Health Minister C. P. Thakur has decided to amend the Prenatal Diagnostic Act to discourage the use of ultrasound and the more recent manipulation of pre-conception chromosomes to determine the sex of a fetus.
In its current form, the law clearly states that doctors conducting sex determination procedures could be imprisoned for up to five years, fined $1,000 and banned from the medical practice.
But the law has long been a paper tiger. It has only been taken seriously in top-of-the-line hospitals. Elsewhere, prenatal sex determination and the selective abortions of unborn girls are rampant.
This has led to enormous imbalances in the ratio of births of girls and boys. The number of girls per 1,000 boys dropped to 927 this year, from 945 in 1991 and 962 in 1981, the New York Times reported in April.
The girl-boy ratio has widened in the richest states of the north and west. In Punjab, India´s most prosperous farming state, the ratio has plummeted to 793 girls per 1,000 boys, from 875 a decade ago.
There is strong societal preference for a male child in India. In a major survey of Indian families by the International Institute for Population Studies in Bombay, which used a nationally representative sample of more than 90,000 women, 33% said they wanted more sons than daughters. Only 2% preferred female children.
Twenty percent of maternal mortality in India is due to abortions.