Couples take a vow to prevent female foeticide

Rohan Hanjura and Punam Kunjur took home an extra certificate along with their marriage certificate on Tuesday.

The newlywed couple, who got their marriage registered at the Additional District Magistrate office in North District, took an oath that they would never differentiate between a girl and a boy child.

“It’s not just for fun. When we have taken an oath, we will follow it till death. We will spread the word through social networking sites and encourage every couple to take the vow while getting married,” said Rohan. He insists that one should not see it as only a “symbolic gesture”. “One has to realise that taking the vow is just not enough. Living up to it is the most important bit.”

The couple, who did not disclose any other information on their personal lives and profession, appreciated the government’s initiative and said such schemes might help improve the sex ratio. The North District administration took an initiative of asking couples registering their marriages to take a vow to not indulge in female foeticide on August 8. The administration is planning to extend this practice to all marriage registration offices across Delhi. However, it is not mandatory for the couples to take vow while registering their marriages. So far, at least 70 couples have taken the oath. 

The sex ratio at birth in Delhi has incr­eased from 886 girls per 1,000 boys in 2012 to 895 girls in 2013, according to Delhi government’s annual report on registration of births and deaths. However, the gap has been bridged by only 10 per cent in the past 11 years. In 2009, the sex ratio at birth was 809 girls on 1,000 boys. “Every couple is being provided with a voluntary oath certificate. The certificate says the couple will never misuse the ultrasound and other  equipment to find out the sex of the child during pregnancy. It also says the couple will never differentiate between a girl and a boy child and they will do it for the pride of this country,” Som Naidu, Additional District Magistrate (North), told Deccan Herald. 
“This is to create awareness and bala­nce in society. So far, more than 50 people have taken the vow in North Delhi alone. We are providing them the copy of the oath certificate along with the marriage certificate,” Naidu added. The government officials are also encouraging the couples to get the certificates framed and put them up as wall displays.

“The best way to spread awareness against gender discrimination is to educate people not only through books but also through the acts of people in society. Suppose these couples raise the awareness level among their friends and relatives, the number of newlywed people taking vow will substantially increase over time,” said a senior official.

An NGO like ActionAid campaign has devised other initiatives to make a family welcome the birth of a girl child. “We started a new project from 2012 where in we go to households and celebrate the birth of a baby girl. The main idea is that the celebration of a girl’s birth should be on par with that of a boy’s. This progra­mme is called Beti Utsav,” said Bipin Rai, manager ActionAid campaign. Celebrating the birth of girls is not just enough in a country where grown-up girls are looked upon as “family’s burden”. “It is equally important to give them grants for education so that we move towards a sustainable structure. Education for girls is a must so that families in economic crisis do look at a child born as an extra hand for earning a livelihood,” said Rai.   According to city gynaecologists, though sex-selective abortions still thrive, the situation is improving. 

“Obtaining new machines or even changing radiologists is not a casual process anymore. We have to follow lengthy procedures before we can change whether machines or doctors,” said Dr Archanna Dhawan Bajaj, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Nurture Clinic.

While the decision to choose between a girl and a boy is often thrust on a woman by her family, there are  very few options of safe abortions in the city. This diverts a significant chunk of patients towards illegal clinics where sex determination is carried on unscrupulously.

“Women’s access to safe abortion facilities is few. Women should not be denied their rights by the lack of options,” said an activist. While an unwed faces a barrage of questions if she walks into a government hospital for abortion, the private clinics charge exorbitantly. This has led to a spurt in illegal clinics which are run by unauthorised doctors. Sex-selective abortions are being carried out under the most unhygienic conditions in these clinics.

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