High Court Rules Against Disclosing Unborn Baby’s Gender

Repoter : News Room
Published: 7 February, 2024 10:47 am
Md. Shawkat Alam Faisal

Md. Shawkat Alam Faisal: The recent declaration from the High Court, echoing the comprehensive report submitted by the Department of Health’s committee, represents a landmark moment in Bangladesh’s legal landscape. This pivotal development addresses the intricate matter of disclosing an unborn child’s gender within the maternal womb, establishing a clear prohibition in line with international sentiments to safeguard the confidentiality of such sensitive information. The meticulously crafted policy framework, aptly titled the ‘National Guideline regarding Prenatal Gender Selection in Bangladesh,’ goes beyond mere regulatory mandates. It embodies a holistic strategy aimed at mitigating societal consequences associated with gender disclosure, marking a significant step towards fostering a more informed, ethical, and equitable society.

The foundational principles of the policy are unequivocal, stating firmly that no individual, medical institution, diagnostic center, or laboratory is authorized to disclose the gender of an unborn child through any means, whether it be in writing, signage, or alternative communication channels. This stringent regulation aligns with a global trend where countries, recognizing the ethical imperative, are increasingly adopting measures to protect the privacy and rights of unborn children and expectant mothers. Notably, nations such as India, where sex determination of unborn children is already prohibited by law, share a common legal stance with Bangladesh. This convergence emphasizes the global acknowledgment of the ethical imperative to safeguard information related to prenatal gender identification.

Delving into the proactive measures outlined within the policy, it becomes evident that the Bangladeshi government is committed to a multifaceted strategy. Government ministries are tasked with organizing comprehensive training programs for healthcare professionals, encompassing doctors, nurses, family planning workers, and technicians. This educational initiative extends beyond the technical aspects of gender determination, addressing potential negative outcomes, ethical considerations, and promoting professional conduct. Such emphasis on education mirrors global efforts to empower healthcare professionals worldwide with the knowledge and ethical guidelines necessary to navigate the complexities of prenatal care.

The policy’s emphasis on transparency and accountability is underscored by the directive for medical centers, including hospitals and diagnostic facilities, to maintain meticulous records of all tests related to prenatal gender determination. This archival practice serves not only to facilitate internal auditing but also to contribute to the compilation of valuable data for research purposes. Globally, the emphasis on data-driven healthcare practices is gaining prominence, with countries like Canada and Australia leveraging comprehensive data repositories to enhance healthcare outcomes and inform evidence-based policy formulation.

Recognizing the influential role of media in shaping societal attitudes, the policy mandates that medical centers actively engage in promoting messages that highlight the paramount importance of gender equality and the well-being of the girl child. This echoes international efforts to leverage media platforms for social advocacy, with countries like Sweden implementing successful campaigns to challenge gender stereotypes and foster inclusive societal norms.

Advocate Ishrat Hasan’s steadfast advocacy in court aligns with a broader trend of legal activism worldwide aimed at addressing societal issues through judicial channels. Instances akin to this legal undertaking can be found globally, such as the legal battles in the United States and European countries to protect reproductive rights and privacy. These endeavors signify a global recognition of the role of legal avenues in shaping societal norms and safeguarding individual rights.

Deputy Attorney General Amit Dasgupta’s representation of the state during court proceedings underscores the collaborative efforts between legal representatives and state authorities, mirroring similar collaborations seen in countries like Germany, where the judiciary and the state work in tandem to address pressing social issues. This collaboration reflects a commitment to a unified approach in dealing with complex societal challenges through legal means.

The dedication of a specific hearing date by the court, presided over by Justice Naima Haider and Justice Kazi Zeenat Haque, reflects a judicial commitment to thoroughly scrutinize and deliberate on the policy’s implications. This commitment resonates internationally, with courts in countries like South Africa playing a pivotal role in upholding constitutional rights and addressing societal challenges through legal scrutiny. The involvement of the judiciary in scrutinizing and validating such policies highlights the critical role of legal oversight in ensuring the protection of individual rights and ethical standards.

The effects of the proper implementation of this policy are profound and multifaceted. Firstly, it serves to protect the privacy and rights of expectant mothers and unborn children, fostering an environment of trust in the healthcare system. By prohibiting the disclosure of gender-related information, it not only upholds individual rights but also mitigates societal pressures that may lead to the undue stress of expectant mothers and, in extreme cases, result in abortions. This aspect of the policy addresses not only legal considerations but also ethical and societal well-being.

Moreover, the comprehensive training programs for healthcare professionals contribute significantly to elevated ethical standards and professionalism in prenatal care. These programs go beyond the technical aspects of gender determination, encompassing potential negative outcomes, ethical considerations, and the promotion of professional conduct. The emphasis on education reflects a commitment to ensuring that healthcare professionals possess the knowledge and ethical guidelines necessary to navigate the complexities of prenatal care.

Transparency and accountability, as mandated by the policy, lead to more reliable healthcare data. This, in turn, facilitates evidence-based decision-making, enhances the quality of healthcare services, and contributes to ongoing medical research. The meticulous record-keeping directive for medical centers not only aids internal auditing but also contributes to the compilation of valuable data for research purposes. This emphasis on data-driven healthcare practices aligns with a global trend, where countries leverage comprehensive data repositories to improve healthcare outcomes and inform evidence-based policy formulation.

The media outreach component of the policy serves as a powerful tool in combating gender stereotypes and fostering a societal mindset that values gender equality. By mandating medical centers to actively engage in promoting messages highlighting the importance of gender equality and the well-being of the girl child, the policy aligns with international efforts to use media platforms for social advocacy. Successful campaigns in countries like Sweden, challenging gender stereotypes and fostering inclusive societal norms, demonstrate the potential impact of media in shaping positive societal attitudes.

In conclusion, the ‘National Guideline regarding Prenatal Gender Selection in Bangladesh’ is not merely a legal directive but a comprehensive and far-reaching approach to navigating the delicate intersection of medical advancements, ethical considerations, and societal well-being. Its proper implementation promises profound effects, safeguarding individual rights, enhancing healthcare practices, and fostering a societal ethos that prioritizes gender equality and ethical medical care. The upcoming court hearing signifies the ongoing commitment to refining and scrutinizing these policies, ensuring their enduring impact on Bangladesh’s societal fabric. The convergence of legal, ethical, and societal considerations in this policy marks a significant step towards creating a more informed, compassionate, and equitable society in Bangladesh and serves as a noteworthy example for global efforts in similar domains.

The writer, Md. Shawkat Alam Faisal, is an Apprentice Lawyer.