Skewed sex ratio

Punjab & Haryana


“S

on-mania” in two of the country’s most prosperous states of Punjab and Haryana has resulted in a skewed sex ratio which is starting to cause rumblings in their societies.
A societal mindset of male-preference has led families to go in for sex selection tests and abortion of female fetuses – a trend that has remained unabated even after the enactment of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act (PNDT). Though clinics prominently display the message, “Sex selection test is banned here”, instances of discarded female fetuses being found in pits, buried in fields or in garbage dumps continue to emerge routinely, across the two states.

In Haryana, the skewed sex ratio - 861 females to 1000 male births - has led to non-availability of marriageable girls in several villages. This has resulted in the nefarious practise of trafficking of brides from far-off states like Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand.
Unofficial estimates point to at least 50,000 trafficked brides already in Haryana.

In fact, several studies point out that high literacy and  prosperity are no guarantees that female fetus would be safer in such families. “Rather, it has been seen that educated and prosperous families are more keen to have a male child in Punjab,” says a paediatrician, Dr I S Bhatia. The Punjab’s capital, Chandigarh, with a literacy rate of over 81 per cent and among the highest per capita income states, has the lowest sex ratios in the country with 773. Demands for dowry, ownership of land holdings and socio-cultural set up in Punjab boosts attitudes that favour a male child in the family.

‘Kudi maar’

Punjab is only marginally better placed than Haryana and Chandigarh in terms of female to male ratio of 874-1000. Some of the districts in the state have gained notoriety as “kudi maar” (girl genocide) districts, including Fatehgarh Sahib (851) and Ludhiana (824), for recording abysmal sex ratio.

In terms of religion, the lowest sex ratio has been recorded among the Sikhs at 780, forcing the Sikh clergy to issue an edict in 2001 to socially ostracise those found indulging in killing of female fetus. The Akali Dal MP from Bathinda, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is wife of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, has launched an inspired campaign, Nanhi Chhaan (little shade) with the twin objective of saving the girl child and protecting the environment.

Gift of ‘life’

Harsimrat says, “the Nanhi Chhaan is determined to transform social attitude of the region by actively campaigning against female foeticide as well as mindless destruction of trees.” The campaign launched by her includes distributing saplings, symbolising the message of the Sikh gurus against sex discrimination. She has aimed to distribute 20 lakh saplings by end 2009.

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