National Girl Child Day: Naqvi-Shivakumar article on sex selection and the girl child

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Farah Naqvi and A.K. Shivakumar, India and the sex selection conundrum, The Hindu, January 24, 2012.

What was our immediate response to further decline in the child sex ratio in India? Within days of the provisional 2011 Census results (March-April 2011), the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reconstituted the Central Supervisory Board for the Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) Act 1994 , which had not met for 3 years, and on November 30, 2011 the Ministry of Women and Child Development formed a Sectoral Innovation Council for Child Sex Ratio. But we are busy dousing flames in haste without looking to dampen the source. This fire-fighting approach is unlikely to succeed, because putting out fires in one district virtually ensures its spread to another. That is what has happened.

The decline in child sex ratio (0-6 years) from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 and further to 914 females per 1,000 males in 2011 — the lowest since independence — is cause for alarm, but also occasion for serious policy re-think. Over the last two decades, the rate of decline appears to have slowed but what began as an urban phenomenon has spread to rural areas. This is despite legal provisions, incentive-based schemes, and media messages. Indians across the country, bridging class and caste divides, are deliberately ensuring that girls are simply not born. This artificial alteration of our demographic landscape has implications for not only gender justice and equality but also social violence, human development and democracy.

Read the whole article here.

EPW Featured Theme on Khap Panchayats (and Gender Violence)

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The Economic and Political Weekly website carries a featured theme with EPW articles on khap panchayats which have been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. The full-text versions are available only to subscribers but these citations are important and so they are blogged here for future reference. 

Ravinder Kaur, Khap Panchayats, Sex Ratio and Female Agency, EPW, Vol XLV No.23 June 05, 2010.

Abstract: While many intelligent reasons have been proffered for the recent resurgence of khap panchayats in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh and their actions vis-à-vis self-choice marriages, two very important aspects of the phenomenon need to be highlighted. The first is the impact of the abysmal sex ratio, which is a result of rampant female sex selective abortions, neglect of girl children and a minuscule but still present female infanticide. The second is that it is only women in this male-dominated society who have publicly stood up to the might of the khap panchayats and are challenging their writ.

Ranbir Singh, The Need to Tame the Khap Panchayats, EPW, Vol XLV No.21 May 22, 2010.

Abstract: It will require a concerted effort by the polity, civil society and media to take on the khap panchayats, an anachronistic institution that derives its legitimacy from a feudal past. Instead, due to electoral considerations, the polity in states like Haryana has bowed to the clout of these khaps and has even provided them overt and covert support.

Editorial, Khaps, Castes and Violence EPW, Vol XLV No.18 May 01, 2010.

Abstract: Decrees by khap panchayats and violence against dalits paint a gruesome picture of rural Haryana.

Bhupendra Yadav, Khap Panchayats: Stealing Freedom? EPW,  Vol 44 No.52 December 26, 2009

Abstract: Khap or caste panchayats wield much more power than the statutory panchayats in states like Haryana and order harsh punitive measures against couples who marry within the gotra. Even powerful politicians do not dare invoke the law against them. However, in a couple of recorded cases, the aggrieved women have dared to come out in public and demand action against these khap panchayats.

Editorial, Above the Law, Vol 44 No.32 August 08, 2009

Abstract: How may the “œtraditional”authority of the caste panchayats be undermined? Mahi Pal, Haryana : Caste and Patriarchy in Panchayats, EPW, Vol 39 No.32 August 07, 2004.

Abstract: The caste system and patriarchy still exercise a stranglehold on Haryana’s panchayat institutions making a mockery of decentralised governance. The women elected representatives need adequate support systems as well as education to make them effective leaders.

In the news: 8 wedding pheras, not 7, to end gender discrimination

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From InfoChange India, originally posted from Central Chronicle and Asian Age

8 wedding pheras, not 7, to end gender discrimination

Saat pheras (seven rounds of the holy fire) at Hindu weddings are passé. It is now time for eight pheras; the extra one is for not indulging in gender discrimination and female foeticide

Priests belonging to Gayatri Parivar, a spiritual movement centred in Jaipur and spread across the world, will now make couples take an additional eighth phera at the time of marriage, promising not to indulge in gender discrimination and female foeticide.

Manoj Sengar, a Gayatri Parivar priest in Kanpur, says: “We have launched this initiative from June 21. We will inform anyone who comes to us for marriage, and if they agree we will solemnise the wedding. If not, they are free to go elsewhere.”

The Gayatri Parivar, which vows to remove social evils and make the Hindu religion less ritualistic, is catching on with the young generation, with more people opting for Gayatri weddings that cut out vulgar displays of wealth.

“Female foeticide is not only a criminal act but also a social evil. The man-woman ratio is increasingly imbalanced. This will endanger the human species one day,” Sengar explained. Members of the movement feel the “eighth phera” will not irk other Hindu priests. “We are not altering any ritual, we are merely adding something and that does not damage the essence of the ceremony,” Sengar said.

The Parivar believes the declining female sex ratio highlights a grassroots problem. The large number of atrocities and growing violence against women, despite a new-found prosperity across the country, shows that the root causes of discrimination and violence against women and girls are not being addressed.

Social activists say there are 39.7 million fewer women in India than there should be due to the strong son-preference in Indian society.

India’s overall sex ratio has consistently declined over the years. From 972 females per 1,000 males in 1901, it fell to 933 in 2001. The census (2001) also registered a decline in the juvenile sex ratio (0-6 years), from 945 girls per 1,000 boys in 1991 to 927 girls per 1,000 boys — a drop of 18 points.

Though the country’s overall population rose by about 21% between 1991 and 2001, the child sex ratio plummeted rapidly. The fall has been particularly sharp in states like Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Maharasthra, where the ratio has declined to less than 900 girls per 1,000 boys.

Source: Central Chronicle, June 28, 2010
Asian Age, June 27, 2010

In the news: “Protect the mother and child, you protect the country”

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Rema Nanda, Protect the mother and child, you protect the country The Hindu, June 6, 2010.

This article raises the important issue of deaths during childbirth and the importance of infrastructure and accelerating investments in a few key safe and affordable health services.

“Radha is one of the millions of women who deliver enormous benefits to our country, families and children. Women work in our banks, schools, offices, and hospitals; they lead in our Parliament; and they sell goods in our marketplaces. Women also carry and give birth to our children — the future of our country.”