Son preference is a global issue, say experts

Experts from various countries like South Korea, Germany and the USA urged for addressing the problem of sex selection on a priority basis.

Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia

New Delhi: Experts from various countries like South Korea, Germany and the USA urged for addressing the problem of sex selection on a priority basis.

Sex selective abortion is not just about technology as it has its roots in the prevailing value system and mindset, said various international speakers at an ‘International Policy Dialogue on Pre-natal Sex Selection’ in New Delhi.

Preeti Sudan, Additional Secretary of the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development, said that the trend of sex selective abortion was disturbing. “It is also how we perceive women in the society. It has to do with our value system. We need to look at this issue in a holistic manner,” she said.

The dialogue that witnessed experts from various countries like South Korea, Vietnam, Germany and the USA deliberated on a variety of topics like a cross-country comparison of policies and sex selection in Asia. It also talked about how Korea addressed the problem of the son preference, Vietnam’s response to the issue at the policy level and how the US looks at sex selection within their country.

Dr Ranjana Kumari, Director and co-Founder of India's Centre for Social Research, said that son preference is a global issue. “There are countries in Asia that have experienced the problem of sex selection in the past and they have also successfully addressed it,” she said.

“Demographic transition from high birth rates to low birth rates and a transition from agricultural to industrialised society could also be the reasons for a preference for the boy child. In that context, it is important to look at what other countries have done to address this problem,” said Dr Axel Harneit-Sievers, Country Director, Heinrich Boll Stiftung, India.

Rakesh Kumar, Joint Secretary, the Indian Ministry of Health, said that the problem of sex selection was turning grave. “We are losing about 6 lakh girls because of sex selective abortion every year. Since 1981, the problem has become more serious and widespread. It has to do with the mindset. It’s a grave crime and people are finding a way around the PCPNDT Act. We need to address this on a priority basis,” he said.

According to the census data, the sex ratio in South West Delhi which stood at 846 among children in the 0-6 age bracket in the year 2001, witnessed a further 10 point decline to 836 in 2011. In New Delhi, the sex ratio further slipped from 898 in 2001 to an abysmal 883 in 2011.

As per the recent Census 2011, Gurgaon has the sex ratio of a dismal 854 women to 1,000 men in the state. A comparison with the previous census shows that Gurgaon's sex ratio, 10 years ago, stood at 850 — Rohtak and Jhajjar had 847 and Panipat was 829.

The objective of the conference was to exchange international knowledge on sex-selective practices and methods of addressing the problem, and develop policy recommendations incorporating international perspectives on sex-selective practices.