Addressing Sex Selection: Strengthening Capacities to Address Continued Challenges and Emerging Concerns
The 2011 census reported the lowest ever child sex ratio to be recorded in the six decades since India’s independence in 1947. Despite a slew of laws to prevent female foeticide and schemes to encourage families to have a girl child, the ratio has dropped from 927 females against 1,000 males in 2001 to 914 in 2011.
There is an increasing prevalence of sex-selective abortions, which is mostly a result of the devaluation of the girl child due to the dowry system, lack of property rights and other social ills. Another precipitating factor in the increase of sex-selective abortions is the proliferation of Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART).
The Indian government is officially committed to addressing the issue of sex-selective abortions through legislations such as the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Act, the Clinical Establishment Act and the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill and Rules. Despite the existence of strong legislation against the use of diagnostic techniques for sex selection, the country has an abysmal record when it comes to actually implementing them. Given the well-documented shortfalls in implementation, as well as the lacunae that exist within these laws, it becomes evident that the efforts towards addressing the issue of sex-selective abortions cannot solely rely on legislation.
The solution lies in addressing societal outlook on the issue, through holistic campaigns that improve public awareness about the value of a girl child in a family and society, the dowry system, as well as about policies that advance the socio-economic and political rights of women.
The Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation supported Sama in a project that aimed to build the capacities of civil society organisations so that they could develop a comprehensive understanding of the issue, to facilitate engagement with diverse stakeholders , to affect a wider mobilisation of action through the participation of various organisations, networks, people’s health movements, state bodies and authorities and to plan future strategies for addressing the issue of sex selection.
While it is important to inform policy and legislation at the national and international levels, there is a greater need to orient members of state bodies towards the issues around sex selection. As part of this project supported by the Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation, Sama collaborated with organisations and networks to initiate these orientations, use international human rights instruments to help strengthen state action and to address the issue of sex selection in a more effective manner, highlighting the gaps and concerns regarding this issue, the organisation drafted the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) shadow report in 2011 and conduct media and policy advocacy.
Sama, a Resource Group for Women and Health, seeks to locate the concerns of women’s health and well-being in the larger context of socio-historical, economic and political realities. To this end, its work revolves around advocacy, action research, material development and dissemination and training and capacity building.
Sama is a part of several national and international networks such as People’s Union on Social and Economic Rights and International Federation of Health and Human Rights.