NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK – 08 January 2013
Smt. Krishna Tirath, Minister for Women and Child Development held consultations today to formulate a National Plan of Action to Improve the Child Sex Ratio. She chaired a meeting of representatives of various ministries such as HRD, Social Justice and Empowerment, Water and Sanitation, Health and Family Welfare, Panchayat and Rural Development, Planning Commission, and with members of civil society organizations, advocates, radiologists, gynaecologists and doctors. Representatives from UNFPA, UNICEF, and UNDP also participated in the consultations held here today.
At the outset, the Minister said that declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR), in its present nature and scale, is a cause of urgency and concern. She stated that child sex ratio is a powerful indicator of the social response and attitude towards the girl child. The Minister stated that while certain States have consistently shown low number of women population like Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. There are as many as 119 districts with CSR lower than the already low average on 914. The districts with lowest CSR are mainly located in Northern and Western States of the country. What is even more alarming, Smt. Tirath pointed out was that the practice of prenatal sex selection spreads, the sex ratio at birth in urban areas remains far worse 898 for than for rural areas where it was 907 in 2008-10.
The Minister stated that a low sex ratio for a nation has adverse implications not only for gender equality but also for social violence, human development and democracy. The situation becomes more complicated because one it is not merely related to poverty and also because it leads to adverse consequences, she elaborated. Smt. Tirath stated that merely State-led intervention alone cannot tackle a problem that is multi dimensional in nature- it is social, economic and cultural, and it is only through a joint effort of the civil society and the government that this problem can be resolved. While outlining the various initiatives taken up by the Ministry for Women and Child Development to arrest this trend in declining CSR, she said that a convergence of schemes across sectors and Ministries is the need of the hour. The consultations with various stakeholders is a step in the direction of formulating a comprehensive and holistic national plan of action to tackle this multi-sectoral issue, she stated. Plans at the central, state and district levels needed to be framed, she added.
The various participants at the consultation highlighted the gravity of the situation. They were of the view that there exists a grave danger of gender imbalance due to this. The spread of declining CSR in the rural areas is mainly due to easy availability of cheap sex determination machines in these areas and poor implementation of the PCPNDT Act. It was also pointed out that the urban areas have shown a growing incidence of declining CSR. Speakers were of the view that there is a need for better access of the available schemes, laws and entitlements for women in order to create a sense of gender equality. Equal remuneration for women at workplace and equal economic opportunities was also highlighted by some. Participants stressed on balance and equalization of schemes for immunisation, education, primary school enrolment, nutrition, skill acquisition between men and women. Strengthening the monitoring of laws to prevent sex-selection abortion, stringent exemplary punishment to the culprits would go a long way to arrest the menace, it was discussed.
Participants brought insight from the projects that they have been spearheading at various levels both within and outside the government. Some favoured a strong involvement of the community in taking care of the decline. Some also pointed that the continuous decline in CSR was a ‘governance’ issue as many of the schemes did not reach the women. Need for better facilities such as water at doorsteps, toilets near the homes would go a long way in gender justice and hence remove the perception of drudgery associated with ‘womanhood’. Need was also expressed for better governance structures and institutions at the local level and better coordination between schemes such as Anganwadi, NRHM, local self governing bodies and self help groups to prevent duplication and pooling of available skills and resources, both in the urban and rural areas. Some participants suggested that a framework of gender rights needs to be established which would provide the overall framework for this issue.