A study for U.N. Women by Prof. Mary E. John, Senior Fellow and Professor at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, India, was released on July 22, 2014. The Report brings home the sore point of sex ratio and gender based sex selection. Dr John’s report reviews existing studies and suggests it becomes pertinent to look at girls-only families that are starting to disappear.
In fact, now even extra sons are no longer wanted either. This does not mean that preference for a son has gone down but that families look forward to at least one son and one daughter. It now appears child sex ratios had fallen most dangerously during unprecedented economic growth. Certain regions have been characterized as having higher levels of prosperity. This of course requires meticulous calculation to ascertain the veracity of earlier statistics.
We also need to understand the direct mediation of clinics and medical practitioners affecting sex ratios. This is an important area for research and Dr John indicates that the earlier skewed sex ratios of children make it clear that they are guilty of practicing sex selection. The Report mentions that India is witnessing an unprecedented shift in son preference.
It also says that both schooling and higher education are important factors that need to be studied to assess impact and role in influencing sex ratios. The study blatantly says – “The sphere of education has suffered deeply from lack of attention, whether from scholars or from activists, which is coming home to roost today. It is probably the only indicator of steady progress in a country characterized by some of the lowest literacy rates in the world. It was only in 2010 that India was able to make elementary schooling a fundamental right for all”.
It is time that government and civil society walk the talk together. We need to identify behaviors, cultural attributes, practices, media representations, mindsets that propagate discrimination against daughters. We have to stop sex-determination tests from flourishing, despite being illegal. Even as child sex ratio is dipping, we have not been able to check sex determination tests or selective abortions.
Data for the whole country shows only 143 people have been punished for conducting sex determination tests since enactment of the PC&PNDT Act in 1996!! This number was disclosed by the then Union health minister in a written reply submitted to Rajya Sabha in December 2013!! Gender-biased sex selection remains a reflection of how little we value girls and women. The sharply declining child sex ratio has reached emergency proportions and urgent action is to be taken to alleviate this crisis. The deteriorating ratio from 976 girls to 1000 boys in 1971 has gone down to 927 girls!