New Delhi : On Girl Child Day Saturday, women activists stood determined to do whatever they can to turn around the deplorable sex ratio, especially in some of the more prosperous states of the country like Delhi, Punjab and Maharashtra.
“Until now, the issue of female foeticide was considered as an issue of importance only by the organisations focusing on women’s empowerment. However, this issue now demands immediate attention and a coercive action from the government, civil society and other members of society since it can lead to serious imbalances in the human population,” said Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research and the NGO Women Power Connect.
According to a United Nations survey conducted in 2007, an estimated 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India. Taking Mumbai’s example, seven years after the 2001 census revealed that 923 girls were born in the city for every 1,000 boys, it was found that the ratio further dipped to 921 girls for 1,000 boys in 2007.
“It is not just a question of declining girl population, but a question of survival of the human race altogether. How do you expect the human race to go on if girls are killed mercilessly? This creates a serious imbalance in the society and is against nature,” said Pragya Mathur, an activist.
In 2001, Bihar’s sex ratio of girls to boys was 944 to 1,000. West Bengal scored 963, Chhattisgarh 982 and Tamil Nadu 933. Maharashtra with a sex ratio of 916:1,000 in 2001 was identified by demographers as one of the worst states along with Punjab (799), Gujarat (906) and Delhi (850).
“With the national average sex ratio of 927 females for every 1,000 males, and some states already below 900, the problem is escalating everyday,” Mathur said.
According to Kumari, the problem cannot be solved by a handful of people demanding women empowerment.
“A change in the social mindset is the first step towards addressing the problem. The problem can only be checked by creating community watch groups who take the responsibility of protecting the girl child, and not just a handful of people working towards the empowerment of women,” she said.
A study carried out by the Centre for Social Research in Delhi in 2008 showed that age-old customs and family traditions leading to preference for a son over a daughter are the two major reasons that drive most families towards sex selective abortions.
The study covered three areas with the worst sex ratios in Delhi – Narela (828/1,000 males), Punjabi Bagh (842/1,000 males) and Najafgarh (841/1,000 males).
“Nearly 38 percent of the respondents in Punjabi Bagh, 71 percent in Narela and 13.5 percent in Najafgarh admitted that old customs and family traditions are the two major reasons for preference for a son. Cutting across educational and economic backgrounds the respondents in all the areas admitted that traditions like the last rites to be performed by the son in order to ensure salvation of the soul after death fuels this mindset,” Kumari said.
“On Girl Child Day everyone should pledge not to let such practices which kill an innocent girl child, even before she is born, find any place in their minds,” she added.