The Daughter Disadvantage – Is Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Changing mindsets at all?

December 2016

Data from the Civil Registration System (CRS), appears to indicate that there is a substantial decline in the sex ratio at birth. The ratio has fallen from 898 in 2013 to 887 in 2014; see http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/Sex-ratio-at-birth-on-the-decline/article16728001.ece. The decline has been sharp since 2011 when the figure was 909[1]. The states of Manipur, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu have witnessed a decrease in the sex ratio.

Evidently, the decline appears to worsening over the years and the practice of discrimination against girls appears to be seeping into communities – even those, which were not known to have had strong patriarchal ideology.

A key lesson learnt as a part of the efforts addressing sex ratio and sex selection is that “in the long run, sex selection needs to be become the community’s own concern so that it endeavors to find local solutions. In the process, the long-held patriarchal beliefs and expectations that discriminate against daughters can be obliterated and the value of girls upheld” (see http://india.unfpa.org/sites/asiapacific/files/pub-pdf/UNFPA_EA_GHRC_India.pdf)

Our team at Development Solutions has been part of assignments that have evaluated efforts of the civil society and community in addressing this issue. We have evaluated interventions in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Our evaluations found that while involving the community certainly brought dividends; it also came with its share of challenges. Awareness on the issue had increased as a result of community involvement. However, interestingly, the awareness often led to denial of the issue. Many said that it does not occur in their community. Given the denial, it becomes difficult to discuss the issue of sex selection. Overcoming this denial is important to move forward. The other risk in involving the community is that on occasions, some of the members who are involved by the civil society perceive their role as one of surveillance. This has an impact on the autonomy of women and their rights.

It is also seen that efforts do not sustain beyond the project period. There is little effort by the projects to create community institutions that would take this process forward. In addition, these efforts often remain as small islands of community efforts- without adequate linkages to the health department, Panchayat and other stakeholders. There is still lot of effort needed for it to become “community’s own concern”.

Given the poor implementation of Government programs and declining involvement of the civil society and the community; sex ratio is expected to decline much faster in the next few years. There needs to a comprehensive effort towards addressing issues of women, more so aspects of education, employment and security. “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” needs to be more than a just a slogan!

[1] There also appears to be discrepancy in the data – while CRS 2011, indicates Sex Ratio at Birth at 909, Census 2011 indicates a figure of 919.