Welfare Schemes Fail To Save Girl Child

GOA’S child sex ratio at birth has dropped from 953 girls per 1,000 boys in 2014 to 916 girls to per 1,000 boys by September 2016. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), biologically normal child sex ratio ranges from 102-106 male per 100 females. In India the sex ratio is measured per 1,000 boys. Applying WHO norms, the biologically normal child sex ratio in India should be 943-980 females per every 1000 males. By that standards Goa with 916 girls falls much behind. One of the reasons for the decline is illegal sex determination. While our vigilantes never tire of talking of corruption among politicians they seldom focus their attention on the rampant corruption among their own members. Several professionals who run ultrasound clinics continue to violate the law to conduct sex determination tests for earning illicit money. Why do not our anti-corruption campaigners turn their guns toward the doctors who make money by choosing to be an accomplice in the murder of female babies? The notes they get are stained with the babies’ blood.

The state health department has been ‘threatening’ action against doctors conducting illegal sex determination for decades, but their threats have been found to be no better than clouds in the summer sky that bring no rain. Doctors have gone on performing illegal sex determination like invisible ghosts too sure about never being seen. We are not sure if there is some complicity between the law enforcers in the health department and the corrupt radiologists. It need not be complicity in terms of shares of illicit money: it could be constraints of professional brotherhood, as the enforcers are also doctors. One doctor would not feel nice ruining the business of another doctor. It is only now that someone in the government has realized that giving doctors the responsibility to catch doctors does not work. The health department is now going to have a committee for surprise action against illegal sex determination that will not just comprise doctors but also administrative officials. Let us see how this committee performs.

However, what needs to be remembered is that illegal sex determination is not the only cause of declining female share in the sex ratio. First of all, the doctor who does conduct illegal sex determination test is not responsible for it alone. He is not going out into residential neighbourhoods or apartment buildings and forcing or luring pregnant women to undergo those tests. They are coming to him. So, primarily the problem lies with our own attitude toward female babies. No one wants a daughter. The attitude is changing, but the transformation has touched only a small percentage of adult population. The preference for a male child is very deep-rooted in the mental make-up of the average Goan. It has come from the thinking of the generations of the ancient and medieval times when the struggle for preservation of life was very intense, battles had to be fought and won, predators and plunderers had to be warded off. A male child was preferred because men were physically stronger and suited for hard work and wars.

Remember, there were no contraceptives or family planning techniques in those days. So, there was no check on reproduction, and women in reproductive age were giving birth to babies, while doing supporting roles in homes and fields. Females were allowed to be born, unlike today when they can be murdered even before they open their eyes, but as the patriarch of the family preferred males he gave the boys better food, better treatment, better training and better clothes. Females got stereotyped as child bearer and homemaker. Men were seen as producers and women as consumers and hence a burden. Today, even though women have shown they can do things as well as men in most areas of human activity, the stereotype persists.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar needs to examine why all the schemes to save girl child and provide for her education and marriage have failed to check the decline in the child sex ratio in Goa. The BJP had made its welfare schemes for girl child and women a prime plank of its campaign for the February 4 Assembly elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid special focus on girl child with his ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme. The reason is simple: the BJP’s welfare schemes have not worked because they have been implemented without generating deep awareness of gender equality among the men and women of reproductive age. Unless we change the mindset, we will never have a biologically normal sex ratio. Even if we ban the ultrasound machines, it will continue. They will go to village midwives or ayurvedic or homeopathic quacks who love to self-prefix their names with ‘Dr.’

Categories: Editorial
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