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Female Foeticide Continues To Be On Rise In India

Even though the government of India launches several welfare schemes for women and children, India still struggles to check the female foeticide, which continues to be on the upward mark. //

While the government launches programmes for women and children to mark International Women's Day Wednesday, the girl child in India struggles for survival even before she is born with incidents of female foeticide on a continuous rising graph.

Ironically, child sex ratio in the age group of 0-6 years has been inversely proportional to development in the country, declining by 18 points from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001.

And the national capital has the dubious distinction of having a ratio even lower than the national average at 865 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001, a steep drop from 915 in 1991. In fact, Delhi has the fifth lowest child sex ratio in India after Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh.

"Female foeticide in the country is increasing because it has taken the shape of an organised crime and has not remained only a socio-economic problem," Puneet Bedi, activist and practicing gynaecologist, told IANS.

He said the problem was spreading rapidly because it remained unchecked, but also because doctors had started acting as criminals who kill a child for money.

It has nothing to do with education levels or ignorance. The problem, as Bedi put it, was more amongst the affluent who see sons as "ladders" to garner wealth. "Since people want smaller family they prefer a male child."

The assertion is more than borne out by a break up of Delhi's colonies. While all the nine districts have recorded a decline, the problem is hugely exacerbated in the more upscale colonies in the southwest district, for instance, where sex ratio has declined by 59 points in the 10 years between 1991 to 2001.

Six of Delhi's nine districts recorded a decline of 50 or more points -- southwest (-59), northwest (-59) , west (-55), northeast (-50), east (-50) and north (-50).

Clearly, the girl child is a casualty of technology becoming more advanced and access to it getting easier. The law exists, of course. The Prenatal Determination Tests Act bans misuse of modern technologies for selective abortions, but that has made no difference.

"It is likely that the more educated the couple there is less chances that the girl child would survive because they not only understand the use of technology better, but also because aborting a girl child has become accepted in the society," said Bedi.

He also said the problem had intensified because medical tests had become cheaper.

Added Behram Anklesaria, president of the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI): "The use of ultrasound or sonography is not being done just by medical professionals specialised in these techniques but also by those not so highly qualified."

Sex determination tests was not an urban phenomenon any more with ultrasound technology available in many rural areas.

According to Anklesaria, the tests were being misused more in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana, which have strong records of women being oppressed.

Analysing the trend, an expert in the Registrar General and Census Commissioner's office said: "Easy access to ultrasound is the main reason for selective medical termination of pregnancy. As studies show, the fear among weaker sections of having to give dowry, shortage of working hands in rural areas and inheritance all play a role."

He said the government had been asked to involve NGOs for awareness programmes in colleges aimed at India's youth who would be tomorrow's parents.

Is the government, preparing to observe another women's day Wednesday, listening? The day has become another tokenism, but will the years to come be any different?

--Edited IANS

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