BANGALORE: As the world observed International Day of the Girl Child on Wednesday, India's IT hub presented a poor picture of itself with a Karnataka government report indicating declining child sex ratio.
The child sex ratio (number of girls for every 1,000 boys aged between zero and six) is better in rural areas than in high income districts like Bangalore Urban, Mandya, and the northern district of Belgaum, says the recently released Karnataka Human Development Report of 2005. The ratio in Karnataka has fallen drastically from 960 to 946 between 1991 and 2001, when the last census was conducted. The ratio stood at 954 in rural areas and 939 in urban areas. Bangalore has a ratio of 941, much lower than some poorer districts like Kolar, in its neighbourhood and Bidar in north Kanataka. The national average is 927/1000, according to 2001 Census. Experts working in the field of protection of rights of girl child believe that easy access to the technology of sex detection through ultrasound machines among the affluent section in Karnataka has lead to the skewed sex ratio in the state. Female foeticide is a known reality in the state and no one is doing anything against it, say experts. According to Vimochana, a women's organisation, there is a spiralling growth of ultra-sound clinics in Bangalore in recent times and there are as many as 40 ultra sound clinics in Mandya town alone.
"Looking at figures one can easily imagine the situation. Doctors are the main culprits. In the name of pre-natal diagnosis, they are detecting the sex of the foetus. Instead of accusing parents who go for sex detection, it is the doctors who conduct such illegal practices that should be first punished," Donna Fernandes, member of Vimochana, told IANS.
"Moreover, there is no monitoring mechanism to check sex detection, mandated under the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act," she added.
Women rights activists say that aversion towards the girl child is obvious in a state like Karnataka, where the system of dowry is highly prevalent.
"Who would like to have a daughter when the parents have to pay hefty amount of dowry during her marriage? Moreover, women in urban areas of Karnataka are vulnerable to violence and abuse on a daily basis. All these leads towards preference of boys in our society," said K.S. Vimala of Janavadi Mahila Sanghatane.
The Sanghatane Wednesday started a campaign on girl child in colleges here to correct the skewed sex ratio in the state. "The figures available with us clearly indicate that mechanism to stop sex selection has not been effective despite promises of improving vigilance and introduction of schemes like Bhagyalakshmi (under which government deposits a certain amount in the name of every girl child born which she will get with interest on reaching 18 years), intended to improve sex ratio in the state," lamented Vimala. Although the state health department has constituted special cells in 13 districts where the sex ratio is adverse as per the 2001 Census, nothing much has been achieved in improving the situation in Karnataka, say women's groups.
"Awareness at the grass root level is needed to tackle the issue. We are cancelling the licences of diagnostic centres and doctors who indulge in sex detection," said an official of health department.
Experts fear that the next Census in 2011 will show further decline in the number of females as compared to males. "The skewed sex ratio has increased violence against women in the state. As an educated woman I am concerned about the status of women in a state like Karnataka, one of the fastest growing states in the country," said Sheela Reddy, an IT professional.