लड़कियां कम हो रही हैं, घट रही हैं... चिंता न करें, यूं सब ठीक हो जाएगा

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वरिष्ठ पत्रकार आर. जगन्नाथन ने एक आर्टिकल लिखकर बच्चियों-बेटियों की संख्या में भयानक गिरावट पर हात-तौबा न करने की सलाह दी है. जगन्नाथन साहब पांच तर्क गिना रहे हैं और उसके आधार पर बता रहे हैं कि चिंता  करने की जरूरत नहीं है, सब ठीक हो जाएगा. उनका यह लिखा फर्स्टपोस्ट डॉट कॉम से साभार लेकर यहां प्रकाशित किया जा रहा है. कई तथ्य, तर्क और आंकड़े जोरदार हैं. पढ़िए, ज्ञान चक्षु खोलिए.

5 reasons why we needn’t panic over falling child-sex ratio

R Jagannathan

: In the last three decades, up to 12 million girl children are believed to have been aborted in India due the traditional preference for a male child : The sharpest fall in the child-sex ratio has been seen in Kashmir, from 941 to 859 :

The stats are chilling. In the last three decades, up to 12 million girl children are believed to have been aborted in India due the traditional preference for a male child, according to a recent article in the Lancet. The 2011 Census also shows a continuing drop in the child-sex ratio (number of girls in the 0-6 age group per 1,000 boys). The ratio has dropped from 927 in 2001 to 914.

“The number of girls being aborted is increasing and may have reached 12 million with the lower estimate of four million over the past three decades,” says Reuters quoting Prabhat Jha of the Centre for Global Health Research in Toronto, Canada, who co-authored the Lancet article.

“The logic is families are saying if nature gives us a first boy, then we don’t do anything. But if nature gives a first girl then perhaps we would consider ultrasound testing and selective abortion for  subsequent children,” he told the agency. Jha said the preference for boys in Indian society remains firmly in place and the reason why abortions of female foetuses were occurring more among richer and educated parents was because they could afford to do so.

While Indian society certainly needs to look closely at the fall in the child-sex ratio, here are a few counter-arguments that need to be weighed when speaking out against the practice of aborting female foetuses.

First... it doesn’t work. The government has legislated draconian laws to prevent sex determination tests, but they still happen. The rich simply fly to Dubai to get it done. The only sensible way to reduce female foeticide is through mass campaigns and social education, not by penalising sex determination tests. Outlawing these tests only drives the practice underground, with deleterious consequences for women who abort using quacks.

Second... there is something bizarre in a situation where abortion is legal, but sex-determination is not. If abortion up to a certain stage of pregnancy is defended with the freedom of choice argument, surely the right to determine the sex of the child is also about freedom of choice? Or are we saying that aborting a male foetus is legal, but not a female one?  In the US, there are entire websites devoted to helping couples decide how to get boys or girls. (The secret apparently is to keep the sperm cool before the “act” by wearing loose underpants, etc, but that’s another story).

It is important to recognise that the decision to have a boy or a girl is based on a couple’s assessment of the costs and benefits.  The costs may be social (which can be combated through education) and/or economic, but should society be taking a call on what should be an individual couple’s decision? Society can disincentivise or incentivise a behaviour that, it believes, is in the larger interest, but surely it is ultimately the couple’s call?

Third... activist intervention by do-gooders in causes that seem justified today may work out to be downright stupid at a later date. Sanjay Gandhi’s forced sterilisation campaign in the mid-1970s set back the family planning campaign by a decade. People continued having larger families till economic development and growing literacy made couples think twice about having too many kids. One, they didn’t need so many when survival rates were higher. Two, they discovered that kids need lots of investment, and so having fewer was smarter. China is another case in point. Its one-child policy has effectively swung the demographic advantage in favour of India. China, it is said, is sure to get old before it gets rich.

Fourth... value comes from scarcity. When women are undervalued by society, the only way to increase their value (apart from education and jobs) is to make them relatively scarce. By reducing the birth of girl children, girls born today will command a better future since they can call the shots. In Punjab and Haryana, a region with a traditional skew against females, brides from women-surplus states like Kerala are beginning to command a premium – the exact opposite of the general practice of demanding dowries from girls.

Fifth... when an environment turns hostile, more males are produced in almost all species. We see that happening among humans, too. The Scandinavian countries, with the most peaceable of environments, tend to have a huge female skew. In India, Kerala, which has seen Gulf-based prosperity for several decades now, has a similar skew, though the state’s high level of literacy is also a contributory factor.

The reverse is the case in Kashmir, which has been an embattled state for the last two decades. The sharpest fall in the child-sex ratio has been seen in Kashmir, from 941 to 859. This, when Muslims in India have generally shown a better record on nurturing girl children than Hindus.

The moral: it’s not worth panicking over the falling child-sex ratio. Education and good sense over cost-benefit ratios will ultimately win the argument against female foeticides.