The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has issued a directive to health institutions, instructing them to refrain from performing gender identification tests on pregnant women.

The under-secretary of MoHP, Yekdev Khanal, has sent a letter to government, private, and community health institutions, ordering them to stop conducting sex-selective ultrasounds.

This activity has been deemed a punishable criminal offense, with offenders facing imprisonment of up to one year. The Ministry has also directed health institutions and laboratories to prominently display this information on their premises.

The Ministry’s directive is a response to the recent National Housing and Population Census, 2021 report, which revealed an imbalance in the sex ratio of newborns in the country.

The report indicated that the growing trend of sex-selective fetus abortion is the primary reason for more male newborns compared to female newborns.

According to the Center for Research on Environment, Health and Population Activities (CREHPA), “The historically prevailing gender stereotype prioritizes sons and considers them to be a source of economic support and old age security for parents. Also, the prevailing religious belief allows only sons to perform the last rites for their parents. Consequently, having a son in a family is considered a matter of pride for some people leading to sex-selective abortion.”

While enforcing the existing laws is important, the issue may prove impossible to solve without addressing and challenging deep-rooted cultural and societal values regarding gender roles.