The Declining Sex Ratio in Punjab : A Case Study of Dhreri Jattan

It is agonizing to know that the gender bias and deep-rooted prejudice and discrimination against girl child, which have been there down for centuries, are now found to begin in the womb itself. The girl child in the womb faces the peril of pre-birth elimination i.e. female foeticide. Globalization and commercialization of the medical profession as well as human relations, propelled by large publicity in mass media, have also played a part making the sex determination tests and aborting the female foetus desirable.

No place is safe for women, not even in their mother's wombs. They are put to death before they are born. Female foetuses are selectively aborted after prenatal sex-determination, thus avoiding the birth of girls. As a result of selective abortion, between 35 and 40 million girls and women are missing from the Indian population. In some parts of the country, the sex ratio of girls to boys has dropped to less than 800:1000. The United Nations has expressed the serious concern about the situation.9 Recent stories show that eliminating girl children, whether before or after birth, is a part of pattern of violence that is linked to development paradigms that devalue women's status. In India, welfare measures like empowerment of women, reservation in Parliament, free education to girl child and a lot of other woman progressive initiative, do not make sense when one looks at the cases of female foeticide. Inspite of schooling among girls in recent decades, the patriarchal social structure survives.

The recent technological developments in medical practice combined with a vigorous pursuit of growth of the private health sector, have led to the mushrooming of a variety of sex-selective services. This has happened not only in urban areas, but deep within rural countryside also – areas where the other dimensions of healthcare and development are yet to penetrate. Social structures, social pressures and rituals that are responsible for this status of women and the brutal discrimination and violence visited on them. A woman who cannot protect herself, who is forced to submit to and subordinate all her desires to her patriarch, cannot protect her motherhood either. It is a hard reality that her place and prestige in the home as well as in society, is determined, ensured and enhanced only if she produces a male child. Increasing economic pressures and family planning programme successes move families towards a two-child norm, sex selective abortion becomes a means to meet the conflicting demands of a small family and the desire for sons.The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971 and the PNDT Act, 1994, now amended known as the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 2002 seek to regulate and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic techniques and medical malpractices which lead to planned abortions of the female foetus. There is little evidence that suggest that the laws relating to termination of pregnancy and prenatal sex selection have been effective in reducing the sex selective abortions in India. Law has not been able to achieve the intended results. This calls for a good look at gender issues in all their ramifications in our increasingly dysfunctional society. Against this backdrop, the aim of the study is to analyse the reasons why the proportion of baby girls is steadily declining in Punjab by analyzing various aspects of female foeticide in Punjab.

The findings of the report clearly proves the hypothesis that the off-spring selection favouring men was prevalent, thereby indicating that the life of a female is not valued but actually despised. There was great gender disparity and the sex ratio declined very fast during past five years. The survey was conducted with 60 selected respondents (30 males and 30 females).The reasons for declining sex ratio are family pressures, escalating dowry, girls do not add to family income, parents consider daughter as a burden, girls are prone to sexual exploitation or a fear that she may not be happy after marriage etc. Solutions required are more education awareness and the religion can play a vital role in this regard.





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