With the latest census figures throwing up highly skewed statistics of child sex ratio, the National Commission for Women (NCW) today urged the government to quickly provide “more teeth” to the PNDT Act, while asking religious leaders to play a role in weaning the society away from sex selection.
NCWchairperson Girija Vyas termed the figures highly “unfortunate” but said she was hardly surprised by them.
“It is very unfortunate but honestly speaking we were anticipating this. This is the reason we have been focusing on seeking amendments in the PNDT Act to give it more teeth to achieve a better conviction rate, that is currently abysmally low,” she said.
The census figures have revealed a national child sex ratio of 914 girls per 1000 boys, lowest since independence and down from the previous census figure of 927.
Vyas said the pre-natal diagnostic techniques law should be updated and its definition expanded to meet the changing requirements of the time like the advances in technology.
“We had, four years back proposed changes in the Act. I again appeal to the government to bring these proposals in Parliament in the next session,” she said.
She said the law needs to increase its ambit to sex determination techniques beyond sonography, as well as lay down a role for police and any third party like the civil society in achieving convictions – features that are presently absent in the law.
“The very low conviction rate under the law is a major issue… there has been, I believe only one conviction over the past five years and if the conviction rate goes up the incidences would naturally come down,” she said.
The chairperson, however, welcomed the increase in the overall sex ration to 940 women per thousand, as also the rise in literacy levels. The latter, she said, gives hope for improving the skewed ratio.
While calling for strong efforts on awareness campaigns targeting both the poorer and well-to-do sections of society, she also sought a major role for religious leaders in sensitising people.
“Religious leaders have a strong influence in Indian society and their active role is crucial for achieving success in this campaign to prevent female foeticide,” she said.
The NCW chairperson also said that besides the rate of births, the mortality rate of girls also needs to be monitored and state governments should frame and enforce their own laws to deal with the menace of female foeticide.
“We have asked for state-wise and district wise data on mortality of girls to monitor and analyse it,” she said.
Vyas also said that she was hopeful of a positive response from a group of ministers meeting on the NCW’s proposed honour and tradition bill to deal with honour killings. Agencies