|Even pre-natal sex determination is punishable under the Muluki Ain (Civil Code) but, in lack of effective monitoring, sex selective abortions are rampant in hospitals, nursing homes and clinics across the country.
Under existing laws, going for ultrasound and other tests for sex determination draws three months of imprisonment for the parents and doctors involved in the process. Similarly, in case the fetus is aborted after sex determination, there is provision of up to 5 years of imprisonment depending on the age of the fetus.
Already aware that sex selective abortion is not uncommon in the capital, Republica visited three clinics located in Kalimati Chowk and one in Bhotebahal to find out how rampant the practice actually is.
Case no 1 – The ´signboard´ hung outside the Sukhi Pariwar Clinic in Kalimati offered orthopedic, neurological and family planning services. However, on entering the well furnished clinic it doesn´t take long to notice that the place was a safe haven for those needing abortion, both legal and illegal. The more complicated the case, the more the clinic could earn!
This scribe posed as a close relative of a woman who wanted to abort 7 month old fetus. Marketing officer Uttam Prasad Aryal straightaway asked whether it was a girl. He assured that clinic would provide best service as it was 25 years old (the government legalized abortion only in 2002).
“The doctor is very much experienced. He has already handled many such cases, you need not worry about the health of the mother,” he said. Aryal revealed that a majority of the married couple visit the clinic to abort female fetus.
“If they come at an early stage, we charge them only around Rs 4000. But in complicated cases, it costs up to Rs 35000,” said Aryal. Dr Tumla Lacoul Shah carries out abortion in this clinic.
Case no 2 – Care and Cure Polyclinic situated in a plush building in Kalimati boasts numbers of health services. The clinic´s main source of income, however, is from illegal abortion.
When we approached Dr Reeta for the abortion, she stressed that the case of abortion of 7 month old fetus was very complicated one and that could not be performed for below Rs 30,000.
When we broached the issue of people´s obsession for boys, the doctor gave a surprising answer! “Outsiders cannot understand pain the couples who have daughters alone go through. They want sons basically for continuing their lineage.”
Case no 3 – In Y and U medical, marketing officer Kapaleshwor Yadav said that the cost for abortion would be around Rs 20000 to 25000. When asked whether people also come for abortion of male fetus, he informed that in his 9 years of service in the clinic, he came across just two such cases. “Rarely, some couple expect the fetus to be a girl in the ultrasound report, but they would not go to the extent of aborting the fetus even if it is male,” he said.
Lastly, at Buddha Minimal Access Intervention Center in Bhotebahal, though sex selective abortion was practiced, the center did not take up cases of fetus above 3-month-old.
“Both identifying sex of fetus and going for abortion are serious crimes under the law,” said Malla. “However there is no effective body to control it. If the trend grows like this, no wonder, soon we would be confronted with the situation of gender disparity as prevalent in India,” she added.
She further informed that it is legal to go for abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy if a certified medial doctor finds it necessary to safeguard the child or the mother. Similarly, in cases of rape or incest, abortions are allowed till 18th week of pregnancy.
Similarly, Gyanu Chhetri, a PhD holder in gender studies and professor of sociology in Patan Campus, added that the lack of control mechanism is the reason behind the rampant illegal abortions.
“People simply do not know when an abortion is legal or illegal,” she said. “During my PhD research, I found that if it is a first baby, they want son, if second, they are okay with a daughter,” she said. She stated that woman who begets only daughters have to put up with social and psychological pressure, which makes her wish for a son.