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23 million men may not get wives in 2011!

Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi | July 19, 2005 19:59 IST

Not many will react if you told them that the 1981-91 census showed that there were one crore 37 lakh more boys than girls in India. However, tell them that if the trend continued, 23 million men would not get their life partners in 2011 and you would have a lot of eyebrows being raised.

That is precisely what the National Commission for Women seems to be doing.

NCW chairperson Girija Vyas disclosed the figures while announcing a nation-wide campaign against female foeticide. Calling the increasing trend of sex selection as cruel, Vyas said, "It is inhuman to tell people not to indulge in female foeticide because in the long run, men will not get women to marry."

"But unfortunately, we have to explain all aspects of female foeticide while urging people not to abort female foetuses."

The NCW, a constitutional body formed to safeguard women's rights in India, along with some voluntary groups is set to launch a campaign in 10 states by the end of July to create awareness on female foeticide.

The states are Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

These states were identified due to the decreasing sex ratio (number of females per thousand males) there, indicating the possibility of sex determination using ultra sound technology tests being performed. Female foetuses are aborted due to the general Indian psyche of families preferring sons to daughters.

The NCW team will go to villages, towns, schools and colleges to explain to the public about social and administrative problems due to female foeticide. The issue will be treated as a human rights issue, as "every girl has the right to take birth," said Vyas.

Sex determination and abortion of foetus without adequate medical reasons has been banned in India under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act from February 14, 2003.

However, the decreasing sex ratio indicates that female foeticide is being done clandestinely by doctors and quacks.

As per the law, a person who seeks help for sex-determination can face, at first conviction,  imprisonment for a three-year period and be fined Rs 50,000. The medical council is empowered to suspend the registration of the doctor and the nursing home found to be doing sex determination tests during the period of conviction.

Centre for Social Research director Ranjana Kumari says: "The problem is that there is no implementation of the law. No action has been taken so far against any nursing home or doctor in Delhi. We have not yet heard of any conviction."

To this, the NCW has sent a draft law to the government recommending proper implementation of the law and harsher punishment against medical practitioners.

Vyas said: "We hope the government will do the needful. But I am sorry to say that the medical fraternity has not come forward as they should have been. Many doctors know which doctors and which clinics are doing sex selection, but they never complain or take action."

The decreasing sex ratio is worse in educated, elite and economically well-off sections of the society where sex selection technology is easily available.

All the nine districts in Delhi in 2001 have a child sex ratio of less than 900 girls per thousand boys, with Central Delhi being an exception where the ratio is 902. The most elite and prosperous districts - south and south-west - have a sex ratio of 886 and 845 respectively.

Compare this with the 1991 Census when none of the nine districts had a sex ratio of less than 900. The national average in 1991 was 945 girls per thousand boys and it declined to 927 in 2001. The children counted in sex ratio are between 0-6 years of age.

Vyas said: "The problem is serious in advanced sections of the society. Earlier, it was a problem only in the Hindi-speaking belt of north India. But now we have found female foeticide even in Tamil Nadu."

She said Salem district in Tamil Nadu had a sex ratio of 826 while Theni had 893. Activist Subhash Mendharpur said the trend of kidnapping and trafficking of women for marriage was increasing in states like Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

"I have been to villages in Haryana where you will find one or two Telugu or Tamil speaking women. They were kidnapped and sold in Haryana for marriage. These women are treated as slaves," said Mendharpur.

Vyas said: "We have formulated a new policy to tackle this problem. We will start this from schools and colleges."


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