Declining sex-ratios – a matter of concern
By Roopa Bakshi
In 1901 there were 3.2 million fewer women than men in India – a hundred years later the deficit increased over 10 times to 35 million at the time of Census 2001. The most disturbing decline is seen in the age group 0 -6 years. The sex ratio (number of girls for every 1000 boys) within this age group plunged from 1010 in 1941 to 927 in 2001.
Despite the efforts of the government, civil society organizations, NGOs, UN agencies and the media to keep the issue of female foeticide high on the public and policy agenda, little or no desired results have been forthcoming.
Government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has undertaken several measures to implement the ‘Pre Conception & Pre Natal Diagnostics Technique Act (PC & PNDT Act). The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection and for the prevention of misuse of diagnostic techniques for sex determination leading to female foeticide. It also prohibits advertisements regarding facilities of pre-natal determination of sex of the foetus. All clinics in the country using pre-natal diagnostic techniques require to be registered. Violation of the Act is punishable with imprisonment. The State Medical Council of Punjab recently suspended the registrations of four doctors for violating the PC & PNDT Act.
As a part of the awareness campaign, religious and spiritual leaders have been approached to speak against sex selection, video spots on girl child and sex selection aired on national and private television networks. Brand ambassadors have been used for the Government’s ‘Save the Girl Child’ campaign. ‘Atmaja’, a serial on the plight of the girl child has been telecast on the National Network.
The Department of Women and Child Development has supported workshops to raise awareness on the issue of the girl child, while the Registrar General’s Office has been promoting birth registration and introduced mechanisms to monitor sex ratio at birth among institutional deliveries.
However, despite the efforts of the government, civil society organizations, NGOs, UN agencies and the media to keep the issue of female foeticide high on the public and policy agenda, little or no desired results have been forthcoming. There is a dire need to review the strategies and re-examine the efforts to arrest the declining sex ratio.