April 01, 2011

It’s hardly a surprise

FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS,  all those working on the issue of falling sex ratio have been waiting with bated breath for the release of the provisional census data. That the child sex ratio (CSR) ie the number of girls per thousand boys in the 0-6 age group will register a fall was a foregone conclusion but the anxiety was about how much. The data is out, the wait is over and we still cannot breathe easy.

The CSR is an important indicator not only because it reflects the pre-birth elimination of girls but also the discrimination against girls once they are born. It is true that more girls die during childhood than boys. Some under enumeration also has to be factored in as many families do not report the presence of girls in the family.  (Although, let me clarify that it is not a major contributor to the CSR.)  At the national level, CSR declined from 923 to 914 between the last two censuses. The decline of 13 points from 2001 to 2011 as compared to 18 points between 1991 (945) and 2001(927) may offer some consolation to all those working on the issue. But the fact remains that gender discrimination continues to be rampant.

The data shows that the overall percentage of children in the 0-6 age group has reduced by 2.8 %. They constituted 15.9% of the population in 2001 as compared to 13.1% in 2011. This indicates lowering fertility rates — a negative growth rate in this segment of the population. However, it is important to note that if we look at the growth rate among boys and girls which is -2.42 and -3.80, it is clear that girls are not really getting  a fair chance of survival due to discrimination at birth and during childhood.

What is worrying is that while there has been some improvement in the CSR of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Tamilnadu, Gujarat, Mizoram and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in the remaining 27 states and UTs the sex ratios have recorded a decline. This shows that the phenomena of discrimination is no longer limited to a few pockets but is almost assuming epidemic proportions. The SRS data of 2007 on sex ratio at birth highlighted this phenomenon and now the census has confirmed it.

This poses new challenges to civil society organisations. We cannot remain focused on a few districts or states any longer. While it is imperative that everything possible is done to regulate the illegal practice of sex determination there, it is equally important that we regulate the sale and mushrooming of ultrasound clinics and machines elsewhere. The poor records of machines sold, poor compliance with the PCPNDT Act by clinics and dismal performance of authorities in regulating these machines needs to be acknowledged and proper administrative mechanisms need to be put in place immediately all over the country. It is no longer a problem of “those” states. It is a problem of every district and state.

I am saddened to note that Maharashtra had a fall of 30 points from 913 to 883 between 2001 and 2011 in CSR. That the political will is lacking is evident from the fact that the State Supervisory Board was constituted recently after almost three years and has shown an utter lack of understanding of the issue in its very first meeting. It is demotivating to see the people in power still thinking that Maharashtra is not as bad as others!

The alarm bells are ringing. It’s time for all of us to wake up from our stupor and fight for the girl child.


This was first published at http://laadlimerilaadli.blogspot.com/.

5 comments to It’s hardly a surprise

  • I am a complainant under the P.N.D.T act as my husband and in-laws wanted me to abort my daughters after a sex determination test done fraudulently on me. I filed many complaints with NCW, DCW, health minister, C.D.M.O, etc and in fact… met the chairperson NCW personally too to help me . Till date I have not received any help from them. Not once they have tried to raise the issue. If they only want to speak in front of media , and not do any thing when a woman who is trying to fight the menace of female feticide alone, than their words mean nothing. Every government official has tried to persuade me from withdrawing my complaints against the doctor, hospital, and my husband and in-laws. In-fact one government official asked me to give my husband a son if that’s what he desires and not to spoil my life by filling a complaint under the P.N.D.T act. Since past 3 years I have been fighting alone to save my daughters and the fight is not only against my husband and in laws but also against these very officials who in front of media talk big, but otherwise harass any woman who dares to speak out.
    So the questions which need to be answered are that why the government is expressing its shock when the sex ratios have dipped. The questions which need to be asked are who is responsible for the decline in the sex ratios. The big question is WILL BE ANSWERABLE TO OUR FUTURE GENERATIONS WHO WILL BEAR THE BRUNT OF OUR INACTION TODAY.DO WE ALL KEEP QUITE OR DO WE DO OUR BIT TO STOP THIS GENDERCIDE.

  • Our esteemed Chief Minister Smt Sheila Dixitji had very proudly declared in 2008, that the sex ratios of Delhi have been reversed. She had very proudly stated that in 2008, there were 1004 girls born for every 1000 boys…. So where are those girls?

    A study conducted had shown how the government of Delhi has even gone to the extent of violating the orders of Honorable Supreme Court in order to shield the guilty. Supreme Court of India in CEHAT Vs U.O.I (Centre For Enquiry Into Health And Allied Themes (C.E.H.A.T) & Ors V. Union Of India & Ors [2003] Rd-Sc 444 (10 September 2003), , had very clearly stated that any clinic found doing pre-natal tests without registration under the P.C-P.N.D.T act had to prosecuted in the court of law. A reply given to a R.T.I. application showed how our government authorities were letting of such clinics, and not filling any complaints.

    Similarly the P.C-P.N.D.T act is very clear on the fact that if records are not being maintained properly it amounts to sex determination and the case has to be filed in the court of law. The burden is upon the doctor conducting the ultrasound to prove that he has not conducted sex determination. Various clinics in have been found not keeping records properly and no court cases have been filed against them.

    When the accused under the act know that there will be no action against them, and the government is there to save them, then they will continue the illegal activities.

    National Support and Monitoring Cell gave a five month (15th May -14th October 06) activity report in October 2006 after analyzing the implementation of the act in various states. They found that in Delhi there was no list of the 81 complaints/ prosecutions supposedly launched by the State Authorities. Court cases were supposedly launched only against 3 out of 35 unregistered establishments found during raids. There were no details available against the status of the cases in these 3 court cases also.

    There were 46 more complaints in which the State Authorities were supposed to initiate action. Out of these 46, in 1 clinic registration has been canceled, in 1 clinic fine was imposed of Rs.15,000/- only. Court cases were launched against 19 cases, out of which 8 cases were later withdrawn at various stages. (source- Five Month Activity Report Of National Support And Monitoring Cell from 15th May -14th October 06 (mohfw.nic.in/…/NSMC/NSMC%20Activity%20Report_May-Oct%2006.pdf)

  • Mitu, your story is heartbreaking. Is there anything we can do to help?

    I wonder, though, in cases where the mothers are not strong like yourself and where the mothers too do not want a baby girl, is it better (from the child’s perspective, not the national perspective. As a nation, we need the girls) not to be born at all than be born and be unwanted all their lives?

    PS: I was one of those apparently rare Indian mothers who had to be consoled on being told I was expecting a boy (I don’t live in India). Most of my friends, if they had a preference, wanted baby girls too. But I guess we are Another India.

  • Aborting a healthy baby just because she’s a girl is shocking and should be illegal. There are still countries in the world where abortion is not allowed. Why can’t India follow suit?

    • Dr. Vijay Gupta

      While the fight for improving the female sex ratio is welcome, what is troublesome is that the authorities are filing court cases against doctors on minor procedural lapses as well. Those concerned should realise that ultrasonography is a life saving technique in a large number of cases and the day should not come when all the doctors refuse to carry out ultrasound of a pregnant woman at all.

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