) was formed at this stage. Keep­ing in mind that one of the pri­mary weak­nesses of the ear­lier at­tempts at build­ing up co­or­di­nated ac­tion was lack of a broader per­spec­tive, it was de­cided that this cam­paign would con­sider the is­sue at mul­ti­ple lev­els. The ques­tion of sex de­ter­mi­na­tion and pre-se­lec­tion was then pri­mar­ily seen as: (i) an in­te­gral part

of women’s op­pres­sion and dis­crim­i­na­tion; (ii) a mis­use of science and tech­nol­ogy against peo­ple in gen­eral and women in par­tic­u­lar; and (iii) a hu­man rights is­sue. The fo­cus of the cam­paign was to high­light the is­sue of dis­crim­i­na­tion be­tween boys and girls and also an at­tempt to show that sex de­ter­mi­na­tion was yet an­other form of vi­o­lence against women, part of the chain made up of fe­male in­fan­ti­cide, wife-burn­ing, sati, etc. It was then that an im­me­di­ate reg­u­la­tion of pre-natal di­ag­nos­tic tech­niques was sought, lead­ing to seek­ing of the sup­port of the state and the le­gal ma­chin­ery. The prob­lem that the fo­rum coun­tered here was how not to over­lap over the Med­i­cal Ter­mi­na­tion of Preg­nancy (MTP) Act as they did not want to cur­tail women’s right to abort. The al­ter­na­tive was a new law which was for­mu­lated with the reg­u­la­tion and pre­ven­tion of mis­use of pre­na­tal di­ag­nos­tic tech­niques in mind. Sig­na­ture cam­paigns, a mas­sive me­dia cam­paign high­light­ing the is­sue and pi­lot stud­ies on the preva­lence of sex de­ter­mi­na­tions were part of the process of putting pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment to pass the Act. In June 1988, the Act came into be­ing in the state of Ma­ha­rash­tra. Although the Fo­rum re­alised soon that the Act was lim­ited in many ways and ef­fec­tive only in marginally re­duc­ing the num­ber of clin­ics, it also recog­nised that it had re­sulted in a na­tion­wide in­ter­est in the is­sue. Soon three other state govern­ments an­nounced their in­ten­tion to in­tro­duce sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion. This in­cluded Goa, Gu­jarat and Orissa. This was fol­lowed by the cen­tral Act known as the Pre-Natal Di­ag­nos­tic Tech­niques (Reg­u­la­tion and Pre­ven­tion of Mis­use) Act (PNDT Act) which was unan­i­mously passed by Par­lia­ment in July 1994.

THE main pur­pose of the cen­tral Act was to pro­vide for the reg­u­la­tion of the use of pre-natal di­ag­nos­tic tech­niques for the pur­pose of de­tect­ing ge­netic or meta­bolic dis­or­ders or chro­mo­so­mal ab­nor­mal­i­ties or cer­tain con­gen­i­tal mal­for­ma­tions or sex linked dis­or­ders for the pre­ven­tion of the mis­use of such tech­niques for the pur­pose of pre-natal sex de­ter­mi­na­tion lead­ing to fe­male foeti­cide. The Act spec­i­fies the meth­ods of reg­u­la­tion of the ge­netic coun­selling cen­tres, ge­netic lab­o­ra­to­ries and ge­netic clin­ics. It em­pha­sises on the writ­ten con­sent of the preg­nant woman and pro­hibits com­mu­ni­ca­tion of the sex of the foe­tus. It also pro­vides for the con­sti­tu­tion of a Cen­tral Su­per­vi­sory Board to mon­i­tor the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Act and the cre­ation of Ap­pro­pri­ate Au­thor­i­ties and Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tees to im­ple­ment the Act. The of­fences and penal­ties for con­tra­ven­tion in­clude im­pris­on­ment which may ex­tend to three years and fine which may ex­tend to 10,000. It pro­hibits any ad­ver­tise­ment in any man­ner re­gard­ing fa­cil­i­ties of pre-natal de­ter­mi­na­tion of sex avail­able at any cen­tre, lab­o­ra­tory, ge­netic clinic or any other place. The of­fence un­der this Act is cog­nis­able, non-bail­able and non-com­pound­able. Cog­nis­able of­fence means that the po­lice may ar­rest with­out a war­rant the of­fender or a per­son who is sus­pected of com­mit­ting the of­fence on rea­son­able be­lief. The of­fence is non-bail­able mean­ing thereby that get­ting the bail is not the right of the ac­cused. It may only be granted or re­fused based on the dis­cre­tionary power of the court. It is also a non-com­pound­able of­fence mean­ing that no set­tle­ment be­tween the par­ties is pos­si­ble to drop the crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings. The Act, as can be seen by the pro­vi­sions, was a com­pre­hen­sive piece of leg­is­la­tion which in­cluded all as­pects of the is­sue. How­ever, a read­ing of the Act re­veals a dis­tanc­ing from the is­sue of sex se­lec­tion as dis­crim­i­na­tion or vi­o­lence against women. The ba­sic fea­tures of the Act are fo­cused around the is­sue of sex de­ter­mi­na­tion and not sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion. The em­pha­sis to keep the Act sep­a­rate from the MTP Act may have been one of the pri­mary rea­sons for do­ing so. In the process, is­sues of women’s rights over their bod­ies, the com­plex­ity of the de­ci­sion of sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion and the con­se­quences on women’s health were left un­ad­dressed. Women’s groups and other fo­rums work­ing on the is­sue raised ob­jec­tions to the clin­i­cal sepa­ra­tion of the is­sues af­fect­ing women’s health and rights and the idea of sex de­ter­mi­na­tion. They em­pha­sised that sex de­ter­mi­na­tion and sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion do not hap­pen in a vac­uum and the mul­ti­ple forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion and their in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity do not find any re­flec­tion in the Act.

Largely dis­sat­is­fied with the fram­ing of the Act, the women’s move­ments pres­surised for amend­ments to the Act. Though the Act came into force in Jan­uary 1996, no ev­i­dence of its im­ple­men­ta­tion was seen. This lack of con­cern and po­lit­i­cal will to im­ple­ment the leg­is­la­tions by the cen­tre and states led to a Pub­lic In­ter­est Lit­i­ga­tion (PIL) in the Supreme Court. The PIL was filed by three pe­ti­tion­ers—Dr. Sabu Ge­orge, a so­cial ac­tivist, Mahila Sar­vangeen Utkarsh Man­dal (MASUM), Pune, and the Cen­tre for the En­quiry of Health and Al­lied Themes (CEHAT), Mum­bai —in Feb­ru­ary 2000. In May 2001, the Supreme Court di­rected the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment the Act and called upon all state govern­ments to im­ple­ment the Act. The emer­gence of new re­pro­duc­tive tech­nolo­gies or pre­con­cep­tion tech­nolo­gies to select sex hin­dered the sig- nif­i­cance and reach of the Act. The pre­con­cep­tion tech­niques which in­clude the Eric­s­son method (X and Y chro­mo­some sperm sepa­ra­tion) and other meth­ods like pre-im­plan­ta­tional ge­netic di­ag­no­sis were not cov­ered un­der the Act. While cam­paign­ing against sexs­e­lec­tive abor­tion, the women’s move­ments raised the ques­tion of the avail­abil­ity of such re­pro­duc­tive tech­nolo­gies which made it pos­si­ble to select the sex of the foe­tus even be­fore con­cep­tion. Eth­i­cal and rights based is­sues con­cern­ing abor­tion of fe­male foe­tuses were no longer valid with the emer­gence of such tech­nolo­gies.

HOW­EVER, the women’s move­ments si­t­u­ated the emer­gence of pre-con­cep­tion tech­nolo­gies in the sphere of dis­crim­i­na­tion and vi­o­lence against women. Ir­re­spec­tive of whether abor­tion of fe­male foe­tuses took place, the very ba­sis of the use of the pre­con­cep­tion tech­nol­ogy was to dis­crim­i­nate and elim­i­nate any chance of the birth of a fe­male in­fant. It was daugh­ter aver­sion in a new garb, the di­men­sions of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion and gen­der vi­o­lence re­main­ing the same. The Supreme Court di­rec­tive and the pres­sure from the women’s move­ment built up mo­men­tum fi­nally lead­ing to the amend­ment of the Act with the amend­ments com­ing into ef­fect from Jan­uary 2003. The ti­tle of the Act has been suit­ably amended to re­flect this and the ti­tle of the Act now reads `The Pre-con­cep­tion and Pre-natal Di­ag­nos­tic Tech­niques (Pro­hi­bi­tion of Sex Se­lec­tion) Act’ (PCPNDT Act). Cer­tain amend­ments have also been brought about in the Rules of 1996 to en­sure ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Act which came into ef­fect from

Feb­ru­ary 14, 2003. Apart from what was in­cluded in the ear­lier Act, the amended Act pro­vides for the pro­hi­bi­tion of sex se­lec­tion, be­fore or after con­cep­tion. Sex se­lec­tion refers to a range of six cat­e­gories such as pro­ce­dure, tech­nique, test, ad­min­is­tra­tion, pre­scrip­tion and pro­vi­sion of any­thing for the pur­pose of en­sur­ing or in­creas­ing the prob­a­bil­ity that an em­bryo will be of a par­tic­u­lar sex. The penal­ties for the of­fence have been in­creased where the pun­ish­ment will be for a term which may ex­tend to three years and with fine which may ex­tend to ` 50, 000 for the first of­fence and for any sub­se­quent of­fence with im­pris­on­ment which may ex­tend to five years and with a fine which may ex­tend to ` 1,00,000. One of the de­mands of the women’s move­ment was to crit­i­cally sit­u­ate the law in favour of women as far as penal­ties un­der the Act are con­cerned. The amended Act clearly sup­ports this when it says in Sec­tion 24 that: Pre­sump­tion in the case of con­duct of pre-natal di­ag­nos­tic tech­niques: Notwith­stand­ing any­thing con­tained in the In­dian Ev­i­dence Act 1872, the court shall pre­sume un­less the con­trary is proved that the preg­nant woman was com­pelled by her hus­band or any other rel­a­tive, as the case may be, to un­dergo pre­na­tal di­ag­nos­tic tech­nique for the pur­poses other than those spec­i­fied in the Act.

THE women’s move­ment’s main con­cern here has been to bring about the recog­ni­tion of the op­pres­sive con­di­tions and con­straints of a pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety which bear upon the de­ci­sion-mak­ing of women when it comes to sex de­ter­mi­na­tion and sex se­lec­tion. Menon presents a nu­anced ar­gu­ment against this. Ac­cord­ing to her: It is true that women may be im­pli­cated by fam­i­lies and end up be­ing pun­ished when they rarely are in a po­si­tion to make choices. Nev­er­the­less, what are the im­pli­ca­tions of deny­ing agency al­to­gether to women on the grounds that they are never re­spon­si­ble for their de­ci­sions and there­fore should not be con­sid­ered cul­pa­ble at all? Within the realm of le­gal dis­course, it is dan­ger­ous for fem­i­nists to con­struct women as in­ca­pable of tak­ing au­tonomous de­ci­sions — the con­se­quences for women’s strug­gles against legally sanc­tioned dis­crim­i­na­tion in other spheres could be fa­tal. While Menon’s con­cern about how the em­pha­sis on women as pas­sive

vic­tims in this dis­course can af­fect the ex­pan­sion of women’s rights in other spheres may be well placed, the pop­u­lar dis­courses around sex se­lec­tion present a con­trary im­age of women. In pop­u­lar dis­courses ei­ther in the me­dia, in lit­er­a­ture or in civil so­ci­ety fo­rums, the ap­peal to pre­vent sex se­lec­tion/sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion is usu­ally made to the `woman as mother.’ This recog­ni­tion of the ac­tive agency of the woman in seek­ing sex de­ter­mi­na­tion or se­lec­tion is also aided by the fact that sex se­lec­tion is more com­monly seen in the ed­u­cated, ur­ban and pros­per­ous pop­u­lace. (This trend has changed con­sid­er­ably to­day with sex se­lec­tion seen across class, re­gion and other di­vides.) The woman is seen as com­plicit and as ex­er­cis­ing a `choice’ here. Ir­re­spec­tive of the em­pha­sis in the laws to be sen­si­tive to the pa­tri­ar­chal pres­sures on women, the gen­eral ver­dict in this case is to re­gard the woman guilty un­less proved oth­er­wise. The ques­tion of the cul­pa­bil­ity of the woman and the gen­der in­sen­si­tive in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the law by ap­pro­pri­ate au­thori- ties and its in­ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion go hand in hand. The com­plic­i­ties of the state and so­ci­ety are of­ten a mat­ter of shared ide­olo­gies and per­cep­tions about a prob­lem.

THE le­gal rem­edy to deal with sex de­ter­mi­na­tion and sex-se­lec­tion, that is the PCPNDT Act, has been framed around broad is­sues—the eth­i­cal use of new re­pro­duc­tive tech­nolo­gies, the role of the med­i­cal com­mu­nity and the mar­ket and the fam­i­lies. Ir­re­spec­tive of some loop­holes, the PCPNDTAct can be con­sid­ered a sound piece of leg­is­la­tion which makes the act of sex de­ter­mi­na­tion and sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion a non-bail­able, cog­nis­able and non-com­pound­able of­fence. Iron­i­cally it is the most un­used leg­is­la­tion for a num­ber of rea­sons. The prac­tice of sex de­ter­mi­na­tion and sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion is pos­si­ble due to a wide group of ac­tors who can be neatly di­vided into two cat­e­gories, the ser­vice users and the ser­vice providers. The sub­tle form of de­ter­min­ing the sex of the foe­tus, com­mu­ni­cat­ing it and the nexus be­tween the users and providers make it dif­fi­cult to reg­is­ter cases. Se­cond, the woman stands to be im­pli­cated in this even if it is legally stated that she is ei­ther co­erced or so­cially con­di­tioned to do so. Third, most of the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties are from the med­i­cal com­mu­nity and com­monly have a fra­ter­nal bond with the doc­tors who com­mit the crime thereby lead­ing to weak cases and very few con­vic­tions. 7 7. This pro­vi­sion has been changed since then be­cause of women’s groups and other civil so­ci­ety agen­cies protest­ing about the fra­ter­nal bond be­tween erring doc­tors and im­ple­ment­ing au­thor­i­ties, i.e. the Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cers of the dis­tricts. Now it is the ad­min­is­tra­tive head of the district (the District Col­lec­tor / Mag­is­trate / Deputy Com­mis­sioner) who is the des­ig­nated Ap­pro­pri­ate Au­thor­ity in many states. How­ever, the field­work for the re­search re­veals that in most cases the ad­min­is­tra­tive heads del­e­gate this work back to the Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cers lead­ing to a sta­tus quo in this sit­u­a­tion. Then there is the con­tex­tu­al­i­sa­tion

of the is­sue around the idea of women’s choice to have sons, the no­tion of her self-es­teem bound up with her giv­ing birth to sons and the haloed idea of fam­ily hon­our as­so­ci­ated with the birth of sons. Ap­pro­pri­ate Au­thor­i­ties, ir­re­spec­tive of their of­fi­cial po­si­tion, are steeped in a cul­ture which per­ceives son pref­er­ence as nat­u­ral fall­out of the sec­on­dari­ness of daugh­ters and un­sub­sti­tutabil­ity of sons. The role of doc­tors in ex­ac­er­bat­ing or aid­ing sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion is clearly stated in the law In prac­tice, though, the ten­dency is to view this role as a lesser evil since the doc­tor is con­sid­ered as only pro­vid­ing what the fam­ily `wants.’ It is seen as a pure econo­met­rics of de­mand and sup­ply. The is­sue, as it is played out in the pub­lic fora, tends to be seen as a dis­crim­i­na­tion meted by women against her own kind. The pres­sures of mother-in-law on daugh­ter-in­law’ and/or the `woman’s own wish to have sons; all con­trib­ute to the crim­i­nal­is­ing of women and the ab­solv­ing of all guilt on part of the hus­band/men and the doc­tors. The ac­cep­tance of the ac­tive agency of women in per­pet­u­at­ing this prac­tice goes against the stereo­type of women as pas­sive vic­tims here in need to be res­cued by state aided gen­der-friendly leg­is­la­tion. The dis­course of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion re­mains un­ten­able in this sce­nario. The low con­vic­tion rate on this is­sue bears tes­ti­mony to this fact. There have been only 206 con­vic­tions un­der the Act in the last two decades.

THE pa­tri­ar­chal mind­set of the Ap­pro­pri­ate Au­thor­i­ties ap­pointed un­der the Act comes out clearly in a case in Delhi. Dr. Mitu Khu­rana is the first woman com­plainant un­der the PCPNDT Act in Delhi. In 2005, ac­cord­ing to Mitu, she was co­erced by her mar­i­tal fam­ily to un­dergo sex de­ter­mi­na­tion dur­ing her preg­nancy. When she re­fused to do so, she was cheated into un­der­go­ing an ul­tra­sound where the sex de­ter­mi­na­tion test was done. Her mar­i­tal fam­ily then pres­surised her for ter­mi­na­tion of her preg­nancy. Mitu left her mar­i­tal home and moved to her natal home. She gave birth to twin daugh­ters. After three years when her in-laws and hus­band re­fused to ac­cept her back with her chil­dren, Mitu de­cided to lodge a com­plaint un­der the PCPNDT Act. She was dis­ap­pointed to find that the Act and the pub­lic­ity on the is­sue had done very lit­tle to change the mind­set of the im­ple­ment­ing au­thor­i­ties. In her own words: I de­cided to lodge a com­plaint un­der this Act and not un­der the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Act or any other law as I wanted to re­form my fam­ily and also pe­nalise the doc­tor who con­ducted the tests. The state­ments of the Health Min­is­ter, the Prime Min­is­ter and the mas­sive aware­ness drive on this is­sue en­cour­aged me to do so. I wanted to set an ex­am­ple for the so­ci­ety so that when my daugh­ters grow up they do not have to face what I have faced. I felt the Ap­pro­pri­ate Au­thor­i­ties will give all sup­port to me. But to my ut­ter shock they treated me like a crim­i­nal. They dis­cour­aged me to file the com­plaint. They said I did not have a case since my daugh­ters

were alive. The fact that I fought a very tough bat­tle to save my daugh­ters was of no con­cern to them. Here are some of their telling state­ments: When I met the Ap­pro­pri­ate Au­thor­ity in the district, he said, `What were you do­ing for the last three years? Any­way your daugh­ters are safe, only sex de­ter­mi­na­tion took place and not abor­tion.... It is now too late to lodge a com­plaint.’ When I told him that the Act does not spec­ify a time limit for reg­is­ter­ing com­plaints, he re­torted, `Not as an au­thor­ity but like a fa­ther, I am telling you ... you are still young, ... you can give a son to your hus­band even now When I wanted to press charges against the doc­tors in­volved, I was told, ` You know you will be re­spon­si­ble for clos­ing down ul­tra­sound fa­cil­i­ties.... They are tech­nolo­gies re­quired to save lives.’ At the end the Ap­pro­pri­ate Au­thor­ity’s re­quest was that if I de­cided to get back with my hus­band I should let him know so that they would not have to pe­nalise the poor doc­tor in­volved. This kind of mind­set of Ap­pro­pri­ate Au­thor­i­ties and other im­ple­ment­ing au­thor­i­ties poses an ob­sta­cle in hav­ing the is­sue recog­nised as gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion. Ir­re­spec­tive of fem­i­nist the­o­ris­ing on it, avail­able in the pub­lic do­main in the form of doc­u­ments, hand­books, posters, Fre­quently Asked Ques­tions (FAQs) and spo­radic gen­der train­ing work­shops, of­fi­cials con­tinue to be steeped in pa­tri­ar­chal think­ing and re­in­force that in pol­icy for­mu­la­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion. The syn­cretic fem­i­nist per­spec­tive with an in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity ach re­veals that the en­trenched and per­va­sive pa­tri­ar­chal think­ing on the is­sue come to be strength­ened un­der the garb of moder­nity and de­vel­op­ment. The `ed­u­cated and em­pow­ered’ mid­dle class woman is con­sid­ered by so­ci­ety as tak­ing a step in a pro­gres­sive di­rec­tion when she avails of re­pro­duc­tive tech­nolo­gies to give birth to the `male heir of her fam­ily.’ The nexus be­tween cul­ture and com­merce is clearly brought to the fore here. While the state makes an overt com­mit­ment to so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity and le­gal re­dres­sal, it finds it­self tread­ing with care and cau­tion when it comes to the cul­tural sphere and the do­main of the mar­ket. The mat­ters of cul­ture be­come a mat­ter of shared ide­olo­gies be­tween the mem­bers of so­ci­ety and law im­ple­menters who be­long to the same so­ci­ety.

IN an in­sight­ful study of mur­ders in the name of hon­our, Prem Chowdhry talks about the col­lu­sion of po­lice forces with lo­cal caste groups to per­pet­u­ate vi­o­lence against cou­ples who marry by choice. Ac­c­cord­ing to her, ir­re­spec­tive of laws com­mit­ted to equal­ity, law en­force­ment agen­cies mir­ror so­ci­etal stereo­types and re­in­force power struc­tures which are in ex­is­tence in so­ci­ety. The pa­tri­archy which is seen in the fam­ily thus gets re­flected in the state. The state fre­quently col­ludes with tra­di­tional forces to de-le­git­imise at­tempts to break out of the tra­di­tional sys­tem. In the process, it of­ten over­rides ques­tions of le­gal and hu­man rights of in­di­vid­u­als. It also clamps down on fe­male sex­u­al­ity and on the ex­er­cise of women’s rights over their bod­ies. Rad­i­cal and so­cial­ist fem­i­nist po­si­tions do dwell on these com­plex­i­ties of the state and gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion. Maria Mies also ar­gues that pa­tri­archy and cap­i­tal­ism are in­ter­linked. The pa­tri­ar­chal sys­tem is a world sys­tem with its own net­work of in­sti­tu­tions and prac­tices such as fam­ily, ex­pro­pri­a­tion of women’s labour and so on. The lives of women in the in­dus­tri­alised West, are de­pen­dent upon the ex­ploita­tion of the third world, es­pe­cially the women in these coun­tries. The part­ner­ship be­tween ne­olib­eral eco­nomics, the state and pa­tri­archy has turned women’s bod­ies into an in­ten­si­fied site for mu­tual ex­changes. Kumkum San­gari talks about mul­ti­ple pa­tri­archies which are present in all struc­tures, in­sti­tu­tions and in­ter­ac­tions in so­ci­ety in the con­text of re­li­gious plu­ral­ism and uni­form civil code. The mis­use of new re­pro­duc­tive tech­nolo­gies for sex de­ter­mi­na­tion, sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion and sex se­lec­tion re­veals a range of crit­i­cal forms of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion which can be dubbed as neo-pa­tri­ar­chal in na­ture. The strength­en­ing and the nor­mal­is­ing of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion here pro­vides an in­sight to the for­mu­la­tion of `mul­ti­ple neo-pa­tri­archies’ to­day. The mul­ti­plic­ity of neo-pa­tri­archies in the fu­ture can pose se­ri­ous ob­sta­cles for women’s eman­ci­pa­tion, since it comes clothed in the lan­guage of progress, de­vel­op­ment and sci­en­tific ad­vance and there­fore not amenable to be­ing recog­nised as gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion and vi­o­lence as is in the case of sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion.

Ti­tle: “Sex-Se­lec­tive Abor­tion and the State: Poli­cies, laws and In­sti­tu­tions in In­dia” Au­thor: Bi­jay­alaxmi Nanda Pub­lisher: Har-Anand Pub­li­ca­tions, 2018 Price: ` 795

Source: Na­tional Fam­ily Health Sur­vey

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