The Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss said that though the child sex ratio has been declining in the country, legislation alone cannot solve the problem. Speaking at the inauguration of the National Conference on 'Save the Girl Child', he said that a change in the collective consciousness of the general public including the medical community is needed to put an end to it.
The conference was inaugurated today by the Prime Minister in which the Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare, Smt. Panabakka Lakshmi, Minister of State (IC) for Women and Child Development, Smt Renuka Choudhury, several Members of Parliament, Ministers of Health & Family Welfare from the States and senior officials from both the Centre and the State participated.
The following is the summary of the Health Minister's speech:
I on my own and on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare welcome the Honourable Prime Minister to this National Meeting on "Save the Girl Child". We are extremely grateful to you, Sir, for sparing your valuable time. Your presence here in this august gathering will provide extra impetus to this noble cause.
As all of us are aware that the child sex ratio has been declining in the country. The child sex ratio for the age group of 0-6 years is currently 927 girls per thousand boys in the country showing that it has declined from 945 recorded in 1991 Census. This declining trend of child sex ratio is a matter of serious concern for all of us.
Child sex ratio has been adversely affected by the practice of pre-conception and pre-natal sex selection. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC&PNDT Act) enacted in 1994 seeks to address this problem legally. It is the end product of extensive deliberations among all stakeholders i.e. the peoples' representatives, medical practitioners and the civil society. The PNDT Act focuses on the need to eliminate the illegal practice of sex determination and female foeticide and echoes the collective concern of the people's representatives and the civil society.
Legislation alone cannot solve the problem of sex selection practices and its impact on the adverse sex ratio. At the heart of the problem is deep rooted prejudices and the patriarchal social framework and a value system based on son preference. Given the socio-cultural context and deep-rooted prejudices what is needed is a change in the collective consciousness.
The long-term solution to this problem lies in creating the right environment where sons and daughters are equally valued. This can be achieved by creating awareness about the gender equality through advocacy and communication efforts along with empowering the women suitably.
Appealing to the medical fraternity, the Minister urged them to refrain from encouraging sex selection attitude. He also requested the Health Ministers of all the States to give topmost priority to this important national issue and to take measures to reverse the declining child sex ratio.
A number of steps have been taken by the Ministry for strict implementation of the Act as well as for creating awareness and sensitization. Significant ones are release of funds to Members of Parliament @ Rs. 5 lakhs for their constituency in the vulnerable States, sensitization of judiciary through National Judicial Academy, launching of the campaign to save the girl child by Honourable President of India etc. Save the Girl Child programme has been proposed to be included under the umbrella of NRHM for which a comprehensive Action Plan has been drafted. To reach out more middle class households in which the problem is acute, the Ministry is putting up a website for information and awareness.
The Minister said, a PNDT Website, a toll free number to get information and to receive complaints against the violators of law and a Teleserial titled 'Atmajaa' (a story of a girl) are going to be launched today.
To curb the problem the Ministry is considering amendments to the PC & PNDT Act like graded punishment, designating District Collectors as appropriate authorities, accrediting qualification for the medical professionals to handle these diagnostic techniques, etc., in the Act
Welcoming any suggestions, which would be helpful in curbing the illegal practice of female foeticide and create a healthy environment for our girl children, the Minister said the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India on this day reaffirms its continued commitment to this noble cause.