October 13, 2009

Time to listen to her voice

By Deborah Herbert of Population First

As the day of voting for the Assembly elections approaches, the political parties have been making their achievements and plans known to the voters of Maharashtra through their manifestos. With a lot at stake for the political parties in the fray, they are leaving no stone unturned to convince the electorate that it is their party alone who has the best intentions at heart for every section of society in Maharashtra.

The manifestos of the Congress Party-Nationalist Congress Party and the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party do state the intentions of the parties to promote the cause of the Girl Child. They have promised to “invest” a certain amount in a fixed deposit for every female child born in Maharashtra, and Rs. 1.25 lakh and Rs. 1 lakh, has been promised by each party respectively, once the girl becomes a major. The parties have also promised free education for girls until graduation level.

The considerations given to the Girl Child are a positive step forward in securing the rightful place of a girl in society. What about the female child that does not even get a chance to be born or the girl child that does not get a chance to survive past the age of six because she is denied her right to nutrition, health and education? Who will speak up for her? She also has the right to be heard.

Census 2001 threw up a startling revelation – it showed an alarmingly skewed Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) at the national level and in the state of Maharashtra, with Mumbai being one of the biggest offenders. In 2001 there were 927 girls for every 1000 boys in India within the age group of 0–6 and 917 girls for every 1000 boys in Maharashtra. In Mumbai there were 898 girls for every 1000 boys!

An analysis of the SRB data since 2001 to 2007 has been conducted by D. K. Mangal of UNFPA for Maharashtra based on the data published by the Office of the Registrar General of India. The report stated that the SRB in 2006 in India was 901 girls per 1000 boys, 871 girls for every 1000 boys in Maharashtra and 736 girls per 1000 boys in Mumbai. If Census 2001 threw up startling revelations, the data of 2006 shows that those in authority have done nothing to arrest the decreasing sex ratio in our country, state or city!

One of the main reasons for these shocking figures is the availability of technology to determine sex of the child before birth. The proliferation of Ultrasound Clinics and their misuse for determining the sex of the foetus has led to large scale elimination of the girl child. There is a clear co-relation between the number of clinics and the declining sex ratio in the offending Cities and States.

This is happening despite rising prosperity, despite the spread of education and despite a comprehensive law against sex selection. If the leaders of our state are seriously concerned in bringing about gender equality through the projects for the Girl Child they have mentioned in their manifestos, we ask them to start at the very beginning – give HER THE RIGHT TO BE BORN. 27 Lac crimes take place under the PCPNDT Act every year, 10 Lac pre-birth eliminations and the number of convictions – below 100!

For the effective implementation of The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, it is time that the political parties give this commitment to the following action points:

1. Reconstitute the Advisory Boards as per the Law with representation of committed social activists and civil society representatives
2. Conduct social audit of documents received from sonography clinics between 2003-2008
3. Publish on appropriate websites data of USG machines sold by companies
4. Institute a special fast track court for PCPNDT cases at State level
5. Appoint a special prosecutor at state level
6. It is mandatory under Sec 23 of PCPNDT Act to prosecute the clinics found guilty of violating the law. It should be ensured that all such clinics are prosecuted as per the Law.
7. Demand for adequate financial and budgetary allocations for the implementation of the PCPNDT Act.

So far, there has been no political will to enforce the law due to the politician-doctor nexus. Let us hope that the new MLAs tackle this problem with seriousness, sincerity and vigour; and to begin with stop interfering in the strict implementation of the PCPNDT Act.


This is posted as a special contribution based on an email from Deborah Herbert. Population First is an NGO focusing on the serious population and health issues facing India, looking at these from the perspective of women’s rights and social development. Laadli is a Girl Child Campaign initiated by Population First, supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), among others. ‘Celebrate her life’, the campaign theme, encapsulates the wider concern of the falling sex ratio, which is violence against women in general. Gender-based violence begins in the womb itself, leading to the elimination of the female foetus.

Population First wishes to highlight the lack of political will in strictly implementing The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, and asks the political parties to give their commitment to tackle the problem of the decreasing sex ratio in Maharashtra.

1 comment to Time to listen to her voice

  • apu

    Great post, Deborah. While our cities are outwardly ‘modernised’, the low sex ration tells us how progressive we really are. While there are n number of cases where such illegal foeticides have been documented in the media, we never really hear of any doctors/clinics that have been prosecuted. This points both to the corrupt nexus that exists and the lack of any interest from any of our political parties.

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