The High Court in Bangladesh has asked the government to justify its continued allowance of prenatal gender detection technology, which opponents are seeking to ban in the name of gender equality and the right to life.
The court said the government must explain why its failure to regulate prenatal gender detections should not be struck down as illegal.
Last month, Supreme Court lawyer Ishrat Hasan filed a petition claiming that the prenatal tests violate constitutional protections for gender equality and a baby’s right to life, the Daily Star reported.
The Bangladesh High Court has given government officials six weeks to respond with an explanation of why they believe prenatal gender detection procedures to be constitutionally acceptable.
The Feb. 4 court order addressed the Directorate General of Health Services and the secretaries for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Social Welfare, and Ministry of Women and Children Affairs.
Rita Roselin Costa, who works in women’s ministry for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, said the preference for male babies is deeply rooted in society, with the belief that a boy will become the provider and ensure a family’s future financial security.
“In our society people of all religions - Muslims, Hindus and Christians - prefer a son over a daughter while having their first child. Behind this deep-rooted social practice is our patriarchal societal system,” said Costa, according to UCA News.
“People think that if I have a son my clan will survive, I have no tension for the future and he will look after his parents in their old age. They think the son will always be with them and they will be safe and secure.”
Costa applauded the court ruling, but added that the real challenge lies in changing a cultural mindset. She expressed hope that the ruling will lead people to reassess their views toward women.
“Often parents think that if they educate daughters up to master’s degree level, they will be married off one day and may earn money but they will spend it on the family of the in-laws,” she said. “Our society at large has yet to consider in most cases that daughters can get education, prosper in life, earn money and support their parents as well.”
Dr. Edward Pallab Rozario, head of the community health and natural family planning for Caritas Bangladesh, also commended the bill, warning that mothers can face significant pressure to abort a child if they learn that they are having a girl.
“Some family members and relatives put pressure on a new mother to know the gender of the child. Because our society is male-dominated, families are usually happy if they know the child is a boy but become upset if the child is a girl,” said Rozario, who also is the medical director of St. John Vianney Hospital in Dhaka, according to UCA News.
He noted that the neighboring country of India already has a law banning the gender detection of unborn babies, and voiced hope that Bangladesh will follow suit.
“[A]ll human beings are created by God and we must welcome each and every one, men and women, boys or girls alike. This is our responsibility to welcome each child as a gift from God,” he stressed.