Prosperity, not poverty behind female foeticide
by Vichitra Sharma and Karuna Bishnoi.
New Delhi, September 2005
According to the Joint Director, Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, though there has been an overall decline in the sex-ratio for the country as a whole, the child sex ratio (0-6 years) in the slum areas is 919 across 26 states, in 640 towns and cities as compared to 904 in the non-slum areas of the same region.
While the child sex ratio within the general population dropped from 940 in 1991 to 919 in 2001, the Scheduled Tribes showed a lesser shift from 985 to 973. The least decline in the sex-ratio was among the Scheduled Caste community - from 946 to 938. The data highlights the adverse linkages between prosperity and girl-child preference and dispels the myth that the poor are opting for female foeticide or sex selective abortions.
Speaking at the recently held three-day National Media Workshop on Sex Selection and Female Foeticide, jointly organised by the UNICEF India country Office, the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) and the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), the Chief Editor of Loksatta said that his study of the issue also showed an adverse child sex ratio in the landed classes whether from the upper castes or the lower castes of the country, highlighting the poor status of the girl-child and the woman in these segments.
It emerged from the presentations that literacy and economic well-being did not necessarily ensure a positive child sex ratio. Income levels and access to technology also influenced sex selection and female foeticide.
Sharing their concern on these trends, the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced that the government would be organising a National Consultation of “Appropriate Authorities” (concerned stakeholders) involving all the states, next month to ensure a more consistent and effective implementation of the PCPNDT Act at the ground level.
The media workshop was a unique effort in bringing together various stakeholders –media, government, health, women and child development departments, Planning Commission and the National Commission for Women, lawyers, doctors and civil society organisations. Over the past three-years, these individuals had worked together to strengthen the media discourse and provide the much needed impetus to enable policy formulation and implementation.
The participants at the workshop presented case studies, shared learning from new initiatives, also reviewed the outcomes that had emerged so far and planned the future priorities for shaping and taking forward the public discourse in order to effectively eliminate the practice of female foeticide.
Setting the tone for the dialogue, the Resident Representative of UNICEF India Country Office, Cecilio Adorna said that the media, experts, NGOs and the policy-planners would collectively examine where the issue stands today and in which direction “we need to steer our efforts for shaping the public discourse with the help of the media.”
“We need to create zero tolerance for gender discrimination and violence against girls. For this we need the media for changing mind-sets regarding the values and contributions of girls and women in society,” he emphasized.
Suggestions and future action for the media included orientation of journalists from the districts and in their regional languages as also sensitisation of the editors/owners of the media for providing more space to social issues. It was also suggested that the issue of female foeticide should build linkages with reproductive health, population policy and the Inheritance laws.