By Anuja Naik
Son-preference continues to persist as a deeply entrenched issue in India, transcending both urban and rural domains as well as societal structures. This pervasive problem has been a pivotal driver of a pronounced imbalance in the nation’s child sex ratio. As per the Census of India 2011, the child sex ratio at birth (0-6 years) stood at 914 females per 1,000 males, demonstrating a clear manifestation of son preference influencing family decisions.
This article delves into the strategies employed by both government and non-governmental organizations in India and examines their impacts in addressing sex-selective abortion and restoring a balanced sex ratio in the country.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Campaign: Launched in January 2015, BBBP is one of the flagship initiatives by the Indian Government to address the declining Child Sex Ratio. The campaign focuses on preventing gender-biased sex-selective abortions and promoting the education and empowerment of girls. Through mass media campaigns, community mobilisation, and policy advocacy, BBBP has raised awareness about the importance of valuing the Girl Child and has led to significant improvements in sex ratios in certain regions.
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act: Implemented in 1994 and amended in 2003, this legislation prohibits sex determination tests and regulates the use of ultrasound machines to prevent sex-selective abortions. The act imposes stringent penalties on offenders, including imprisonment and license cancellation for medical practitioners involved in illegal sex determination. Although challenges persist, the PCPNDT Act has been instrumental in curbing sex-selective practices. As per a 2021 data, there have been over 617 convictions under this Act, over the last 25 years.
Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY): Launched in 2005, JSY is a conditional cash transfer scheme aimed at promoting institutional deliveries, especially in rural areas. It incentivises pregnant women to deliver their babies in health institutions, thus reducing the risk of sex-selective abortions and maternal mortality. The scheme has significantly contributed to increased institutional deliveries and access to maternal healthcare.
Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana: Introduced in 2015, this savings scheme encourages parents to save money for the future education and marriage expenses of their Girl Child. With an attractive interest rate and tax benefits, the scheme encourages parents to invest in their daughters' futures. As a result, it contributes to shifting away from the conventional perspective that raising daughters entails heightened financial burden.
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
Save the Children: As a leading NGO working towards child rights and welfare, Save the Children has been actively involved in addressing gender inequality and promoting the well-being of girls in India. Their initiatives include community awareness programs, scholarships for girls' education, and capacity building for empowering women and girls in marginalized communities.
Population Foundation of India (PFI): PFI focuses on advocating for gender equality and reproductive health and rights. Through innovative communication campaigns and capacity building of local organizations, PFI aims to change societal attitudes towards gender discrimination and promote the value of the Girl Child.
Nanhi Kali: This NGO focuses on providing educational support to underprivileged girls, thereby reducing the economic burden on families and encouraging parents to educate their daughters. By supporting the education of Girl Children, Nanhi Kali empowers them to break the cycle of poverty and contributes to a more balanced sex ratio.
Private Sector Initiatives:
The private sector also plays a significant role in promoting the welfare of the Girl Child through corporate social responsibility initiatives. By aligning their business goals with social development, companies can make a considerable impact on girls' lives.
Some corporations sponsor girls' education, provide mentorship programs, and create safe spaces within communities. Moreover, by hiring and promoting women in leadership roles, businesses can serve as role models, inspiring young girls to pursue their dreams and break traditional gender barriers.
Community Engagement and Grassroots Movements:
Local initiatives, led by community members, can address issues like child marriage, gender-based violence, and lack of access to healthcare. By creating awareness and advocating for girls' rights, these movements not only foster change but also promote a culture that values and supports the Girl Child.
ADF India’s Vanishing Girls campaign actively works to fight against sex-selective abortions and save the lives of thousands of girls who are killed in the womb every day. With efforts to raise awareness and advocate for the rights and fundamental freedoms of the unborn Girl Child, the campaign aims to protect and promote the inherent dignity of daughters, which should not be any lesser than a son’s.
ADF India provides free legal assistance through our panel of allied lawyers to women whose unborn Girl Children face in any way a hindrance to L.I.F.E (Love, Inheritance, Freedom, Equality). To know more, please visit www.adfindia.org/legal-aid.
Anuja Naik is a human rights activist. She has worked in the Development Sector for the last 12 years and holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Sikkim Manipal University with Human Resource Management as a specialisation. She has previously worked on policy-related interventions to ensure better Centre State coordination on the issue of Labour Trafficking.