Demystifying Garbh-sanskar and the legal controversy surrounding it

The Ayurvedic pregnancy-care regimen, called ‘Garbh-sanskar‘, has become the latest fave-word amongst to-be moms of today. It comprises various therapies, dietary/exercise regimes and medications that enable the baby to be concieved and born the healthiest possible and without any complications, while assuring a quick recovery for the mother. However, it has also become subject of a controversy about its legality, with some groups claiming it to be aiding selection of the unborn baby’s gender, an offence under the PCPNDT Act (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Tests Act) in India. 
So what is the reality? Can one opt for Garbh-sanskar without violating the law? Today we delve into the technical side.

What exactly is ‘Garbh-Sanskar’?
Garbh-Sanskar literally means ‘transformation/evolution process of the Fetus’. It is a generalized term for a loose set of Ayurvedic and Yogic principles that govern the healthy conception, growth and delivery of the baby. Regimens based on these include:

  • Dietary regimens for before and after conception
  • Month wise tonics, supplements and vaccines (herbal) to be taken by the pregnant mother.
  • Various preventive and curative therapies for a smooth delivery.
  • Yogic exercises to be done during pregnancy.
  • Therapies for ensuring an intellectually brighter and healthier newborn.
  • General precautions and recommendations.

Sounds interesting? Stay tuned to read more in the upcoming articles, but today we first clear the legal confusion in this article.

How do Garbha-sanskaar contravene law?

Basically, unlike what is being projected in some recent media news, none of the Garbha-sanskaar therapies conflict with any laws in India, except for one procedure, the ‘Punsavan‘. It is this particular procedure which has been, and continues to be, the locus of all legal controversy.

What is ‘Punsavan’?

Literally, it means ‘Developing the human‘. It is a set of procedures to be done during the first trimester of pregnancy for ensuring wellness of the baby. Unfortunately enough, though ‘pun-‘here figuratively means human, both male or female (as is evident from the detailed description of the process, containing references to female child as well), it can also be interpreted literally to mean ‘a male’. So, the first impression about gender selection, and a Pun-ny one, I would say. Still, the real troublemaker isn’t that.

The real legal face-off:

Punsavan has a number of variants described in different ancient texts, some for general good health of the child to be, some for avoiding birth defects, and some, as most Ayurvedic doctors DO agree, claiming to cause gender selection in the fetus. It is these last mentioned variants that fall under the prohibition criteria of PCPNDT Act and attract penal action. However, given the general lack of technical knowledge about Ayurveda, law agencies tend to consider any Punsavan as illegal, with the media sometimes even mistaking Garbh-sanskar as a synonym of Punsavan, when actually it is a much wider term.

In reality, the illegal variants of Punsavan need to be enlisted and specifically declared as prohibited under existing law, so that the other variants can be practised without legal controversy, to the benefit of the patients. Sadly enough though, this is yet to happen, even after dozens of legal cases against Ayurvedic doctors under PCPNDT Act for practising Punsavan, be it any variant, and Punsavan continues to be an always impending risk for any doctor practising it.

 

Bottomline:

Nobody denies that there are bound to be some shameless practitioners who would try to violate laws for money, but the legal ambiguity and media hype surrounding the issue causes even the ethical doctors to shun from practising legally aceptable variants of Punsavan, largely to remain within safe legal margins.Also, the whole Ayurveda community gets viewed through the same yellow lens by the media whenever there is even a mention of the word ‘Garbh-Sanskar’. Recently, one of the big names in Ayurveda got a police case filed against them for describing Garbh-Sanskar in contravention of PCPNDT Act in one of their books having the same name.I haven’t read that book myself, so won’t comment about its justifiability, but I already can’t help noting eyebrows getting raised on reading the word ‘Garbh-sanskar’ on doctors’ business cards or signboards. It is pitiful how public opinion swings to the sway of media publicity in India.The ultimate result of such media hype is loss of availability of good healthcare therapies to the patients, irrespective of what happens to the doctors. I too, considered avoiding the word for a while, but then decided to write this article instead. Hope it helps shed some light on the technical side, and spread awareness about Garbh-sanskar.

Personal Opinion:

The government needs to create a clear list of authentic and legally acceptable Punsavan process variants, ban the remaining contravening variants specifically and censor their original manuscript references from being included in contemporary reprints, so that the text doesn’t find itself in wrong hands.
 

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