Punjab might have improved its child sex ratio over a decade, but the state still has a long way to go.
As per Census 2011, the state's child sex ratio is 846 girls per 1,000 boys, up from 798 in Census 2001. During a meet on the decennial survey here on Wednesday, experts said an increase of 48 points was appreciable, but Punjab was still among the laggards, just ahead of Haryana, whose child sex ratio is 830.
"There is a need to demystify the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act, 1994, for the common man" said New Delhi-based Dr Sunil Mehra. He said if a woman wanted to go for abortion, her right should not come in conflict with the Act.
The meet was organised by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Voluntary Health Association, Punjab, and Action Aid, New Delhi.
Former health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla said, "Awareness campaigns and creating fear of punitive action can make a change. Such measures can turn things around, as seen in Nawanshahr and Fatehgarh Sahib districts."
Fatehgarh Sahib district, which had Punjab's lowest child sex ratio (766) in Census 2001, improved to 843 in Census 2011, while Nawanshahr district also made a significant improvement from 808 to 879.
Chawla stated that patriarchal norms prevalent in society were one of the causes of female foeticide. She said the Akal Takht needed to be asked as to how many people had been declared 'tankhaiya' for conducting sex-determination tests.
When Bhai Manjit Singh, former jathedar of Akal Takht, was asked why no action was taken against erring doctors, he said: "The Takht high priests are in a position to answer the question." Manjit Singh was at the helm when the Akal Takht issued a hukamnama (edict) in 2001, telling people to shun female foeticide.
Reena Singh of the Population Research Centre, Panjab University, Chandigarh, said: "Awareness campaigns should focus on men who force women to undergo sex-determination tests. The problem is acute in the landed gentry. It has been found that people from the so-called elite class, who are educated, show preference for sons."
Pyare Lal Garg, executive director, State Health Systems Resource Centre, Punjab, said the gender issue should not be seen in isolation. "The problem needs to be placed in the larger context of social, economic and political crisis."
On the future course of action, Dr Mehra, who is also a board member of Action Aid, said society should consider women equal to men. "Government schemes for women should not be sugar-coated as welfare schemes but as something that they are entitled to. While drafting schemes for women, the approach should be right-based, not welfare-based," he added.