What price selfies?

R Srinivasan | Updated on January 19, 2018

‘Beti bachao, beti padhao’ campaign aimed at changing mindsets of people at large about girls.   -  THE HINDU

The girl child’s an endangered species

Falling as it does on eve of our Republic Day, the ‘National Day of the Girl Child’ — celebrated on January 24 — tends to go pretty much unnoticed. This year proved no exception, apart from a token message from the Prime Minister. In a virtual repeat of what he said the year before, a statement issued by the PMO said: “Saluting the strengths, skills and achievements of the girl child on National Girl Child Day. India will progress when the girl child shines. Let’s further the spirit of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ and create a discrimination free and opportunity filled environment for the girl child.”

The brevity of the message sums up the bandwidth the girl child actually occupies in our policymaking space. Oh, there are schemes galore for the girl child. Apart from the ‘beti bachao, beti padhao’ campaign which the PM referred to — it’s actually a mass media outreach programme aimed at changing mindsets of people at large about girls — there are incentive schemes for parents to have girl children, others for educating them and so on.

But whether such schemes have actually changed things on the ground is another issue. The 2011 Census put the sex ratio for the entire population at 943 females per 1000 male population. But the child sex ratio is truly alarming: For the population aged between 0-6 years, the sex ratio is 918 girls per 1,000 boys. It is 905 in urban areas, where access to foetal sex determination services. A UN study released last year says that the sharp decline can be largely attributed to illegal abortions of female foetuses. Other studies have linked a falling sex ratio to other crimes like kidnapping of women, and trafficking.

There is a law — The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act — which bars sex determination of unborn children. But it is not something the police or authorities administer with any vigour. Data of action taken under the Act is not available. A reply in Parliament filed by the health minister in 2013 said only 143 people had been prosecuted under the Act since it was passed in 1996!

Senior Associate Editor

Published on January 29, 2016

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