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National Conference puts the spotlight on India’s Gender Imbalance

New Delhi, 28 April 2008:  A national conference was held in New Delhi on Monday 28th April as part of the national campaign to “Save the Girl Child”.

The Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh inaugurated the meeting and set the tone by describing the declining sex ratio and biases against girls and women as “a national shame”. 

“We must overcome this great problem through social awareness and strict enforcement of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques Act; improving basic health care and nutrition of women and by mobilizing leaders of civil society and especially, religious leaders, for a nationwide campaign to end all types of discrimination against women built into our societal structures” he said.

The Census 2001 registered a sharp fall in sex ratio from 976 girls per 1,000 boys in 1991 to 927 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001, accounting for the loss of approximately 900,000 girls a year. The Sample Registration System data for 2002-2004 revealed a further decline – 882 girls per 1,000 boys.

Census figures clearly show that the problem is most acute in some of the richer states. These states are Punjab which had only 798 girls (per 1,000 boys), Haryana 819, Delhi 868 and Gujarat 883 in the 2001 Census.

In the inaugural address the Prime Minister asked the Health and Family Welfare Ministry to focus on orienting the million plus elected representatives of the panchayats, women panchayat leaders, women’s self-help groups and urban social bodies to enlist them in the fight against the inhuman practice of female foeticide and infanticide.

Dr. Renuka Chowdhury, Minister for Women and Child Development described the situation as “a silent emergency”.

Stumped in their efforts to make a dent in the lucrative pre-natal sex determination business, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare plans to increase the fine for those found involved in female foeticide to Rs. 700,000 (US$ 17,500) alongwith three years of imprisonment. At present, the punishment is three years in jail and fine ranging from Rs. 50,000 (US$ 1,250) to Rs. 100,000 (US$ 2,500).

Some of the latest measures implemented by the Centre to tackle this crisis include:

- all ultrasound machines have to be registered and online disclaimers filled for each test done on a pregnant woman to allow government to audit the information any time,

According to the latest figures available with the ministry, 80 percent of the districts in the country recorded a decline in the child sex ratio.

- a toll-free number (1-800-11-0500) to lodge complaints,

- a website: giving details about who to complain to and other information,

- a TV serial on national television on gender-discrimination, dowry and domestic violence,

- develop a special software that will enable government to monitor health centres online.

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Better sex ratio to get DMs awards

Campaign in Punjab against female foeticide

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