National Online Webinar on ‘Missing Girls in India, Legislative Response & the Way Forward’ has been organised by the Centre for Women’s Studies, School of Social Science, University of Hyderabad on 26th June 2020, via Zoom meet.
In India, the child sex ratio of 0 to 6 years age group steadily declined from 945 girls per 1000 boys in 1991 to 927 in 2001 to 918 in 2011, according to the Census of India. The desire for a boy child is deeply embedded in patriarchy and the patterns reveal that it continues to intensify which Sabu George mentions, is turning into a hatred towards daughters. In this webinar he predicted that for the first time there will be a fall in the sex ratio even in the total population in Census 2021 on account decades of elimination of the girl child. Varsha Deshpande has been working against sex determination of the unborn child for almost three decades now. In 2001 Census data, Beed district recorded a child sex ratio of 894 girls per 1000 boys, far below the normal child sex ratio of 950. This ratio further dropped drastically to 807 in 2011, according to the Census of India data. The recent SRS data 2017 of Beed District however shows a remarkable rise in the sex ratio to 905 girls born per 1000 boys in the district. This is on account of Varsha Deshpande’s decoy operations and work in this region. The rules should not be relaxed says Neelam Singh and its strict implementation ensures that doctors don’t perform foetal sex determination and sex selective abortions. Despite the law and sting operations around the country some doctors continue to violate the law. Experts who have worked on this issue for several decades discussed the persisting problem and indicated the possible way forward.
- History of Desire for boy child and Sex Selection – Rekha Pande.
- Female Foeticide: Women’s Movement, Medical Crime & Demography – Sabu George.
- Experience of Decoy Operation in Maharashtra – Varsha Deshpande (in Hindi).
- Experience as a Gynaecologist and a Social Entrepreneur: Neelam Singh.
- Conclusion and the Way Forward – Sabu George.
- Moderation by Sheela. S, Faculty, Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad, India.
- Rekha Pande
History of desire for boy child and sex selection
Rekha Pande referred back into history to examine the desire for a boy in Indian society. The girl child is but the future woman. She examined the context and causes of male child preference in Asian countries. Common wisdom is that sons’ preference is driven by economic, religious, social , and emotional preferences and expectations that favor males and make females less desirable. Parents expect sons — but not daughters — to provide financial and emotional treatment, particularly in their old age; sons add to family wealth and property in many Asian countries and India is no exception. Deeply ingrained beliefs and cultural preference for male children, as well as patriarchal family and property laws have resulted in restrictive practices that guarantee a male child’s birth. Such activities include sexual abortions but also post-natal killing or abuse of girl babies.
This is backdrop of more than 160 million women that are missing on the Asian continent, due to the systematic exclusion of children. In India, where the gender ratio is especially imbalanced, an atmosphere of abuse and inequality against women and girls is accentuated by the skewed masculinisation of society. When we have a female child with high self-esteem not only in recipient positions but in active constructive positions with a respect for human dignity, we can only have an empowered individual. The goal is to provide an active, happy and confident female child with equal access to knowledge information and resources unfettered by socio-cultural norms and traditional roles. One can’t look at the girl child in isolation. Her status is a reflection of the general attitudes towards women at large in society. In a dynamic collection of relationships with family and society at large, gender roles are conceived, taught and implemented. The girl child grows up with low self-esteem. She grows up with a notion of temporary membership in her home to be disposed of with riches and dowry. This hasn’t changed and we need to go back to history to understand the stigma against a girl child. In ancient India’s patriarchal culture, it’s the son who gets highly regarded and the girl doesn’t get such a premium.
She then examined a few historical texts to show how there is an importance given for a male child and the reasons for this. Society attaches more value to a son in terms of numerous functions and responsibilities expected from him. Unlike developed countries, almost non-existent social security system for older age groups in developing countries indicates more dependency on the son at later ages and adds one more reason to the list of supporting son preference. Hence the issue is very complicated and history, culture, religion, economy and social values have added to the complexity where there is no value given to the girl child
- Sabu George,
About: Sabu George spent 35 years working on the issue of female foeticide. He studied at IIT Bombay, completed Master’s from John Hopkins and PhD at Cornell University. He has travelled extensively and engaged with people at the ground. That comes from his dedication towards this cause. In 1990s he had already predicted that the 2001 census will be bad. He has a very good sense of the situation in states like Kerala and Rajasthan and a fair sense of many other states in India. All this comes from his experience and knowledge gained from working at the ground level.
He began his talk with elementary facts and concepts asking participants about;
- Are there more or women in the world – there are more men
- Do most countries have more men or women – most countries have more women except for South Asia,
- Do women live longer today than men – yes
Since mid-80s women have started living longer. In Kerala today women live 5 years longer than men. At birth nature produces 5% more boys, so sex ratio at birth is 952 girls per 1000 boys. In the infancy, early childhood boy mortality is higher. Nature has made women to be stronger in every sense. Girl mortality is lower at younger age.
In the West average composition of girls and boys are balanced.
In a patriarchal society, large families have more girls without control and small planned families have more boys. This is called stopping rule in demography. This is because people tend to keep on producing until they have the right composition of boys in the family. Like in Haryana, in the 1990s, families used to even have 9 to 10 girls in order to have one or two sons, while for the reverse the maximum number of sons we found was 5.
Until the late 90s there was deliberate girl child neglect, girls were given less breast milk, less food, less medical treatment. Female infanticide patterns is the infant girl is killed within the first few days after birth.
Patterns of girl child elimination if leading towards a girl child hatred
In 1970s, sex determination was an extremely efficient way to reduce fertility because the excess girls could be reduced. In 1979, the first private clinic came up in Amritsar and such clinics rapidly spread all over India. It began with AIIMS in New Delhi.
In the 80s the focus was on eliminating the 3rd and 4th order girl child. By the 90s the 2nd girl child was eliminated. The NFHS 2010-14 births, 2.5% of the 1st boy girl child were being eliminated. He concluded that this is an extreme intensification of son preference. Traditionally the first born girl was never discriminated. But the hatred for having girls, the data shows that 2.5% of the first born girls are being eliminated.
Spread over Districts & Intensification of Girl Child Elimination within Districts
Sabu George showed us a State map of Child Sex Ratio (0 to 6 years) 2011 census of India. The map revealed that half the country (India) was below 920 girls per 100 boys meaning about 3% of the girls in this age group are missing. Madhya Pradesh had a comparatively higher sex ratio at 918 and a detailed district map of Madhya Pradesh district revealed that in some regions of MP, the Chambal region and parts of Bundelkhand.
The maps only of 2011 with different cut off points of child sex ratio less than 920 and 930 revealed the core area the spread of reduced sex ratio over the State. He showed comparative of Madhya Pradesh state for 2001 and 2011 that showed how even in a backward state like MP, sex determination is progressing. Again the use pf different cut off of child sex ratio less than 920, 930 and 940 revealed the spread of sex determination and missing girls in the age group 0 to 6 years. Then he picked up a district Damoh within MP and showed a map of child sex ration less than 930 girl child per 1000 and showed by lowering the cut off from 930 to 940 several districts were falling in a lower sex ratio categories. Sagar district revealed similar patterns.
In tribal areas and in communities and religions other than Hinduism too the girl child elimination is spreading rapidly.
Next Census 2021/22), speculation
Sabu George predicts the 2021 census to be much worse than the 2011. Because other sources of data such as the SRS, SRB (Sex Ratio at Birth data) for the years 2011-13 to 2015-17 and 3 intermediate years estimates revela a consistent decline from 909 to 896 girls per 1000 boys.
There is a non-implementation of the PCPNDT Act in most states, except Maharashtra, Haryana and Rajasthan. These three states have done some implementation, so the sex ratios are improving there. But everywhere else the practice is spreading. In large parts of North India, what we are hearing from the grass roots is that Ultrasounds are handled by quacks, not even MBBS doctors, that is worrying because they’re not even registered.
Since 1991 the ratios are falling in the child age group (0 to 6 years) has been in the decline. The sex ratio of normal population will see a decline for the first time in three decades because for the last 30 years, the number of new born children there was significant decline in girls. It is saddening because it took us 100 years for our sex ratios to improve as women started living longer but unfortunately the discrimination became very intense before birth.
- Varsha Deshpande, Advocate and Activist fighting to save the Girl Child.
Varsha Deshpande is an advocate by profession. She has conducted 50 decoy operations in Maharashtra and 18 cpnvictions. None of the confiscated machines have been released. At the Lekh Laadli Abhiyan they have a strong conviction that law the important and only law can change the present scenario. She has very diligently following those values. She has spent 40 years fighting against killing girls in the womb. There has been a reverse of sex ratio in some areas of Maharashtra because of her work.
We already have a deep rooted gender biased discrimination which results in violence. This violence doesn’t occur accidentally. In fact, it is done on purpose in full consciousness. So in the 21st century one technology came up that was useful for prenatal screening. Such a technology that has been used for a good purpose throughout the world. In India, this technology has been misused to determine the sex of the foetus in the womb. Since three decades we are seeing that there is a drop in the sex ration because girl foetuses are selectively being aborted in the womb itself.
She in Dalit Mahila Vikas Mandal is fighting against the atrocities against Dalits and women and the organisations fights against violence. She saw the sex ratio and passed a resolution that if the sex ratio is falling. Just by merely talking or drama on the road, there is nothing that is going to change. One has to get down into the ground and change the reality. Sabu is one of the first person who along with CEHAT and MASOOM filed a petition at the Supreme Court against the sex selective abortions. In the 1980s; when the technology first came up, Maharashtra is the first state in the Country where the PNDT Act was enacted. Before that there was amniocentesis available, wherein a fluid was extracted from the womb to examine if the baby is a girl or a boy. This procedure had a risk factor and could also lead to a miscarriage. But when the sonography machine came in the market, 200 centres opened up in a big way. Later there was studies was conducted by several organisation in Mumbai city and a private Bill was brought out in Maharashtra. Hence this state is the first state to enact and implement PNDT Act.
In 1994, the Bill was brought out in the entire country. This is the gift given by Maharashtra to the rest of the country. After this, there was no amendment to the Bill, because we accepted the law but the first accused was the mother and the second was the doctor. This was a very dangerous factor because in general women do not have much decision making power, she cannot decide her marriage, she cannot decide about family planning, cant select her husband, even if she has cancer in her uterus, the removal of it will be decided by the family. Women are shifted from the natal house to the marital house in order to give birth to boy children. The women in India re by-products, nakoshi, anchaahi,
Those days, after several girls a boy child used to be born, nowadays these intermittent girls are eliminated. Marriage was done mainly for the purpose of Ashtaputra, Sowbhagyawati Bhava, was the blessings given to a woman. To desperately have a boy child, this technology was being used. When the situation in Mumbai city became evident, then the Bill came up and law was in place. But the accused was the pregnant woman. The person who is not a decision maker became the accused. Then Sabu George filed a petition in the Supreme Court, under section 24 the law changed in saying that unless and otherwise proved you cannot list pregnant women as the accused under the PNDT Act. It is only after that we could do decoy operations. We could send pregnant women with camera and audio system inside the clinic to set a trap. We caught doctors who were conducting sex determination tests, red handed with the help of women. Some of them were saying the sex of the child and some would write it down. This is what she shared with us. It is not enough to understand the law, one has to understand its implementation and its practicalities.
In 2003 brought about several amendments after Sabu George’s petition, and it included section 24, giving strength to the decoy operations. At that time she was the advisory committee member of Satara Jilla. Satara Jilla is the capital of Shivaji Maharaj. In these meetings the discussion was around we should do something, the sex ratio in our Zilla is falling drastically, because Satara had the worst sex ratio in the entire state. The Health Minister and our Civil Surgeon would say, the sex ratio is falling. At that time, they’re organisation was involved in breaking liquor shops. So they told her, if you can break so many liquor shops why cant you don something to stop illegal abortions. They started enquiring with women if there are any doctors who determine the sex of the foetus and conduct abortions and they came to know there were many such doctors involved in such illegal activities.
This illegal racket was taking the assistance of ASHA worker, Anganwadi workers, patwari, teachers. These were precisely the set of grass root workers who were designated with the work of family planning. This came as a shock to her.
She explained how s decoy operation is done; it generally starts at 5pm and completes at 11am the next day morning. The illegal forms of work is done at this time. Most of her decoy operations have been conducted at night starting from evening time, or on Holidays or Saturday-Sunday. It is only now that technology such as; spy cameras have emerged. But in year 2000, 2004, they didn’t even have a mobile phone. They had to use handycam. Autorickshaw driver usually knows about the clinic operating illegal activities, as he gets a commission for it. So we did the same in our city. They took a woman who was in her 7th month of pregnancy, an acting aunt and an acting sister. They had informed their civil surgeon that they are going to conduct a decoy operation, but they didn’t inform the place, although he wanted to know. They belong to the same medical fraternity and they know which doctors do these activities so they tend to help each other. They also informed the Police headquarters to remain in their office because of the decoy operation. They first approached a retired ANM outside the city. The agent who was involved in this illegal racket was the ANM connected with the Zilla Civil hospital. We prepared a stamp paper, the notes that we had to pay to the clinic even that was taken note of (just like anti-corruption decoy operations).It was a Sunday, the ANM called up the doctor and asked if he would do it today and he agreed. Media was also informed. Law demands evidence. As soon as the pregnant woman arrived, so she was taken inside the room. A sonography was conducted, the doctor said it was a boy. All evidence was captured in audio-video, she watched the evidence, went to the Civil Surgeon and he saw the evidence and they all left for the clinic. But before they could reach the clinic, police had arrived at the clinic. The police wanted to take it as their case because it is a cognizable offence, CRPC, non-compoundable . But she said it is a medical crime and the appropriate authority will take in in their hands; a Civil surgeon can do this. According to 17A, appropriate authority is as good as a civil judge. So they first had a tussle with the police. They wanted to take the doctor. They will take money from everybody.
The most prominent lawyer in the city reached there to get the doctor free. The are the corrupt and parties to crime, she calls them criminal lawyers. They questioned all those involved; doctors, medical staff, separately in different rooms. They finished the entire procedure in 2 hours. They had used the machine without taking any F form, no consent form. no declaration form and without all this there was a prescription, hence evidence was there. After that media reached. The case goes directly to the court, even on Sunday. They went on Sunday court. They explained to the court that this is medical crime and police need not be involved in this. It is a medical conspiracy against women. Court went to District Judge and the accused was arrested. In our country we are very excited about arresting the accused but most people get easily evicted and cases go on for 10 years. Only 2% of the cases get convicted under PCPNDT Act. In Maharashtra they have now ensured 30% conviction of cases. 376 has 7% conviction, 354 has 0.1% convictions. Just arresting is inadequate. Everyone was satisfied with the accomplished decoy, but next day morning she received a phone call from the same doctor she had caught. He said why don’t you catch other doctors who are doing it and he named the doctors. In this manner, they have been able to conduct 50 decoy operations. After 50 operations, she realised the defence and the government lawyer was trying to make the witnesses hostile and cases slipped from their hands. The machines were requested for release. The they tried to take up the cases again at the court and waited at the court, gave protection to witnesses and it is only then they could manage to convict 18 accused. It has been very difficult. The cases against domestic violence is different from this. This requires a lot more courage, as they have power, money strength. Yet they have done these operations. She has seen that in places where she has conducted decoy operation, Satara Jilla, the sex ratio has improved in all those places.
In this country, it is only through implementation of the law that one can fight for the rights of women, minorities and Dalits. Creating awareness is insufficient, making good laws in inadequate, it has to be implemented effectively. Law has to be implemented in the field as well as in the court effectively. One has to keep a watch on the prosecution too.
The Judicial officer will be able to give justice only if prosecution can be put forward. These are practical problems. Our constitution says that women will not be discriminated against, they will be given all kinds of opportunity. But this can be effective only if this is fought out in the field.
She calls upon students, teachers and researchers to come and look at the practical problems of the PCPNDT Act. Especially those doctors who pay and get into medical colleges, they earn that money back by involving in such crimes. She calls upon students and researchers and teachers to try and conduct decoy operations in their own localities. She asks them to join this movement if the sex ratio in their respective Zilla and locations has to become equal.
Daptar :By Lek Ladki Abhiyan Kailas Jadhav/Varsha Deshpande
- Neelam Singh, Gynaecologist and Social Entrepreneur.
Dr. Neelam Singh, is a gynaecologist. She’s located in Lucknow, is a member of NIMS National Monitoring and Inspection Committee for 13 years. She has also covered a vast area of India. Looking at the PCPNDT Act. She’s networking with NGOs, she’s well connected with NGOs in that region. She has lot of experience on the ground. Apart from that she’s also doing advocacy and has collected a lot of information from the grassroots. She shared her experience as a gynaecologist, with the PCPNDT Act and with what is happening with sex selective abortions.
She shared 1) her personal experience and 2) the work she does with PCPNDT Act and sex selective elimination in the country.
- She started with saying that when she started practicing actively way back for 12 to 13 years, when she realised a lot of women were coming to her for sex determination for conducting selective abortions. She was very upset at this and at that time she was not aware about what is going on in Maharashtra or what is the situation of sex ratio in different parts of the country because usually gynaecologists are busy with their own practice. But every time she got a patient asking for sex determination, she became worried.
Despite being the fourth daughter from a Rajput family she didn’t face any gender discrimination, so she was disturbed with this. She felt she should do something about this, because she noticed that lot of her colleagues were involved in using the technology for sex determination practices. She started an orgnisation called Vatsalya that focused primarily on gender discrimination and sex determination.
Dynamics of Medical Community in conducting Sex Determination
Initially, Varsha said many doctors doing this are quacks, but according to her experience very well qualified doctors from good and reputed medical colleges are also doing it; such as AIIMS, King George Medical College Lucknow. They all practice sex determination initially. There are two reasons for this; 1) they are attracted to using technology, 2) it is a lucrative business, their greed to earn easy money fast. Thirdly she says, she has undergone the medical curriculum and it is too mechanical. Although a lot of medical problems are connected with family, gender, but the curriculum does not teach gender discrimination. It is only after starting her work as an NGO; she became more sensitised to social problems and dynamics, but otherwise as a doctor she is also very mechanical. She says there is a gap in the medical system that disconnects it from the reality.
When a technology has been launched, it involves investment and investment it is done for profits, investment is always for profits. There is an aggressive marketing for the technology which wants to make big profits by using the technology. And the market is there.
Supply or demand fuels the practice
- Supply is fuelling the demand
- Aggressive marketing through frontline workers.
- Infiltration into rural areas
Supply was already there. Initially, the dynamics of the society there was son preference and hence the demand was always there. Doctors earned money with this. Now the market wants to invade the society. More recently more and more rural women are becoming aware of the technology, the practice is entering remote areas. With the aggressive marketing of the doctors as they are the profiteers and they aggressively invaded the rural market. Now a days it the supply that is fuelling the demand, Even if a family is not too much willing there is aggressive marketing through these frontline workers such as; ASHA from 2005 onwards. Some time ago the National Health Mission established a huge infrastructure of frontline workers through whom we can enhance community access and health assistance. But because of the aggressiveness of the market and the profit making urge, then they become the middle agent from propagating the technology and making it available to all parts of the community even remotest ones. They became the link between the community and the clinics and these middle workers were paid huge incentives and that’s how the market is proliferating. So, that is how the doctors selling their old machines and these machines went to the peripheral doctors, to the grass root areas. They went to the hands of the indigenous practitioners like BMS, BOMS, in fact, they went to the peripheral areas and the service became available in the rural areas.
There are two steps in this process; one is to find out what is in the womb, and the second is to eliminate the foetus. Nowadays abortion pills are easily available. Although the abortion pill is not available across the counter in pharmacies, we also know that regulation of drugs is very difficult in our country and that is why they are very much available and access of the pills has become very easy.
She says that if we start to target the Doctors, ANMs, Dai, practitioners of abortions, she says we are on the wrong track because if sex determination is not done, abortions cannot be done. According to record of MoHFW there are about 60,000 machines in the country and we know that there are other things that have come up in the market that determine the sex in womb very early in the pregnancy without using ultrasound machines. Even before the conception, sex can be determined in the laboratory before fertilising a particular sex of the baby in the womb. But this technology is not so accessible. The majority of the technology that is used, is ultrasound. The periphery doctors are not trained to tell the sex of the foetus, they just have vested interest in earning money. Hence without unknowingly, in name of female foeticide, a lot of male foeticide is also happening, because people sitting behind the machine are not all capable of determining the sex of the foetus. If they were qualified to do it, there is enough proliferation of machines in the country to actually kill 50% of the girls in the womb. Some of them are charging Rs 70,000 for sex determination. A decoy which was done in Haryana and UP found that, the charges was so high, a periphery doctors, a BAMS doctor, after paying bribes to health department, doctors and responsible people who are sitting to regulate the market, middle person, and even after paying the entire network chain that makes sex determination possible and yet there is so much money left. Even after this payment he makes Rs 50,000 for himself so it is enough to feed his greed and to do whatever he wants. Hence the emergence of this practice has exponentially increased in the rural areas. It starts in the urban pockets and them it spreads to the rural areas; the data also supports it. In UP; roughly 60% of the population is rural, there was a five time decrease in sex ratio. One can only imagine what is going to happen in 2021. It is a very clear cut and well managed supply chain through frontline workers and other middle agents.
Neelam said, in her practice of 38 years she has seen all sort of people; Engineers, doctors, Judges, advocates, IAS Officers, all asking for sex determination. She has experience in her own clinic and practice. And regarding religion; all religions including Christians, even Muslims, so it is mindset. The open economy, globalisation has added to this. People want small families, and if the family is small, one boy has to be there, that is the mindset. So all castes even in tribal areas, even schedule tribes the sex ratio is declining.
Media as a Stakeholder
Even media’s understanding of the dynamics. Doctors become powerful because of the kind of money they earn and because of the powerful clients they have. They have very good network, everyone gets ill and everyone needs treatment and doctors become powerful. The interest of the medical organisation and lobby is to save the fellow colleagues. That is how they have a monopoly and they do not want a lot of regulation and they aggressively oppose what is being done. That is the problem of the doctors. “In fact, there are very few doctors like me who are against this practice. I don’t know many doctors who are fighting against this practice for 20 to 25 years”, she says. She is part of the IMS and sometimes gets into trouble or sometimes they get into trouble. It is important to sensitise the medical community and several organisations such as UNFPA tried such as but it is the question of lucrative money.
Media doesn’t understand the social and local dynamics. There are only 600 machines in UP and it is not difficult to regulate the PCPNDT Act. She has now started media sensitisation. Media has very good connection with doctors and they influence media. It is important to understand that it is money and money and money and nothing else. It is important to provide media with information. that media understand the real stories around it and write about it.
Civil Society Organisation
Her larger understanding is that; they do not understand the provisions of the PCPNDT Act and the role of the statutory mechanism and what is their role sitting in different advisory committees and therefore they are not able to advocate those forums where they can actually make a difference. So that is why they are not able to advocate those forums where they can actually make a difference. She realised after siting in several statutory bodies; be it central supervisory board or state supervisory board or advisory committees, that if they do not have the knowhow of the PCPNDT Act, they become redundant, you are not effective at all because they actually do not understand how people are violating the actual provision of the Act and in doing so they are favouring the unscrupulous people.
This is now 24 to 26 years of implementation on the ground but she thinks the goals have not been achieved.
During this Covid-19 time the very important PCPNDT Act provision has been removed which was illegal because there was no consultancy. She has information through her networks, media and CSO that sex determination is aggressively being done at this time. A few cases have been put up. She has got information, nobody is looking at it. Sex determination is being done unscrupulously during this time. This will be proved later on, but her efforts will continue.
If there is a political will, enforcement will also become serious. She has seen in several states that statutory mechanisms, the regulation and the supervision which is the responsibility of the responsibility of the political superiors such as the Health Minister to conduct the supervision. But that is not happening and hence lack of political will is important, without which the implementation is going to become very difficult.
She recognises that by 2012 whatever cases came from UP, the judgements were acquitted. She is now engaging with the judiciary and started conducting orientation programs for the Chief Judiciary Magistrates. For the last 5-6 years she is working with the Judicial Training and Research Institute, wherein she is conducted workshops for Judicial officers. Also for prosecuting officers. Because they do not know how to go about with prosecution.
- Sabu George: Concluding Session
Motivating Scholarship among Women’s Studies Scholars
He raised the importance of Women’s Studies Scholar to look at;
- what’s happening in your district, in your sub-district, in your state, in your neighbouring district areas, State
- To understand and use data from different sources: Census, SRS, NFHS, NHM (incomplete), CRS (birth registration-incomplete). Some of this data is incomplete, but all put together
- He suggests asking family, friends to know what is happening in the practice of sex determination, identify doctors who are doing it,
Third he suggests scholars to attempt to appreciate the practice of sex selection. In some areas, in Western UP for eg., in the 1980s like Meerut Medical College started sex determination in 1978, when it was stopped in Government institutions in Delhi.
If you look at Bundelkhand or Eastern parts of UP it may have come up in the 1990s or later. So depending on where you are, you will find different practices.
Although it is difficult, scholars could collect information about the practice from family, friends, ethical doctors, find notorious clinics, go with decoy patients, random visits in urban areas and villages. If possible target high risk groups, privileged, upper caste groups.
Unfortunately, he says 2021 census will be conducted only in 2022. Find case studies and revisit the qualitative information that you may have collected.
As scholars of women’s studies we need to understand the situation and highlight the difficulties. Without you understanding the extent of genocide happening, it is unlikely that the government or anybody else will take it up.
Some of the studies that can be revisited from 1980s, 1990s;
- Earlier village studies in Haryana, 1995-98 undivided Rohtak district
- North Tamil Nadu, 1986-90
- South Tamil Nadu, 1995-98 with micro finance groups and pulse polio
- North Karnataka, 1998-2001, Bagalkot, 2 Talukas with sugar factory.
Finally he spoke about the Covid-19 Pandemic lockdown impact
Evidence of increased domestic violence, media reports and women’s organisations.
And also suspension of PCPNDT Act from April to June 30th 2020. There is a likelihood of an increase in sex determination in these months. There’s going to be a much more masculine birth in the coming years.
- Final Discussion
Varsha added that we discussed about discrimination sex determination and selection. She clarified that we are not against abortion. Sex selective abortions are illegal, but abortions are a woman’s right. According to law she is allowed to abort. Here the issue is about discrimination, determination and sex selection through illegal abortions. Up to 20 weeks abortion is legal in India to which we support as a health right as a woman. There is a thin line, but a clear cut line, once sex determination is done, sex selection is possible and if selection is possible sex selective abortion happen.
What reasons can be attributed to the present imbalance of sex ratio among scheduled tribes?
Sabu answered that by and large sex ratios of minorities; Dalits, tribal are dependent on the region. For eg; in Gujarat the tribal blocks are larger. In a state like Jharkhand the tribal have land by law. There was a very significant tribal decision making, only one non-tribal Chief Minister. Where they have political power, the situation of the girl child is better. But again, if you don’t stop the crime of sex determination, For eg., he was mentioning his recent visit to Jharkhand, even in some of the remote districts and sub-district also some doctors are coming and doing sex determination. We have seen government doctors doing ultrasound. And the Health Department and the State Government not wating to take action, so if the crime of sex determination becomes very profitable for a Government doctor to get involved then I think not only tribal girls, every other girl gets affected badly, including Dalits.
I think it is very important to recognise that the worst drops (in sex ratio.) in 2011 was in Maharashtra, and parts of Gujarat where the overall sex determination is very high. So once this reaches Jharkhand and other areas, In 2021, I would expect tribal as a whole, tribal in Jharkhand, tribal in Chhattisgarh, everywhere (the sex ratio) will fall.
- According to available Vedic literature, in the early Vedic era women enjoyed a position of respect but in the later era it declined, what are the reasons behind it.
Rekha answered that by and large patriarchal society that was more than 5000 years. It cuts across all religions, all levels, all classes. There is a big politics behind creating a glorious past just to justify that today if the status of women is bad, there is a certain reason for it. Patriarchal bias continues to the medieval period, modern period and as Neelam said it cuts across all religions too. It is mindset is most important how we look at the girl child.
Varsha added that we talked about sonography machines, about ultrasound and misuse of the technology. But in recent times IVF and pre-conception is also possible. People are selecting the foetus using these technologies too. Earlier was very costly, but as the cost reduces in Metros more and more people are using this technology. These IVF centres are not following the PCPNDT Act. It is important know what is happening with the PCPNDT Act in the IVF clinics and also in the genetic counselling laps and clinics. So as science and technology is growing, it helps people to use technology to discriminate and get rid of the female foetuses. So we have to monitor not only ultra-sonography centres but also IVF and genetic centres.
Sheela said that about how technology steadfast the existing gender bias in elimination of girls, and now there’s a new technology coming in. Neelam continued about NIPT is coming in that can find out the sex of the fetus. NIPT can determine the sex of the baby within 10 weeks of gestation, foetal cells are found in the maternal blood and the entire genetic composition of both the mother and foetus can be determined including the sex of the foetus. Lal Path labs have started doing it but ICMR is not bothered about it. In the last Supervisory Board meeting this was one of the topic of discussion and in her own practice too Neelam has observed that people are sending their samples to Singapore through Lal paths Lab for sex determination. Even senior officials who are in position of power are doing it. Rs 20,000 is the cost. According to her recent experience, one senior official in Jharkhand got this test done.
Sabu said that the mindset is not in concrete. Violence against women has increased, dowry or sex determination. If we don’t highlight our tolerance for discrimination. Our tolerance for discrimination is important. Indian and Chinese immigrants abroad too practice sex determination. We are worried about IVF clinics that conduct sex determination. He said big labs are easier to control, but small clinics are more difficult to catch. India will soon cross China if we are not able to stop elimination of girls.
Sheela noted that a very few people can access the new technology but with it becoming more affordable, and more and more people accessing the technology, there will be further drastic decline in the sex ratio and increase in the elimination of girl foetuses. Similar to amniocentesis, sonography and there could be another wave. In Eastern Europe also sex ratio has also fallen in favour of boys.
- Debajanee, Central University Assam. Nowadays surrogacy has become important, and the relationship between surrogacy and sex determination? Is there any study or resource person.
Surrogacy uses the womb of the mother but otherwise the fertilisation of egg takes place outside. IVF it is always possible to select the sex of the baby. She knows a clinic in Calcutta as well as in Delhi. On Investigation a lot of surrogate mothers said that they had a male child.
Women are exploited as surrogates because they get the money and even the family used to push the woman. Fortunately the law has changed and we are thankful that the law has come in and there is some sort of regulation. But surrogacy is similar to IVF and sex selection can be done.
Sheela added that sex determination and selection can be done in two stages; one in the selection of embryos to be transferred into the surrogate mother’s womb and the second in in-utero selective abortions inside the womb. Many surrogate mothers she met had undergone this procedure.
- Kakoli Banerjee, is that is the reason why IVF usually has one girl and one boy?
Usually if there is only girl foetus surviving, no abortion is done, but any other combination, it is known that in-utero abortions is done in favour of a boy child.
Rekha Pande thanked everyone in the panel, experts in the field and practical knowledge and experience, the doctor lawyer and the activists. She said the serios issue to be focus upon and change the mindset.
Sheela Suryanarayanan added that as Sabu said, that as academics and students working in Women’s Centres, we need to look at the implementation of the law too, apart from looking at the mindset. We should interact with Varsha, Sabu and Neelam who are actually working on the ground.
To which Neelam said her NGO Vatsalya and Varsha also said her NGO Lek Laadki Abhiyan accept interns for students. She said “we call Satara as a National, Learning site for PCPNDT Act”.
Sabu George concluded by saying, “in 2001, post Census there was a lot of write ups in journals, it became a fashion to do so. In 2005-06 that enthusiasm reduced. For 2021, if we don’t pick it up and highlight, I think the country will also forget and more and more girls will be eliminated”.
Rekha Pande, Head, CWS, University of Hyderabad, India. Sabu George, Researcher and Activist working towards the Protection of the Girl Child.
Varsha Deshpande, Advocate and Activist fighting to save the Girl Child.
Neelam Singh, Gynaecologist and Social Entrepreneur.
Cordinated & moderated by Sheela S., Faculty, CWS, University of Hy