Crime Against Humanity
10 June 2005
‘Where Are Our Girls?’
The Citizens for Justice and Peace and Women’s Centre, Mumbai have in a joint intervention application sought to become party respondents to a petition filed in the Bombay High Court challenging the constitutionality of the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act, 2002 (14 of 2003) along with The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sec Selection) Rules, 1996. This legislation aims at checking the killing of girl babies before birth.
The alarming and continuous fall in the in the birth of girl babies as can be seen in the latest census data  also points to regions that show up this more sharply than others. The relatively prosperous states of Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Gujarat unfortunately show the worst male-female sex ratio. It is humbly stated that as per the latest census figures. As per the latest census data, 16 states and Union Territories with 70 districts have recorded an abnormal decline in the girl population between 1991 and 2001. In Mumbai and Delhi, the sex ratio is far below the national average of 927 girls to 1,000 boys. In urban India, the girl population has dropped in 23 cities.
This is particularly ironic given the fact that it was in Maharashtra in the eighties that women’s activists, social activists,writers, academics and lawyers campaigned for such a law, under the banner of the ForumAgainst Sex Determination and Pre-Selection [FASDP]. Maharashtra was the first to pass a state law in 1988 followed by Punjab. The central legislation came into effect in 1998. Members of both the CJP and Women’s Centre were active in the FASDP.
The petition filed by one Shri Vinod Soni and his wife in early 2005, is on the grounds that as father of boys they have the fundamental right to a balanced family and therefore choose to select and conceive a female baby. Recent media reports however have shown that the petitioner couple have admitted to not having much knowledge of the petition but had actually been asked to become petitioners by medical practioneers interested in the continuance of practices that result in the select elimination of girl babies.
The reason for both organisations to file this intervention application is to enable this grievous data to be brought before the Bombay High Court as also to raise the issue of accountability from the State of Maharashtra on the issue of adequate campaigning and monitoring of these disturbing trends. As importantly is the need to point out that this legislation at state and national levels was brought in after rigorous campaigning from women’s rights groups among others that recognised huge societal and familial pressures for son preferance that was effectively resulting in the killing of girls before they were born. AdvocateVarsha Deshpande has also filed a separate intervention application in the same matter.
In year 2000, two health and women’s groups and individuals had filed a petition in the Supreme Court raising issues of policy and regular and effective monitoring of clinics who offer some of these sophisticated techniques. In May 2001, the Supreme Court of India passed a detailed order requiring both the Central Supervisory Boards [CSBs] under the Act to regularly monitor the effective implentation of the Act. The CJP has been corresponding with the relevant departments of the Maharashtra government asking for details of this.
Vijay Tendulkar Teesta Setalvad Ammu Abraham
CJP CJP Women’s Centre
Inspite of being the South Asian Association Regional Co-operation (SAARC) ‘Decade of the Girl Child’, the future of the girl child in India is very grim. Of the 1.2 crore girls born in India every year, as many as 30 lakhs do not live to celebrate their 15th birthday. The juvenile sex ratio too is steadily worsening. In the 0-4 years group, there were 961 girls for every 1000 boys in 1981 which fell to 955 in 1991.
Ironically, the deficit of women is more noticeable in the urban than the rural population- a factor which is frequently attributed to male migration from rural to urban areas. The deficit has now percolated down to the rural areas as well, indicating an overall decrease of women in the country. The district analysis of the child sex ratio in rural areas calculated from the 1991 census, shows that there are only 42 districts, making up 10 percent of the country, where the sex ratio is in favour of girls. Of these, 31 districts have a sizable tribal population. On the other hand, there are 31 districts like two in Tamil Nadu, one in Kerala, and 11 out of 12 districts in Punjab, where there are less than 900 girls to 1000 boys.
A 1997 UNFPA report "India Towards Population and Development Goals", estimates that 48 million women are missing from India’s population. The report states that, "If the sex ratio of 1036 females per 1000 males observed in the state of Kerala in 1991 had prevailed in the whole country, the number of females would be 455 million instead of the 407 million(in the 1991 census). Thus, there is a case of between 32 to 48 million missing females in the Indian society as of 1991 that needs to be explained."
This deficit of women has been known to exist even in British India from the time the first census was done in 1881and has only worsened in every subsequent census with the exception in 1981 when it rose in favour of females.
The 1991 census is only indicative of this disturbing trend when elsewhere in the world women outnumber men by 3 to 5 percent. There are 95 to 97 males to 100 females in Europe, USA and Japan with the ratio being as low as 88 males to 100 females in Russia primarily due to the casualties suffered in the wars. India and China share this deficit phenomenon indicating 6 to 8 percent more men than females. Both societies have been traditionally patrilineal and men have enjoyed a much higher status than women.
Almost a quarter of India’s population consists of girls below 20 years of age. The adolescent girl who is an embodiment of childhood and womanhood, is barely a shadow in our national policy and is neglected in the fields of health, education and development programmes. Thousands of female infants are murdered in their mother’s wombs or are born to die, the justification being that a girl child is better dead in a society which views her as a financial burden.
According to the UNICEF, 40 to 50 million girls have gone ‘missing’ in India since 1901- missing because they were not allowed to be born, or if born, murdered immediately thereafter. . Today, India tops the list as far as illegal abortions and female infanticide are concerned. Of the 15 million illegal abortions carried out the in the world in 1997, India accounted for four million, 90% of which were intended to eliminate the girl child.