Interventions: Human Rights Advocacy & Monitoring:
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State Consultation on Declining Child Sex Ratio

The consultation held at Udaipur, Rajasthan on 2nd September 2011 in association with Jatan Sansthan, Udaipur was an effort to learn from the experiences of the organizations/ groups/ individuals working to check progressive decline in child sex ratio, and to strategize possible advocacy interventions on the issue. It was attended by around 40 participants including civil society representatives, PCPNDT cell members and coordinators, DPM, Advocates, Generalists and Medical Doctors. The house was unanimous on the fact that implementation of PCPNDT Act has remained utterly disappointing and has made trivial contribution to the fight against declining child sex ratio.  The need was also expressed to look beyond implementation of the Act and to address the socio-economic and cultural aspects of the problem. Major recommendation on this front was curriculum revamp at school and higher levels to make education more gender sensitive. Some of the major recommendations (evolved from the consultation) are as appended below:
  • Alternate Report: Civil Society must publish a shadow report at district level giving a true account of the situation of girl child in the district. 
  • Lawyers Must be trained to litigate proactively using PCPNDT Act
  • Alternate dialogue with Doctors community must be established. Since Doctors are very much aware of legal aspects of the Act, all that is needed to do is their moral sensitization. 
BACKGROUND: 
Recent declining in Child sex ratio is alarming. Though, the trends of progressively declining child sex ratio have been documented ever since the first census conducted in the British period, it has now reached to an all time low—914 on every 1000 boys. What is most worrisome in the present decline is the fact that skewed child sex ratio has now moved beyond the boundaries of Haryana and Punjab. While states like Jammu Kashmir (859), Maharashtra (883) and Gujarat (886) are in tight grip of stringent patriarchy; the state of Rajasthan (883) has emerged as new hot zone for sex selective killings. 
 
In Rajasthan, 23 districts out of 33 recorded a sex ratio of above 900 for children between 0 and 6 years in 2001, but in 2011, only 9 districts could cross the threshold of 900. Thirteen districts showed a decline greater than the state average of 883. Data reveals that of the 33 districts in Rajasthan, barring Ganganagar, all others have recorded a fall in juvenile sex ratio in the current census. The districts that have seen the biggest fall include Dungarpur, Jaipur, Sikar, Rajsamand and Tonk, Jhunjhunu, Alwar, Dausa, Bharatpur, Karauli and Sawai Madhopur. The fall in Dungarpur district, a predominantly tribal area, merits a closer inquiry as it shows a drop in child sex ratio by 39 points.
 
Given the scenario, it becomes imperative for the state to actively step in and take necessary steps to check deteriorating gender composition of the society. It is therefore, also a responsibility of civil society to extend their support to government initiatives, to strengthen them and to strategize their actions to address the problem. State consultation on declining child sex ratio—Missing Half—was a result of this felt need. It was an effort to contemplate the challenges of protection of girl child and to come out with feasible strategic solutions. Specific objectives of the consultations were to:
  • Discuss successful efforts on checking sex selection. 
  • Identify and document the gaps at policy level, and in enactment of the Act. And to recommend possible strategies to the state government. 
  • Develop plan of action to take up advocacy initiatives at grassroots level 
EXPERIENCE SHARING
Participants shared their experiences of working to check declining child sex ratio and tried to identify successful models and approaches to be replicated.
  1. 1. Ms. Usha from Vikalp, shared that sensitizing people on the issue has been base of all their interventions.  They advocated the issue with health department. Consultations were organized with Medical Doctors, and sociological aftereffects of the problems were shared. Effective implementation of PCPNDT Act was also advocated. Vikalp also hold sensitization meetings with education and police departments, Rotary club and Lion club. Vikalp then joined we-campaign campaign to restore daughters’ lost dignity and respect in the society.  Usha ji also highlighted the need of having a careful look at census data. Digging deeper she pointed out that child sex ratio has dipped alarmingly in the districts where family planning program has achieved considerable success. The link is clear. Population growth has been controlled by killing girl child.  
  2. Sharing her experiences of working on the issue, MS. Laxmi from Seva Mandir, underlined the fact that sex selection techniques are very popular in tribal belt of the region. Seva Mandir has been advocating women’s issues for the last 40 years. It is best known for its enterprise development model ‘SADHNA-women’s collective for handicraft items’- strengthening livelihoods of thousands of women in the area. Laxmi ji shared that prime focus of their anti sex selection interventions was ‘Caste Panchayat’. Members were sensitized on sociological implications of progressively declining girls in the populations. Panchayats were convinced to imposed monetary penalties and take other measures like social boycott of the family, if killing of unborn girl, for other than medical reasons, is proved. Gender Monitors—a boy and a girl in each village—were prepared to ensure that people do not opt for sex selection techniques.  Dignity of girl child was restored through various awards and programs benefiting families on participation of girls. Skill development of adolescent girls was another strategy deployed to enhance their employability and (or) entrepreneurial skills, to get them a more respectful place in the family.
  3. SRKPS interventions on the issue have been primarily focused on sting operations to catch medical practitioners indulged in sex selection.  The organization has caught more than 13 doctors red-handed, and handed them over to cops.
  4. Sharing their work on the issue, Dr. Kailash Brijwasi, CEO-Jatan Sansthan, recognized gender sensitization of different departments, civil society members, panchayat members, SHG members and school/colleges students, as the most effective strategy to restore girl child’s lost dignity and respect in the society. The organization provided vocational trainings to girls to turn them into an earning family member. The basic idea was to improve her status in the family. 
Best practices identified:
  • Training advocates to litigate using PCPNDT Act: Vikalp
  • Preparing gender monitors in the village: Seva Mandir
  • Sensitizing caste Panchayat: Vikalp
  • Sting operations to catch faulty medical practitioners: SRKPS
  • Skill enhancement of female members: JATAN 
IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS: 
Mainstay of the discussion was major challenges in the process of dealing with the problem. The discussion covered the prevalent practices/ trends in sex selection and its regulation. 
 
Dr. Gaytri Tiwari, Professor, Sukhadia University, expressed the need of looking the issue beyond implementation of PCPNDT. She viewed son preference, neglect of girl child, and practice of dowry and male biases in enumeration of population as major social factors associated with declining sex ratio.  
 
She focused on changing the mindset of people through different innovative gender sensitization programs. Highlighting the need of regulating the media, she suggested that the National Commission for Women and the state commissions should monitor the kind of communication/advertising materials that are being distributed among the masses/ being displayed on television. Special attention should be given to words used in these documents/ audio-visuals.
 
Pragnya Joshi, an independent consultant, drew participants’ attention towards the fact when the administration tightens the noose around private sonography centers, they relocate themselves in nearby towns, making the technique popular even in smaller areas. Administration never bothers about the sonography machines that were being used by now closed sonography centers. The issue needs to be brought to the attention of the administration. 
 
Ritesh Tiwari, former state PCPNDT coordinator, said that PCPNDT Act mandates formation of an advisory committee at district level to better guide interventions against sex selection. However, the committee has never been formed in any of the districts of the state. Intense advocacy is needed with the department to form the committees. 
 
He also commented on functioning of National Inspection and Monitoring Committee (NIMC), which is under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and termed it disappointing. 
 
He also drew participants’ attention towards the fact that The number of ultrasonic tests performed at district level, is under reported. The follow up of court cases is also poor. All that could be attributed to lack of willingness of appropriate authorities to take strict actions (against faulty medical practitioners), lack of human resources, overworked human resources, and lack of clarity about roles/responsibilities and powers. In his words “NGOs have a vital role to play by facilitating district administration in effective monitoring of ultrasound clinics, and their regular sensitization. 
 
He mentioned two major difficulties in implementation of the ACT – monitoring the maintenance of F-forms filled by the clinics, and analysis of birth and death registers / records.
 
Hemant Kumar, District PCPNDT Coordinator, Rajsamand, raised the issue of lack of autonomy with PCPNDT Coordinators. He said, PCPNDT Coordinators have a challenging role to play, but only if set free. They remain engaged in list making and other mundane jobs. 
 
Rajendra Singh, HRLN State Coordinator and an advocate in Rajasthan High Court, expressed the need of sensitizing judiciary members on the Act. He said “courts release the ceiled and seized sonography machines, which actually does not come under their purview.  Such misinterpretation of the Act by courts boosts the confidence of medical practitioners and undermines the efforts of civil society. 
 
RECOMMENDATIONS: 
Major recommendations evolved from the consultations are as given below:
  1. For effective implementation of the Act: 
    • Formation of advisory committees at district level 
    • Ensure regular meetings of State Supervisory Board.
    • Ensure regular audit of Form F submitted by all registered clinics.
    • Prepare biennial audits of birth registers at hospitals and clinics to monitor sex ratio trends.
    • Follow up pending court cases, if necessary by advocating for setting up of fast-track courts.
    • Ensure direct involvement of the State Commission for Women and other women’s organizations in monitoring
  2. For strengthening of the Act
    • The role of the police in the implementation of this Act needs further elaboration. Going by the experience of other progressive social legislations, the law-makers have continuously denied a clear, significant role to the police. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, Appropriate Authorities often find it difficult to seek help from the police while conducting raids, searching premises, seizing and sealing equipments and records. At times, without such help, the Appropriate Authorities may not be able perform their duty.
    • There should be a provision for separate registration of sonography/ imaging techniques and gynaecological techniques as their requirements are totally different. It will ensure effective monitoring of these centers. 
  3. For sensitization and training: 
    • Gender sensitization of the law enforcement agencies especially the police and the judiciary through periodic trainings/ discussions etc.
    • Sensitization of medical officers who are responsible for implementing the PC & PNDT Act through regional seminars/ discussions etc.
    • Sensitization of lawyers to litigate using PC & PNDT Act. 
    • Review the language, content and strategies used in mass /public communication.
    • Create mechanisms to increase women’s access to media and communication technology, and support the training of media personnel to eliminate gender bias in reporting
    • Curriculum revamp at school and college levels to make education more gender sensitive. 
    • Preparing a district shadow report on the status of implementation of PC & PNDT Act. 
  4. Other Advocacy initiatives:
    • Advocacy for formation of advisory committees at district level
    • Concerned monitoring partners can play the role of major advocates on the basis of their observations and experiences.
    • Advocacy with the concerned departments/ institutions/ professional associations, panchayats and others.
THE WAY FORWARD: 
It was decided that participants will keep posting specific issues concerning sex selection; new approaches/ mechanisms to address the issue; information regarding specific campaigns etc. PAIRVI offered its support in terms of networking, lobbying and advocacy support, to grassroots advocacy initiatives on the issue.
 
Related Document: Missing Half: Concept Note