By Kirrat Sachdeva:
From 976 in 1961, to 918 in 2001; six years down the line, the newspapers will flash a fresher number of the child sex ratio from the 2021 Census. This number will be used for the next 10 years across reports, studies and assignments to reflect that the girl child needs to be saved. The need of the hour is to go beyond the uproar that these declining numbers create every decade, to solutions that reverse the flow of these numbers.
A decision that takes place within the four walls is not only based on the need to fulfil the ‘laws of inheritance’ but the larger social construct- a construct that ties honour to safety and upbringing to liability. It is not only a matter of changing perception towards having daughters, but also implementing the legal framework that prevents this perception from taking the shape of falling numbers in the next Census.
Youth Ki Awaaz thus hosted a Google Hangout in association with GirlsCount with a panel of experts to discuss probable solutions to curb the declining child sex ratio.
The panellists for the discussion were: Dr. Neelam Singh (Executive Director, Vatsalya), Ms. Preeti Sudan (Additional Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development), Ms. Aarti Dhar (Deputy Editor, The Hindu) and Ms. Varsha Deshpande (Secretary, Dalit Mahila Vikas Mandal). The discussion was moderated by Manak Matiyani (GirlsCount).
Ms. Preeti Sudan (Additional Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development) described the trend of decline in the child sex ratio through the decades. She put forth the point that misuse of technology is merely a symptom of the problem. The culprit is the mindset that favours sons over daughters. In terms of the initiative taken by the government, she spoke largely of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ that will be launched in January across 100 districts with the worse child sex ratio.
Dr. Neelam Singh (Executive Director, Vatsalya) established the context of the declining child sex ratio right from the advent of imaging techniques in our country that reflected through every passing census. In the 2011 census, the child sex ratio was 11 times worse in the rural pockets in comparison to the urban areas. She stressed greatly on how the misuse of technology to exploit the patriarchal mindset has huge social consequences. She also stressed on how the lure for profit through misuse of technology is not only limited to medical practitioners but also those who don’t belong to the sector. The preference for sons along with the technology to exercise that preference has translated into a phenomenon of ‘demand and supply’.
Ms. Aarti Dhar (Deputy Editor, The Hindu) emphasized on how such issues of social importance fail to garner visibility in the mainstream media. Reporting such news is more than often on the lowest priority as politics, crime and terrorism are given prime importance. The resistance has been challenging for her to carry out the on ground reporting on such issues. She highlighted how this issue cannot be tied only to the rural landscape as the most affluent and urban areas like Delhi have the worst child sex ratio.
Ms. Varsha Deshpande (Secretary, Dalit Mahila Vikas Mandal) has worked actively in the realm of legal activism. She drew attention to how the status of women tied to caste barriers, dowry exchange and safety concerns. She largely advocated for stringent implementation of laws and formulating a legal framework that is gender friendly. The solution exists not only in changing the mindset but also encouraging citizens to abide with the law, especially the youth, who are the future of our country.
The solutions emerging from this discussion were largely centred around challenging the patriarchal mindset through consistent awareness and sensitization. Along with this, the use of technology needs to function within the legal framework and a value system that leaves no room for gender biased sex selection.