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Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao, Skewed Sex Ratio and Bane of Technology

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By Dr. J. K. Bhutani

July of 2015: A village in Hisar, Haryana. Bateri is a 38 years illiterate female. Her husband is a labourer. She delivers 11th child (however, a female) in the hope of getting a second son. She already has 5 living daughters and a son. And had lost four girls after normal births…!

July of 2015: An affluent sector in Panchkula, Haryana. Renuka is a 32 years old female. Is a working I.T. professional. Her husband is a professor in a university. She opts for voluntary hysterectomy (surgery for removal of uterus) on medically flimsy grounds, having two sons and history of two abortions (medical termination of pregnancy,i.e.,MTP)….!

Photo credit: southasia.oneworld.net
Photo credit: southasia.oneworld.net

Common to both the scenarios is an underlying preference of the family to have a pair of sons. But the difference is in the access and use of modern technology of sex selection. The educated rich couple could access and afford the technology for their personal preference and goal while the illiterate ‘not-so-rich’ couple could not access the technology and used the natural multiple-birthing method to achieve the same goal. The latter naturally puts the health of the women in jeopardy and puts a population pressure on the nation as well. No doubt, India is witness to two issues: Skewed sex ratio and population explosion.

From this arises another issue of high maternal mortality rate. With a  maternal mortality rate (MMR) of around 200 deaths/100,000 live births ,India is far from achieving the fifth Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing maternal mortality to 109 per 1,00,000 live births by next year. With population explosion, India is likely to surpass China to become the world’s most populous nation by 2022.  How sex determination technology has evolved and how it has affected the population and skewed sex ratio is an interesting journey of misplaced notions and overpowering commerce.

It all started in 1974 with development of a technique called Amniocentesis (drawing amniotic fluid with a syringe from amniotic sac that surrounds the fetus). But it was soon replaced by Ultrasound machine as the latter was a safe, non-invasive method of detection of foetal wellbeing and sex detection. The 1980s and the 1990s saw the mushrooming of ultrasound centres across the country as they became an easy tool for doctors and quacks to make quick money by doing determination of sex on the foetuses growing in the wombs! The deeply rooted traditional gender bias notwithstanding, it is the rising wealth, elite attitude, and western influence and technology which affect and result in fewer children overall, and also many fewer girls. We must admit to this fact that the availability of ultrasound and ready access to abortions has sharply reduced the number of women in the world.

The technology of the eighties was so much lapped by the people of India who are quite obsessed with the male progeny. The trend soon became alarming with the annual declining females and a skewed gender ratio with female infanticide numbers becoming the matter of hot debates in government and social circles. And with the constant dip in the female numbers, with national figures of 940 (in 2011) and in some states like Haryana having 877 and Chandigarh having 773 per 1000 male children set the ball rolling for some tough decisions.

Government woke up too late:

female feticide

The Pre-Conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act was passed in 1994 and implemented two years later. By that time the sex selection, which had an approval of the West-influenced elite and educated class too had become a norm for the society. It may be noted that as late as the 90s, many intellectuals were not against sex selection as a means of birth control. Unfortunately, a traditional preference of a male child and readily available technology driven by pure commerce, a deadly recipe for the female feticide was staring at us. The launch of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ (Save daughter and educate her) campaign by the Prime Minister last year in a sense shows the desperation of the situation! All women crimes, be it rape, violence or trafficking, are related to this skewed ratio in a way. The sins of eighties are visible now as there are insufficient number of brides for the boys born in the eighties and nineties. The current scenario, despite strict implementation of PNDT act, is as dismal as it was a decade back. The Haryana figures released in June of 2015 show a dismal SRB (Sex ratio at birth) of 869 per 1000, a decrease from the year 2014 ratio of 874/1000. Understandably, Haryana is one of the most active states currently working on the ‘Beti Bachao Campaign’.

Future Scene and Options:

With the proliferation of technology and decreasing costs, the bane of this technology will be more visible and we as a nation of predominant young people need to device the appropriate strategies. The implementation of the PNDT Act will be reduced to a technical and legal matter, unless we prime the conscience of the society! Thus, saving daughters should be transformed into a social movement.

The universal registration of the pregnancy linked with Aadhaar number is another good option worth considering by all the governments and should be popularised with provisions of ‘state-of-the-art’ antenatal and postnatal care plus monetary incentives. All ultrasound and other test records should be made electronic and linked with the monitoring centralised database.

The selection of sex may be allowed after two female children as it shall incentivise people not to go for multiple pregnancies (as our protagonist Ms. Bateri had to undergo).

In addition, conditioning of the society for equality of sex, anti-dowry ideals and respect for women should be undertaken via education, media, Bollywood, and the religious leaders.

The time to act is now! And till we achieve the ideal sex ratios, it is imperative to keep working on the solutions! Empower, respect and secure the women we have with us as they too were destined to be equal inheritors of this civilization.

Dr J.K. Bhutani MD is a protagonist of preventive and promotive health care based on austere biology and facilitating self healing powers of human organism.
You can follow him at https://twitter.com/drjkbhutani

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‘Hamara Swasthya, Hamari Awaz’ Campaign: Women Thrive for Respect, Dignity in Maternal Healthcare

The more women speak about their needs and priorities, the easier it will become for program implementers and policy makers to address their needs

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Maternal Healthcare
Maternal Healthcare. Pixabay

July 27, 2017: White Ribbon Alliance India drove the nation-wide campaign ‘Hamara Swasthya, Hamari Awaz’ to understand the women’s want for improved maternal health in India. The idea of safe motherhood must be extended beyond to incorporate respect for women’s basic human rights including respect, dignity, choices, and preferences during maternity healthcare.

The survey was conducted across 24 states and Union Territories. Women have observed improvement in maternal health care with the passage of time and proposed a wish as to be treated in a respectful manner.

About 1,50,000 women were surveyed across the country and 23% women beseeched for dignity and respect in maternal healthcare.

Encouraging women to express their yearning towards a safe maternal healthcare, 32241 women i.e. 2 out of every 10 women desired for maternal health services assimilated with dignity and respect.

ALSO READ: Stress during Pregnancy may cause Female Children to Exhibit binge-eating-like behaviour in Adulthood

18% out of the 23% women seeking dignity and respect requested for respectful behaviour from the healthcare provider and the remaining 11% looked for equality based on religion and caste.

11% asked privacy while 4% requested for confidentiality during check-up and treatment. 7% requested counselling and consent. 9% wished for timely admission and less waiting time for bed whereas 15% requested for one bed per woman in the ward.

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7% also demanded provision for a birth attendant, whereas 5% asked for one stretcher per woman. 8% wished for fixed visiting hours and availability of visitor’s room to ensure privacy and the remaining 5% women emphasized no sexual harassment by doctor or staff.

Dr Aparajita Gogoi, National Coordinator, White Ribbon Alliance India said, “Our aim with Hamara Swashtya, Hamari Awaz was to amplify the voices of countless women to positively impact the quality of care.”

She further adds “We have been consistently undertaking programs to support the Government’s efforts to improve the quality of care and maternal healthcare. We have observed that attitudes and behaviour of maternal healthcare providers considerably influence service seeking behaviour of expecting mothers, which in turn impacts the maternal mortality.”

– Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94

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Female Sex Ratio in Haryana reaches 950, CM Manohar Lal Khattar acknowledges “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”

Haryana sex ratio has improved rapidly to 950 as gainst the earlier 879

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Haryana, April 11, 2017: Haryana is a state which has been infamous for female foeticide over several decades leading to the least sex ratio across the country. However, time seems to be turning for the female child in the state as the ratio is improving rapidly and has touched a score of 950 for the first time.

The fact was declared by the Haryana state CM Manohar Lal Khattar. Khattar said the figure has been achieved following strict efforts to improve the sex ratio through a sustained campaign as part of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padao’ campaign.

“The state government launched a massive campaign by implementing the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, and Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, and running sensitisation-cum-awareness campaigns promoting girl child,” Khattar said, mentioned PTI report.

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He said more than 430 FIRs (first information reports) have been lodged in the state under the PC-PNDT Act and MTP Act against offenders during last about two years since the launch of the campaign against those who were involved in sex selection and female foeticide.

“Out of these, more than 80 FIRs were registered after inter-state raids in the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Punjab. All raids were conducted by deploying decoys.”

“Apart from these, more than 50 cases of Sex Selection Drugs (SSDs) being sold by unscrupulous elements promising male child were also detected and FIRs were registered against such offenders under the PNDT Act and Indian Penal Code (IPC),” Khattar said.

The Chief Minister said rampant misuse of MTP kits for illegal abortion purposes by unauthorised paramedics in the state was also detected and culprits were booked under MTP Act, Drugs Act and IPC.

Haryana witnessed the sex ratio at birth crossing the 900 mark in 2016 for the first time.

Earlier, the sex ratio in Haryana was a dismal 879 females per 1,000 males.

-prepared by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram Twitter @NikitaTayal6

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Malayalam Newspaper Offers some Tricks on ‘How to Conceive a Male child’

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Representational image. Pixabay

December 15, 2016: In the country where the sex ratio is appalling, only 940 girls born each year for every 1,000 boys, according to the 2011 Census, people are trying hard to change the scenario. As this Malayalam newspaper did, the headline of an article in the newspaper read as ‘Want to conceive a male child? Here are some tricks’.

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You are right, in this 21st century this article did get published. It has now been taken off from the Internet but how does that matter? In a country where even sex determination of foetuses is illegal, the Malayalam daily, Mangalam published the ways to conceive a male child.

According to LadiesFinger, a website which translated the article says, “The article does admit that these methods might not assure 100 percent success. This is because even science cannot discount for those rare anomalies, despite the solid reasoning and logic behind these facts.”

“The tips include limiting procreational activities to days 1,3,5 and 7 of the week, during which the strength of the sperm is ‘scientifically stronger’.”

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Then, no-skipping breakfast rule for a woman interested in boy-bearing.
According to The Ladies Finger, “Mangalam dictates that men should avoid food items including acidity content, as it reduces the power and the brawn of the semen. Stronger sperm means XY-bearing embryos, as the presence of the strength automatically cancels out on the possibility of girl embryos.”

And then, every future mother of boys should sleep with their faces turned to the left side, also facing west simultaneously.

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LadiesFinger further translates Mangalam stating, “Men should avoid food items including acidity content, as it reduces the power and the brawn of the semen. Stronger sperm means XY-bearing embryos, as the presence of the strength automatically cancels out on the possibility of girl embryos.”

– prepared by Pinaz Kazi of NewsGram. Twitter: @PinazKazi