“Sons preferred for retaining property; maintaining a daughter’s chastity found difficult”
Respect parents’ right to choose the sex of their child and legalise sex determination in the country was one of the responses to a social audit conducted in the Capital’s South-West district to understand the growing phenomenon of female foeticide in these parts. The audit, conducted by the Centre for Social Research (CSR), has also revealed that people are quite open about their preference for boys and justified it by saying that a son is essential for maintenance and retention of property while daughters will have to be married off.
South-West Delhi, which includes places such as Vasant Vihar, Vasant Kunj, Dwarka and Najafgarh, was chosen because it has the worst sex ratio in the Capital (836 women for every 1000 men), said CSR Head, Research and Knowledge, Manasi Mishra. “In my experience of working in Delhi and Haryana, maintaining female chastity is cited as a major reason as a preference for boys,” she said, apart from reasons such as payment of dowry, preserving familial legacy and share in property.
The audit further revealed that community members in posh localities believed that sex selection is practised by economically backward strata of society and according to them the “educated class does not hold son preference as a dominant ideology”. Among the more appalling findings are non-participation of non-government organisations in engaging in advocacy efforts regarding the issue and residents’ welfare association meetings not addressing the issue on a regular basis since it is “considered a very personal and private affair”.
Respondents were also not aware of the Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act and its implementation. “While the general attitude may be not to reveal the acquaintances with sex selection cases, since it is known to be illegal, it is still not seen as a ‘crime’,” said Ms. Mishra.
The audit covered 100 stakeholders such as Aanganwadi workers, ASHA workers, doctors and nurses who are “part of the issue” and 900 households in the South West district.
With people crossing over from the South-West district to adjoining districts such as Jhajjar and Bahadurgarh to determine the sex of the child, there should be a provision under the PC-PNDT Act to permit the District Appropriate Authority to raid adjoining districts, said District Magistrate Vikas Anand. He also highlighted the abysmal conviction rates against clinics and those involved in this practice.
“Among the institutional challenges is the lack of dedicated manpower at the district level, insensitivity of the police towards crime against women and sex selective abortion not being a priority for the system” he said. “However, among some of the efforts to curb this practice is during marriage registrations obtaining an oath from newly wed couples that they will not go for sex determination of their child.”