Child Sex Ratio
The declining female sex ratio has been a matter of concern for several years now. The 1991 and 2001 Census had set the alarm bells ringing when data showed that in several parts of the country, especially in the age group 0-6 years, the ratio of girls per 1000 boys had fallen from 945 in 1991 to 927. This was attributed to the large-scale practice of sex- selective abortion.
There are various socio-economic and health implications of a declining sex ratio. A fall in the number of females in society is likely to increase sex-related crimes against women, polyandry, bride selling, prostitution, sexual exploitation and increase in cases of STD and HIV/ AIDS. The health of the woman is affected as she is forced to go for repeated pregnancies and abortions.
It has been found that the imposition of a two-child norm,where disincentives are associated with the number of children, also has a negative impact on the sex ratio and needs to be strongly discouraged.
Focus on the girl child
While we have worked on empowering women to exercise their reproductive rights, it was in 2001 that we took up the issue of sex-selective abortion as a priority advocacy area. A state-level advocacy campaign with support from Plan International was initiated in 2003 in 11 states where the 0–6 sex ratio was low. The campaign highlighted the positive value of the girl child and interlinked the issue of sex-selective abortion with human rights.
At the district and sub-district levels, we
- Promote the value of a girl child by generating awareness on the issue and on the problems the society would face due to the ‘missing girls’.
- Increase awareness about the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act and government schemes for the girl child.
- Engage with district and block level officials, panchyat members, AWWs, ANMs, mahila mandals and midwives.
- Work with the community through the formation of community support groups, identify leaders and build their capacities.
At the state level, we
- Sensitise key stakeholders, including Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), state departments of health, education, women and child development and Panchayati Raj; the corporate sector, media, NGOs, medical professionals and school/college teachers and students on the issue declining female sex ratio.
- Advocate collective action and monitor implementation of supportive laws and policies.
- Facilitate inter-state consultation meetings, promoting an exchange of learning as well as the development of joint strategies to address issues such as cross-border and inter-district practice of sex-selective abortions.