By Ila Ananya
Every now and then there is news about sex determination and everyone wonders how to tackle female foeticide. In April this year, for instance, Maharashtra came up with the oh-so-brilliant idea where apparently the solution to female foeticide was to make sex determination legal. This time, the idea across states, seems to be to use ‘decoys’, which is already standard practice in places like Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.
A few days ago, the news broke that Yogi Adityanath had decided that the best way to deal with the skewed ratio of boys to girls in Uttar Pradesh was to have pregnant women acting as ‘decoys’ to go to diagnostic centres and hospitals that are known to secretly do prenatal sex determination and use them to catch the doctors offering this ‘service’. Now, it seems like Karnataka is planning to go the same way — just today, The New Indian Express reported that women who are 14-16 weeks pregnant can now “volunteer to save the girl child” by becoming a part of such decoy operations.
Women in Karnataka who agree to do this are going to be given Rs 50,000, while in UP the money being given to families is much higher, at Rs 2 lakh in total. In UP, Rs 60,000 will be given to an “informer”, who tips off the police about any such activity, Rs 1 lakh will be given to the woman acting as a decoy, while Rs 40,000 will be given to someone accompanying the woman. The pay will be given in three installments, the last time being at conviction, before which she has to appear in court as a witness.
Of course news reports are all presenting the plan in this happy, you’re-so-brave to do this way, but I’m not so sure about the ease with which this is being advertised (in Karnataka, people seem shocked that no women came forward to do this the last time this was advertised). We’ve seen such plans where women are used as decoys to nab offenders of various kinds go completely wrong — remember when the police had wanted to use a minor rape survivor to catch the men who raped her, showing up too late, which ended in her being raped again by the same men?
This isn’t to say that the situation is the same, but all the ways in which women being used as decoys to nab doctors performing sex determination tests can go wrong sounds horrifying. What if they’re blackmailed or hurt while appearing as witnesses? Or caught and hurt even before it reaches this stage? What economic background will women volunteering to do this belong to, and what kind of safety will they be provided? Is there really no other solution?