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‘Beti Bachao’ From Patriarchy: 46,000 Girls Missing At Birth In India

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If born, many survival problems awaits for the girl child in this world.

UNFPA launched its report in the end of June 2020, known as State of World Population 2020, which focuses on the status of women across the world in 2020. Universally, there are many problems which women have to go through throughout the lifecycle. Problems start from the very stage of conception of a baby girl in the womb and end till the elderly stage. Sex selective abortion, which is also known as Female foeticide, is a major practice of killing girls in the womb; and if born, many survival problems awaits for the girl child in this world. Problems like Female infanticide, neglect, female genital mutilation, child marriage, early pregnancy, closer and multiple pregnancies, foot binding, economic neglect, physical violence, trafficking, rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, loss of diet and many more rights, etc.

Prior to technology, women had the right to be born, but patriarchy and use of technology have even snatched birth rights from the hands of a girl child. Son preference is present across the world. Parents associate girl child with problems of paying for the dowry, paying for a girl’s education, child marriage, etc. This has led to a major imbalance in the sex ratio of boys and girls across the world. Recent UNFPA report suggests that between 2013 and 2017 in India alone (ironically a nation developing at a fast pace), 4,60,000 (4.6 lakh) girls are missing at birth only.

As per the report, according to one analysis, gender-biased sex selection accounts for about two thirds of the total missing girls, and post birth, female mortality accounts for about third one. Gender-biased sex selection is highly linked to son preference. Post birth female mortality include – neglect, infanticide, not giving enough food to girl child leading to malnutrition and death. High mortality in girls indicates that girls are facing discrimination in care assistance since a very young age.

The roots of son preference and female foeticide lie in the patriarchy, which has always led to the oppression of girls and women and giving more value to men and the boys. Since boys are more valued in the society, there is immense pressure on women about giving birth to a boy. Boys are treated as an asset for the society, while girls are still considered as a burden in the society. Boys are considered as the family lineage and are expected to be the bread earners and supporters of the family. This has somehow become the tree of unbreakable norm, which has different branches, and perpetrators are watering this by various crimes like eve-teasing, rape and violence, which control the mobility of girls and females and they lose the opportunity of growing and surviving in the world.

school girls
Parents associate girl child with problems of paying for the dowry, paying for a girl’s education, child marriage, etc.

UNFPA report also shows that as in 2012, India has the highest rate of excess female mortality at 13.5 per 1000 in the world, which suggests that an estimated one in nine deaths of females below the age of 5 may be attributed to post-natal sex selection. Post-natal sex selection include neglect (the health and nutrition) of daughters deliberately in order to kill them, or in extreme cases, some couples also choose to opt for infanticide by either giving poisonous items like lead or dathura, which kill the girl infant or using extreme practices like drowning the girl child in boiling water, and many more.

Gender-biased sex selection is initially higher in the wealthier families as they have resources to use the technology, and then it spreads to the lower socio-economic sections of the society. It is not something preserved in the backward classes; rather statistics from different report suggests that incidence of gender-biased sex selection is more prevalent in the well-off families. There are remote areas particularly for the upper strata which helps them in aborting the girl child in the mobile abortion vans.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act came in India in 1971 for maintaining the health status of women and ensuring them the right of health, but rather the people started to exploit it for killing the girl child in the womb. This heinous practice demanded new provisions as it worsened the already disturbed existing sex ratio of children under age of 5 in India during 1990s. PCPNDTA (Pre-conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Act) came in 1993 in order to ban the female foeticide and infanticide and improve the sex ratio. Later, incentivized schemes such as Laadli Yojana and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao came for improving the sex ratio in the regions which were severely hit by the imbalanced sex ratio.

Despite all the schemes and Acts present today in India for enhancing the survival rate of girl child, UNFPA report suggests that approx. 4,60,000 of female child are missing at the time of birth each year. This asks for bringing a shift in cultural and social norms present in our society, which somehow are responsible for the disturbed sex ratio. Norms which include lesser respect towards women, less value assigned to her life and moreover, considering her as a burden.

There is an urgent need of bringing social behavior change in the population of India specifically focusing on young boys and men, who can be the catalyst for change. We need to think of the strategies which primarily focus on sensitization of men and youth, and inclusion of men against patriarchy.

The article was first published here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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