FYI 27th August, 2019

The Declining Child Sex Ratio: And A Connection To The Workforce.

After reading an article online a couple of days ago, titled ‘In Last Three Months, Not a Single Girl Child Was Born in 132 Villages of Uttarakhand‘, I couldn’t help but bitterly laugh to myself. Now do not get me wrong, I am no monster. What made me laugh was the irony of the situation existing in our country.

Working in the field of prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace, I was indeed flabbergasted at the gender imbalance problem that exists in our country even today. As experts in the socio-legal sphere, we often have the audacity to assume that things are much better now and that “at least we are working on it”. But when news items stating “216 children were born in the 132 villages of the Uttarkashi district in last three months. However, not a single girl was among the newborns” are disseminated, we are left in an emotional conundrum of sorts.

This emotional response is unsuited to those who work extensively in this space, especially having been a lawyer for half a decade where logic, data and facts are the norms. Be that as it may, the sheer level of atrocities that engulf women and girls is overwhelming, to say the least.

In the year 1901, where 972 females as against 1000 males were recorded – in 2011 it dropped to 918, even though social welfare legislations were enacted.

At one instance – we are working towards providing equal opportunities for all workplaces, talking about inclusivity for one and all, explaining sexual harassment at workplace laws without focussing on one gender identity because sexual harassment is subjective – we are also, unfortunately, bowled over by the hard truth. News articles outlining that unborn children, before they grow up into women who are capable of being a part of the workforce of this country have one big fight to win first – the fight to come into existence.

On May 3rd 2019, the Supreme Court of India noted that “Nothing can be more sinister, immoral and anti-social than allowing female foeticide”. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 (PCPNDT Act) was formulated in order to prevent gender-biased sex selection, keeping in mind the abysmal child sex ratio in the country. The PCPNDT Act prohibits the determination of the sex of the foetus and has stated punishment for the violation of the provisions.

It has also mandated compulsory registration of genetic counselling centres, genetic clinics and labs. However, what it entails is not exactly what it reaps. There has been a sharp decline in the child sex ratio in India. In the year 1901, where 972 females as against 1000 males were recorded – in 2011 it dropped to 918, even though social welfare legislations were enacted.  Given the biological norm of 100 newborn girls to every 103 newborn boys, millions of more women should be living among us. If they are not – one of the crucial reasons is that they have been aborted.

Women’s participation in managerial and top-level administrative posts is an abysmal 13 per cent in Asian countries.

Over the years, the Supreme Court passed several landmark judgements wherein it directed the State and Central Government(s) to take appropriate action for effective implementation of the Act and promulgated the need for stringent checks, inspections and background verifications under the Act. In December 2017, the Supreme Court went on to extend the scope of the Act in terms of the Information and Technology Act, wherein it was held that freedom of access to information is not extendable if it violates any law in force. A nodal agency was appointed to keep a check on various search engines disseminating information regarding sex determination or promotion thereof. 

The declining sex ratio is a big part of the basis of violence against women – as a skewed sex ratio is one of the reasons very likely to increase incidences of violence against women. This becomes even more important in terms of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013 because sexual harassment often rests on the foundation of a power imbalance.

Based on a UNIFEM Statistic of Women and Development, women’s participation in managerial and top-level administrative posts is an abysmal 13 per cent in Asian countries. If there are such heavily skewed sex ratios in our country, the percentage of women holding positions of power can never be at an equal footing. This means a very crucial means of curbing sexual harassment at the workplace and other acts of violence against women requires a better sex ratio. Every awareness program which is women-centric must have more dissemination about making gender-biased sex selection unacceptable.

Also Read: All You Need To Know About The PCPNDT Act


Featured image used for representative purpose only. Image source: Factly

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