More than dowry, property laws make girl-child unwanted: study

September 3rd, 2008 - 10:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 3 (IANS) Delhi’s skewed sex ratio at 762 girls for every 1,000 boys is way below the national average. Dowry, however, is not as much the culprit for this trend as the property and inheritance laws, which are heavily biased against women, says a recent study by the Centre for Social Research (CSR).According to the 2001 census, the national sex ratio was 933 females to every 1,000 males. In Delhi, the ratio was 927 females to 1,000 males. However, a Britain-based medical journal, Lancet Research, in association with an Indian group conducted a study in Delhi in 2005 and found that the ratio has further gone down to 762:1,000.

At a press meet here Wednesday, CSR chairperson Ranjana Kumari said a majority of the people surveyed admitted to prefer a male child over a female because of the inheritance laws besides customs and traditions. The study on female foeticide was conducted in three Delhi districts with lowest sex ratios.

“About 71 percent people in Narela, 38 percent in Punjabi Bagh and 13.5 percent in Najafgarh said that age-old customs, like the soul achieves salvation only when a male child lights the funeral pyre, make them prefer a son over a daughter. Also that the father’s property, if given to his married daughter, goes into a different lineage, makes people not want a daughter at all,” she said.

Female foeticide, therefore, is rampant in these areas like most others in the capital and the country.

“What we found is that this trend of preference for sons was prevalent across society, cutting through people who were educated, rich or poor, class or caste. Property and inheritance laws were seen as encouraging the trend,” Kumari said.

She said property and inheritance laws, which are biased towards men, make people not want a daughter at all. “More than dowry, these laws make people have a negative attitude towards the girl child, considering her as a burden and encouraging female foeticide. This is especially true in families of businessmen where it’s often seen that even after three daughters, the family does not give up hope for a son.”

According to the 1991 census, south Delhi had a sex ratio of 912:1,000. This number further came down to 886 females to every 1,000 men. “And South Delhi is supposed to be the hub of prosperous and educated people,” Kumari said.

A random check on the medical clinics where illegal sex determination and abortions take place did not reveal much except leading to a blame game.

“The doctors said quacks were carrying out illegal sex determination tests and abortions. Some employees said sex determination tests used to take place in their clinic but not any longer. The government should take into account as to who are the people buying the ultrasound machines, which help determine the sex of the foetus, and ensure that he or she is a registered doctor,” she added.

Besides analysing the situation and assessing people’s mindset, the study, which was carried out over a period of one year in 2007, also attempted sensitising people on the issue.

CSR now plans to conduct a similar study in four districts of Haryana - Rohtak, Ambala, Sonepat and Kurukshetra.

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