Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over declining sex ratio in the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for concerted and multi-pronged societal action to address the contributing factors in the predicament of the girl child.

“We need to strengthen legislative enforcement, basic health care and nutrition, and mobilise leaders of civil society, particularly the religious leaders, for a nationwide campaign to end all types of discrimination against women built into our societal structures,” he said while inaugurating a national meeting on “Save the Girl Child” here on Monday.

Describing the declining sex ratio and biases against women and girls as a national shame, Dr. Singh said female foeticide was one of the most inhuman, uncivilised and reprehensible practices. It was compounded by unethical conduct on the part of some medical practitioners — assisted by unscrupulous parents — who illegally offer sex determination services.

“We must overcome this great problem through social awareness and strict enforcement of the Pre Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques Act,” he said.

The Prime Minister asked the Health and Family Welfare Ministry to focus on orienting the million plus elected representatives of the panchayats and urban local bodies and use them as the medium for fighting this practice. He suggested that the Women and Child Development Ministry enlist the support of women panchayat leaders and women’s Self Help Groups to strengthen the nutrition programme.

Welcoming the participants, Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said legislation alone could not solve the problem of sex selection practices.

“At the heart of the problem are the 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,” he said.

Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury described the declining sex ratio as a “silent emergency.”