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The Missing Girls Of India

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By Akshaya Kumar Biswal:

Recently, I was in Dhenkanal discussing about domestic violence with one of the vigilance groups supported by our partner organisation. We discussed about dowry and domestic violence and its legal implications. During the discussion, Indira Mohanty, a leader of the vigilance group said “If we want to address domestic violence, we should be talking more about sex selective abortions, otherwise we will be left with no women someday.” She continued, “…it is important to change our customs and attitudes which only give importance to the male child. Until we treat both the girl and boy equally we will never be able to have a society which ensures equality for women in all aspects.”

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Despite its efforts to rectify the skewed sex ratio in the country, the government has admitted that sex ratio has worsened over the years, falling from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 and slipping further to 918 in 2011. In this context, the sex ratio of Odisha is really appalling. Though the sex ratio has increased marginally; i.e. from 972 in 2001 to 979 in 2011 census, the child sex ratio fell to 941 in 2011 as compared to 979 in 2001. The gap in sex ratio is also continuously widening. While the district of Nayagarh is at the bottom with 916 females per 1000 males, the neighbouring district Ganjam and nearby district Dhenkanal reported a decrease in sex ratio in comparison to their 2001 status.

There are four other districts where a decrease has been noted. The sex ratio of Sonepur came down to 959 in comparison to 966 in 2001. Similarly, Balangir district fell to 983 from 984 and Puri from 968 to 963 females per 1000 males. In 2001 census, the coastal district Kendrapada had 1014 females per 1000 males which went down to 1006 in 2011. Also, the increase in sex ratio in many districts has been insignificant, which is not encouraging. However, some districts like Nuapada, Kalahandi, Rayagada, Nabrangpur, Koraput, Malkanagiri and Gajapati record a same or positive sex ratio, i.e. wherein the number of girls is either equal to the number of boys or more in comparison.

To address the issue of sex selective abortions, the Government of India brought the much required Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, in 1994. The act prohibits sex selection or determination before or after conception and regulates pre natal diagnostic techniques to prevent its misuse. Yet in the recent parliamentary session, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi told the Lok Sabha in a written reply: “The reason behind the declining child sex ratio in the country primarily is the socio-cultural mindset of having preference for sons, considering girls as burden and preference for small family. Further, easy availability of technology for sex determination tests and abortion services act as catalyst in the declining child sex ratio.”

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There are around 500 ultrasound machines registered with the state authorities (as on 31.03.2014) across Odisha. At the same time, it is estimated that there are more than 1000 unrecognised ultrasound machines in Odisha that determines the sex of the child and help families get rid of the female foetus. These clinics operate openly in the communities and there is no regulation imposed by the Government machinery thus adding to the missing girls count. Availability of portable ultrasound machines-despite a ban- has aggravated the issue.

Is it just a failure of the act or of the society that never accepted a girl whether at birth or after. Amartya Sen’s article “100 million missing women” haunts me till date, where he estimated India has about 37 million missing women. Has the situation changed or has it deteriorated? The widening gap of sex ratio is a terrible story of inequality and neglect and this reflects in a women’s life from womb to tomb.

On my way back to Bhubaneswar, I started recollecting all the occasions in my personal life when I have seen girls being discriminated and boys given a preference. Today as a father to a daughter and a son, I decided that I will ensure equal opportunities to both my children.

The author is Regional Manager – Odisha and South India, Oxfam India

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  1. Babar

    Please enlighten us about the missing boys of India. Millions of boys are kidnapped for forced labour, drug peddling, sale of organs, illegal adoption, and begging. There is a silent epidemic against the blood, sweat, and tears of boys who work as labourers, cleaners, servants, in lock factories, as mechanics, in restaurants, as street-vendors, at tea stalls, as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, woodcutters, rickshaw pullers, etc. Many boys’ limbs are chopped off and then they are forced to beg for the rest of their lives. When 133 boys are killed in a school in Peshawar, the media uses the word ‘children’ to hide crimes against boys. When Boko Haram kills, mutilates, burns alive, and slits the throats of boys, no one raises an eyebrow, but when he kidnaps girls, the media and feminists wake up. There are numerous such incidents.

    1. Ruby

      Will you just shut up? You’re so blind to important issues at hand. If you are so anti-feminism you can stop following this website. It’s men like you that are the cause of this injustice towards females.

    2. Babar

      I’m not here to please you.

  2. Babar

    We discussed about dowry and domestic violence and its legal implications.

    I’m sure you must have discussed that more than 3 times as many men die due to dowry harassment at the hands of their wives.

    From 2005 to 2008, as many as 22,000 men have ended their lives in reverse dowry harassment after allegedly being tormented by their wives. In contrast, dowry harassment has driven 6,800 women to suicide

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Harassed-over-dowry-men-demand-fair-play/articleshow/5241108.cms

    1. D Gill

      So then write an article about it if you’re so informed about that topic rather than ranting. Also talking about an issue that concerns women doesnt negate that bad things happen to men too.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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