Describing female foeticide as a grave challenge, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday said information, education and communication (IEC) could play a role in building a positive environment for valuing the girl child, particularly at the grassroots level. He said the Centre had decided to provide funds to States for setting up dedicated cells to monitor the implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994.
There is, therefore, an urgent need to ensure that funds given under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) for IEC are meaningfully used, in convergence with the departments of Women and Child Development, Education and Panchayati Raj, social and religious leaders and civil society for continued advocacy of the cause of the girl child, Mr. Azad said at a meeting of the State Health Ministers to review the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 here.
Pointing out that most States were yet to develop an IEC plan with clear, creative and constructive messages, the Minister said work was required to be initiated on this important issue without any further delay. “You may also like to lead the IEC campaign from the front as political support and advocacy at your level shall send a strong and unmistakable signal about the need to desire and nurture the girl child.”
Skewed sex ratio
The 2011 Provisional Census figures have shown the misuse of medical technology for pre-birth sex selection is evidently increasing as the number of girls in the age group 0-6 years now stands at a mere 914 for every 1,000 boys.
“We,” Mr. Azad said, “should all be worried about the declining child sex ratio and the serious social ramifications due to the resultant demographic imbalance. We must, therefore, take all necessary steps — political, social, economic and scientific — to not only end negative discrimination against the girl child but also to encourage positive discrimination toward her.”
Not too happy over the implementation of the PC and PNDT Act at the State level, the Minister said though the law was a tool to curb female foeticide through abuse of medical technology, any legislation, no matter how well conceived, would be effective only when implemented in right earnest.
Though the PC & PNDT Act is a Central legislation, its implementation lies entirely with the States who are expected to enforce it through appropriate authorities at the State, district and sub-district levels, he said, adding that the functioning of appropriate authorities is required to be monitored by the State Supervisory Board headed by the State Health Minister.