Just recently, a new campaign against pre-natal sex selection in Southern Delhi arose from the cooperation between the Centre for Social Research and the German Embassy in India. So far, this has been one of the latest attempts to crumble the rising number of
female foeticides in Delhi.
Although sex determination has been institutionally banned in September 1994 with the Pre- Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act that should provide “for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception…and for the prevention of their (technology) misuse for sex determination leading to female foeticide”, the collection of empirical data demonstrates grave gaps between the legislation and its actual
implemetation. According to 2011 census 914.23 girls were born for every 1,000 boys in
the age group 0-6, compared with 927.31 for every 1,000 boys in the 2001 census. This
number also underlies regional varieties; states with the lowest ratio of girls are mostly nothern rural regions of Punjab 798, Haryana 819 and Delhi with only 868 girls per 1000 boys. Hence, as a report developed by Centre for Development Studies asserts, in India’s rising population there is “evidence of masculinity in sex ratio in general as well as in child sex ratio in particular“.
But why is having a daughter such a bad business in India? The reasons why there are “100 million women missing” (as Amartya Sen stated in 1990) are diverse. The low girl-child ratio does not solely depend on the prenatal sex-determination and (sometimes) following the abortion of female embryos. In some parts of India, strict cultural preference for male children still prevails and therefore the value of one’s children is primarily determinated by their gender. Following this logic, for example, when facing health problems, female children are more prone to be neglected, while family’s resources
are allocated on the well-being of the boys of the family.
The cultural value of a male child evolves around the traditional belief that while a daughter needs to be married off and provided with a costly dowry (although in India the payment of dowry was officialy prohibited by civil law in 1961, it remains highly institutionalized), the boy with his future wife will stay at home and take care of his parents. Therefore, a male child is seen as parents’ asset, while the girl is a costly burden.
In recent years, numerous strategies have been started with the aim of the empowernment of women. One of the most comprehensive worldwide strategies are the Millenium Development Goals (UN), which promote elimination of gender inequalities, empowernment of women in public functions along better heathcare and chances for mothers as well as children disregarding their sex.
Despite India being a full member of the UN, which also theoretically subscribed to the MDGs; the efficient implementation of these lofty aspirations is dependant on a popular supported by India’s diverse society. And this endeavor takes more than time.
Warren, Mary Anne (1985). Gendercide: The Implications of Sex Selection. Rowman&Littlefield Publishers
Sen, Amartya (1990). More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing; in: The New York Review of Books vol.37, nr.20
Zlatka Niznanska is currently studying Global Studies at JNU University in New Delhi.
Picture courtesy by mag3737, merci!