Female foeticide a national shame, says PM (Roundup)

April 28th, 2008 - 9:36 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) Terming female foeticide as a “national shame”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking as a “proud father of three daughters”, Monday made a fervent plea to fight the social evil and end India’s “bias” against girls and women. “The last census showed a declining child sex ratio. Multiple deprivations all with roots in the oppressive structure of patriarchy have resulted in a bias against girls and against women,” Manmohan Singh said while addressing a national conference on the theme of ‘Save the Girl Child’.

“This is a national shame and we must face this challenge squarely here and now.”

The prime minister said: “We need concerted and multi-pronged societal action to address the several contributing factors in the predicament of the Indian girl child.

“We need to strengthen legislative enforcement, basic health care and nutrition and reorient national literacy and school education programmes to give greater focus to women and the girl child.”

He also emphasised the need to mobilise “leaders of civil society, particularly the religious leaders, for a nationwide campaign for ending all types of discrimination against our women”.

Manmohan Singh appealed to all elected representatives to fight female foeticide and asked the health ministry to train a million-plus representatives of village councils to carry the fight to the grassroots level.

“Action to protect the girl child has to be on the agenda of every elected leader in our country. This is not to say that only women should be part of this campaign,” Manmohan Singh said.

“I do believe every elected representative must consider it his duty to be an active participant in this national campaign,” he told the conference.

According to the latest census of 2001, India’s child sex ratio is 927 girls per 1,000 boys and the sex ratio is declining over the last four decades.

“The census figures illustrate that it is some of the richer states of the country where the problem is most acute and these states include Punjab which had only 798 girls (per 1,000 boys), Haryana 819, Delhi 868 and Gujarat 883 girls per 1,000 boys in the 2001 Census.

“This indicates that growing economic prosperity and education levels have not led to a corresponding mitigation in this acute problem,” the prime minister pointed out.

He reiterated that gender related deprivation is an interlocked situation.

“Female illiteracy, obscurantist social practices like child marriage or early marriage, dowry, poor nutritional entitlements, taboos on women in public places - all make the Indian women and especially the Indian girl child extremely vulnerable.”

He said the National Literacy Mission should be reoriented to improve female literacy and “challenge” the adverse sex ratio in the country, the prime minister.

“There has to be much greater focus on female literacy because the adverse sex ratio that we have today has to be challenged fundamentally in the minds of our people.”

India’s literacy rate is nearly 65 percent but female literacy rate is a dismal 54 percent.

Stressing the need for social awareness and strict enforcement of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques Act (PNDT act), he said: “I urge every citizen to step forward and help in empowering the girl child in every possible way. The action must begin at home, in our families, in our communities.

“I do not say this as the prime minister of India. I say this as the proud father of three daughters. I wish for every girl in our country what I wish for my own daughters,” he emphasised.

Quoting Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, he said: “We have a situation in the world where more than 100 million women were missing. These missing women were geographically located in South Asia, West Asia and China.”

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