New Delhi: A health ministry agency monitoring violations of the pre-natal sex determination law has received 15 complaints in the past 10 months against web giants including Google, YouTube, Yahoo and Microsoft, a report from health ministry’s nodal agency showed. The complaints ranged from research findings of a study mentioned in an article on the personal website of a naturopath, to an article in a regional language e-newspaper on having a male child.
Following this, the IT ministry has blocked over eight videos from YouTube found as ‘promotional’ and ‘advertisements’ showing preference for a male child.
The nodal agency was formed by the ministry of health & family welfare in 2016 for monitoring and reporting the offensive material on internet, violating the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act, 1994. It was enacted to stop female foeticide and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. Under the Act, anyone advertising pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facility in any medium can be jailed for up to three years, and fined Rs10,000.
The health ministry formed the nodal agency following a Supreme Court order, for reporting violations to the IT ministry and getting such advertisements removed at the earliest.
In July 2016, Supreme Court had criticised search engines Microsoft, Google and Yahoo for hosting sex determination advertisements and directed the Centre to remove them by seeking help from technical experts. The apex Court had in 2016 also sought affidavits from states and the Centre on steps taken to curb female foeticide.
The health ministry has received three complaints this year against in vitro fertilisation (IVF) centres from Maharashtra, Haryana and Delhi in the relevant courts.
“Under the PC-PNDT Act, every genetic counselling centre, genetic laboratory or genetic clinic engaged in counselling or conducting pre-natal diagnostics techniques with the potential of sex selection before and after conception comes under purview," junior health minister Anupriya Patel told Lok Sabha last week.
According to the latest data available with the health ministry, India’s declining sex ratio has emerged as a persistent hurdle to stabilising population growth. India has a child sex ratio (0-6 years) of 919 females per 1,000 males and it is worse in urban areas (905 females) than rural areas (923).
Eleven states have a child sex ratio that is worse than the national average: Haryana (834), Punjab (846), Jammu & Kashmir (862), Delhi (871), Maharashtra (894), Rajasthan (888), Gujarat (890), Uttarakhand (890), Uttar Pradesh (902), Himachal Pradesh (909) and Madhya Pradesh (918).