What is sex selection?

Sex selection includes any procedure, technique, test or administration or prescription or provision of anything to ensure or increase the probability that an embryo will be of a particular sex.1

Sex selection is illegal in India and any prenatal diagnostic procedures are only allowed in limited circumstances where a doctor would require the woman’s written consent.

Read this Government handbook by the National Health Systems Resource Centre to understand more on the law on pre-conception and pre-natal diagnostic techniques in India.

  1. Section 2(o), Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]

What are prenatal diagnostic procedures?

Prenatal diagnostic procedures include any gynaecological, obstetrical or medical procedures such as ultrasonography, taking or removing samples of amniotic fluid, blood or any other tissue or fluid of a person, in order to conduct any prenatal diagnostic tests for sex selection, before or after conception.1

The purpose of these procedures is to obtain material to conduct prenatal diagnostic tests to increase the chances of getting an embryo of a particular sex.

  1. Section 2(i), Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]

Who does the law apply to?

This law prohibits anyone from doing or allowing any sex selection procedures.1  It regulates every person who could be involved in the process of sex selection, including:

  • The pregnant woman;
  • Her husband;
  • Her relatives;
  • The doctor or medical professional conducting the prenatal diagnostic procedure; and
  • The hospital/medical facility/laboratory where the prenatal diagnostic procedure is conducted.
  1. Section 6, Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]

What does the law prohibit?

The law prohibits the following activities:

Conducting sex selection

Nobody, including infertility specialists, can conduct sex selection on a woman or a man or on both, by using any tissue, embryo, conceptus, fluid or gametes derived from either or both of them.1

The law also prohibits anybody, including a relative or husband of a woman, from seeking or encouraging any sex selection procedures on either or both of them.2

Conducting prenatal diagnostic procedures

No place, including a registered centre, can be used by any person for conducting prenatal diagnostic procedures or tests, except for certain permitted situations.3

The law also prohibits anybody, including a relative or husband of the pregnant woman, from seeking or encouraging the conduct of any prenatal diagnostic procedures or tests on her, except for certain permitted situations.4

Determining the sex of the foetus

Nobody, including a registered centre, can conduct any prenatal diagnostic procedures for determining the sex of a foetus.5

If a sex determination procedure results in the abortion of a child, it would be a crime of foeticide.

To know more about the law on abortion, please read our explainer.

Communicating the sex of the foetus

Nobody can communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman, her relatives or any other person, by words, signs or in any other manner.6

Selling machines for sex determination

Nobody can sell any ultrasound machine, imaging machine, scanner, or any other equipment that can detect the sex of a foetus to anyone not registered under the law.7

Advertising sex determination or sex selection facilities

Nobody can issue, publish, distribute or communicate anything online or offline about the availability of facilities of prenatal determination of sex, or sex selection, before conception.8

  1. Section 3A, Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  2. Section 4(5), Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  3. Section 4(1),Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  4. Section 4(4),Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  5. Section 6,Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  6. Section 5(2), Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  7. Section 3B, Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  8. Section 22, Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]

When are prenatal diagnostic procedures permitted?

The law allows the use of prenatal diagnostic procedures in certain limited circumstances.

Prenatal diagnostic procedures can be conducted to detect chromosomal abnormalities, genetic metabolic diseases, haemoglobinopathies, sex-linked genetic diseases, congenital anomalies, and other abnormalities or diseases in the foetus.1

To conduct such procedures to detect the above abnormalities, the written consent of the pregnant woman must be taken,2 and at least one of the following conditions3 must also be applicable. To conduct such procedures, it is necessary that:

  • The pregnant woman is older than 35 years;
  • The pregnant woman has had two or more spontaneous abortions or foetal loss;
  • The pregnant woman has been exposed to potentially teratogenic agents such as drugs, radiation, infection or chemicals;
  • The pregnant woman or her spouse has a family history of mental retardation or physical deformities.

If a prenatal diagnostic procedure is conducted after meeting these conditions, the person conducting ultrasonography on the pregnant woman must keep a complete record of it in the clinic as provided under the law.4.

  1. Section 4(2), Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  2. Rule 10, Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Rules, 1996.[]
  3. Section 4(3), Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  4. Section 4, Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994[]

What are the offences and punishments under this law ?

Every offence under this law is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.1

Offence Punishment
Violation of the law by any medical professional or any person who owns a registered centre, or is employed in or renders their professional or technical services at a registered centre. First offence – Jail time for up to 3 years, along with a fine of up to Rs. 10,000. Subsequent offences – Jail time for up to 5 years, along with a fine of up to Rs. 50,000.2
For doctors and registered medical practitioners: Suspension of the registration until the case is disposed of and on conviction, removal of their name from the register for a period of five years for the first offence, and permanently for the subsequent offence.3 First offence – Jail time for up to 3 years, along with a fine of up to Rs. 50,000. Subsequent offences – Jail time for up to 5 years, along with a fine of up to Rs. 1,00,000.4
Any person seeking sex selection or prenatal diagnostic procedures and breaking the law (excluding pregnant women forced to undergo the procedure)5 First offence – Jail time for up to 3 years, along with a fine of up to Rs. 50,000. Subsequent offences – Jail time for up to 5 years, along with a fine of up to Rs. 1,00,000.4
Advertising sex determination or sex selection facilities Jail time for up to 3 years, along with a fine of up to Rs. 10,000.6
  1. Section 27, Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  2. Section 23(1),Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994. Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994.[]
  3. Section 23(2),Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  4. Section 23(3),Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[][]
  5. Section 23(4),Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]
  6. Section 22(3), Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]

Foeticide and Infanticide

If a sex determination procedure results in the abortion of a child, it would be a crime of foeticide.

Before 20 weeks

It is a crime to force a woman to abort her foetus, and for a woman to abort her foetus before 20 weeks without the doctor’s approval.

After 20 weeks

If anyone aborts a child after 20 weeks without permission of the Court, then they have committed a crime of foeticide. The Court only gives permission to conduct an abortion after 20 weeks in specific circumstances.

After birth

Killing or causing the death of a child after they are born is a crime known as infanticide, and punishable under the law.

The punishment for foeticide and infanticide is jail time up to 10 years and/or fine.1

To know more about permitted abortions, please refer to our explainer on Abortion.

  1. Section 315, The Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]

Where can prenatal diagnostic procedures be conducted?

The law states that only Genetic Counselling Centres, Genetic Laboratories and Genetic Clinics (registered centres) that are registered under the law can conduct permitted prenatal diagnostic procedures. No one, including medical professionals can conduct prenatal diagnostic procedures in any place other than the registered centres.

These registered centres can only employ (on payment or on an honorary basis) people who meet these minimum requirements as set out in Rule 3 of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Rules, 1996.1

  1. Section 3, Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]

Who can you complain to about a breach of the law?

Courts can take cognizance of an offence under the law upon receiving a complaint from:

  • The Appropriate Authority for that State or Union Territory, or
  • An officer authorised by the Central or State Government or the relevant Appropriate Authority; or
  • Any person who has given at least 15 days’ notice in the given format to the Appropriate Authority, of the alleged offence and their intention to make a complaint to the court.1

Some states like Delhi and Rajasthan have offered reward schemes for informants to report on breach of the law.

  1. Section 28(1), Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.[]