NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK – A Shakti Vahini Research Initiative
Meeting of the Consultative Committee of the Parliament for the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) was held here today. The declining sex ratio and role of Sabla, scheme for empowering adolescent girls, were discussed in the meeting. The Minister for Women and Child Development, Smt. Krishna Tirath, highlighted the issue of declining child sex ratio in many States in the country including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Nagaland. The Minister stated that the Child Sex Ratio which is 914 as per the 2011 census, indicates a larger societal issue which is multidimensional. It points to a societal mindset where largely preference is given to the male child due to several reasons. She underlined the importance of creating awareness about this grave situation and highlighted the need for change in the mindset within the society. She stated that Members of Parliament and members of Panchayati Raj Institutions can be the change agents and can work together towards on this issue. The Ministry’s schemes, such as Sabla and Dhanlaxmi, are designed towards empowering the adolescent girls, she stated. The Minister also stated that the Ministry has constituted a Sectoral Innovation Council on declining Child Sex Ratio. Its recommendations are soon expected.
A presentation was made on the declining child sex ratio within the country and outlined the features of several schemes of the Ministry meant to empower women and adolescent girls which would help to arrest this trend of declining child sex ratio. The Sabla scheme of the Ministry targets adolescent girls between 11-18 years of age. Introduced in October, 2010 for all-round development of adolescent girls on ICDS platform, it is presently being implemented in a pilot mode in 200 districts. The expected beneficiary coverage is about 1 crore adolescent girls per annum. While the focus for the nutrition component is on out of school girls in age group of 11-14, and all girls within the 14-18 age group, all out of school girls are covered for the non-nutrition component. The scheme aims to bring the adolescent girls in the mainstream of education.
The Members of Parliament expressed serious concern about this declining trend and underscored the need to create mechanisms which would ensure effective implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994 (PCPNDT Act). The PCPNDT Act prohibits sex selection and regulates prenatal diagnostic techniques to prevent their misuse for sex determination leading to sex-selective abortion. The Act is administered by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and enforcement lies with the State Governments. There have however been serious issues with its implementation, the Members noted, which largely stem from the societal issues such as, patriarchal nature of the Indian society, shrinking size of the family and preference for male child. This is also encouraged by advances in technology that encourage sex selective abortion, they opined. A need was thus felt to strengthen the mechanisms that would deter such sex selection leading to abortion of the girl child. The implementation issues connected with clinics indulging in illegal abortion following sex determination were also discussed. The Members also stated that it was equally important to educate the mother and the women in the family, in addition to creating awareness among the male members.