In efforts to prevent gender-biased sex selection, a national guideline based on a study on gender preference and the risks involved was unveiled yesterday.
Titled “National Guideline for Prevention of Son Preference and the Risk of Gender-Biased Sex Selection-2022”, it was introduced at an event jointly organised by the health and family welfare ministry, UNFPA, and the Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka at the BICC.
The guideline was adopted as per a High Court directive to prevent sex determination of the foetus.
Preferring a son as a first child is more common among women than men in Bangladesh, according to a study conducted by Dhaka University in 2019.
In this context, even female foetuses may be victims of gender discrimination, resulting in increased violence against women after the birth of those, experts said at the event yesterday.
Dr Mohammad Mainul Islam, of Dhaka University’s population sciences department, gave the keynote speech.
“‘Son preference’ has dire demographic, social and economic consequences,” he said, adding that the disclosure of the foetus’s sex is quite common in Bangladesh.
About the guideline, Prof Ahmedul Kabir, additional director general of the health directorate, said, “Everyone [healthcare providers] has to be aware about not revealing the sex of feotuses or making the mothers aware about the social repercussions.”
The guideline has three purposes.
The first is to create awareness for preventing the misuse of pre-natal diagnosis procedures and tests for determining the sex of the feotus at any time of pregnancy and the abuse of infertility treatment for selecting the sex of the feotus.
Secondly, sensitising key stakeholders on the “Code of Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics”, provided by Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council pertaining to the non-performance of pre-natal sex determination and its social and demographic implications.
And lastly, facilitating awareness and enhancing knowledge on gender equality and valuing girl children.
Speaking as the chief guest, Md Anwar Hossain Hawlader, secretary of the health services division, said, “The government has ensured many facilities for girl children. Girls are blessings for a family but people have a lack of proper understanding in this regard.”