'All ministries must ensure gender equity'

Farah Naqvi insists on a national policy framework


Puja Bhattacharjee | May 30, 2012

Farah Naqvi, member, National Advisory Council (NAC) Working Group on Gender and Sex Ratio said that gender equity and gender service is not the responsibility of Women and child ministry or the health ministry alone but should include the involvement of law ministry and rural development ministry too. Naqvi was addressing the 2011: Policy, Program and Community Responses on the Issue of Sex Determination and Sex Selection.

“Although female feticide is a serious problem which we have been trying to tackle for two decades, we must not create an environment in India that stigmatises all abortions. We must safeguard women’s reproductive rights. We should take care not to create an atmosphere which stigmatises all abortions. We need to safeguard abortion right,” said Naqvi. 

People in the past wanted sons as he could perform funeral rites etc. Today they fear having a daughter as crime against women is on the rise. The availability of sex selective technology makes the problem worse.

“There are three features of the policy that needs to be formulated. There has to be a framework of gender justice and gender equity. It has to be an inter-sectoral responsibility/concern and women’s reproductive rights in India must be safeguarded”, added Naqvi.

She reiterated the need to sensitise Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers and Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANMS) as they can transmit gender sensitivity to the family. These health workers are the first interface. They can tell a family how to nurture a girl child.

She added that the government needs to look at Assistant of Reproductive Technology Bill, the legal regime needs to keep up with medical advances in sex selection. “Implementation of PCPNDT is abysmal. Institution delivery data should be available in district level so that alarm bells don’t go off every ten years” said Naqvi.

“We won’t be able to make a dent if we don’t improve the condition of women.  We have to hit the demand and that is not possible unless we are able to stop violence against women. Laws on women need to be reviewed. A father may say ‘I don’t want to safeguard a daughter for the rest of my life’. National Communication and Advocation strategy is needed,” she added.

Naqvi said that child sex ratio is affected by infant mortality, post and neonatal care. One of the determinants of child sex ratio is sex ratio at birth.

“We need to have immediate short-term solution. It is ultimately about changing the mindset of the entire country. There is a need to formulate a national policy to improve sex ratio at birth. There are a lot of initiatives to this effect”, said Naqvi.

“Court’s role comes last. Appropriate authority has to file complaint under section 28,” said Asha Menon of Delhi Legal Service Authority (DLSA). “If a case goes to court, the accused often says adequate notice was not given and out he goes. Society needs to be equally empowered to move applications to court. The media should avoid shifting the burden on women by saying ‘Why isn’t the woman protesting,’” she added.

“Daughter aversion is more intense during second pregnancy. When ultrasonography machines are bought, the cost has to be recovered. As a result, nexus with gynecologists is formed. In UK, in spite of a robust public health system, USG is not even one-tenth of that in Delhi” said Dr Narendra Gupta of Prayas, a grassroots organization in Chittorgarh.

Dr Satish Agnihotri, an expert on child survival and nutrition said that sex ratio of first child has to be monitored. “If there is a breach there then it is a cause for alarm”.

Currently the government is reviewing a policy framework recommended by NAC.




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