Missing girls

Missing girls

India’s aversion to girls has touched new heights. A new UN report reveals that in some parts of the country, girls-only families are a rarity.

The report ‘Sex ratios and gender biased sex selection: history, debates and future directions’ points out that girls-only families constitute just 2 per cent of families in states like Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. This figure draws attention to another dimension of the shocking child sex ratio (CSR) – the number of girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 -- in the country. Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan have traditionally recorded the worst CSRs in the country, prompting demographers and gender specialists to describe them as ‘India’s Bermuda Triangle’ i.e. where girl children seem to be disappearing without a trace. The UN study now shows that there are very few families in these states that do not have sons. Other areas of concern too are highlighted. States that were once acclaimed for being more girl child-friendly are changing for the worse. In the past, India’s North-eastern states had more even CSRs. They are now slipping up. Manipur’s CSR has fallen from 957 in 2001 to 936 in 2011.

Pointing to India’s uneven CSR – from 945 in 1991, it has fallen to 918 in 2011 – the UN report describes the situation as an ‘emergency.’ Indeed it is. Girls are not being allowed to be born. Some 500,000 female foetuses are aborted annually in India. An adverse CSR shows that violence against women begins even before she is born.  Despite the enactment of legislation to ban determination of the sex of the foetus – sex determination of the foetus often leads to abortion if the foetus is found to be female – its practice persists. Government authorities claim they are helpless as rarely does sex determination of the foetus or sex selective abortion get reported to the police. Social activists have a different story to tell. They point to connivance of local authorities with the crime.

 Even when a clinic is ordered to be shut down for violating the law, authorities allow them to re-open. Besides the legal route to tackling sex selective abortions, India must tackle misogynist perceptions that justify violence against women. Our skewed CSR has its roots in our patriarchal culture, one which sees women and girls not just as a burden but as a curse. Such mindsets, which both men and women possess, need to be tackled vigorously through a systematic and comprehensive campaign. 

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