Three more districts have now been added to half a dozen in Tamil Nadu known for a declining child sex ratio, say worried health department officials reviewing female foeticide and the existing laws.The new districts that have shown the disturbing trend are Cuddalore, Perambalur and Tuticorin.
At a weekend conclave here, supported by the Tamil Nadu government, senior health officials called for increased inspections of maternity and scan centres, while campaigners urged adding punishment provisions to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.Everyone demanded that birth control methods should be made freely available to women, irrespective of marital status.
'In 1960s, Tamil Nadu's juvenile sex ratio (0-6 years) was 995 female/1,000 male births; in 2001 it was 939/1,000 male births,' pointed out P. Phavalam, convenor of the Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion (CASSA). 'Of Tamil Nadu's 201 talukas (village blocks), 28 have juvenile sex ratio below 900 and six have below 800. In 16 districts, it was below 952 in 2004, less than the worldwide accepted sex ratio,' she added. In Perambalur district, the female-male child sex ratio at birth was 944/1,000 in 2001. This has now dropped to 928/1,000, data collected at government primary public health centres over seven years has shown.In Melamathure in the district, the sex ratio has fallen from 890 in 2001 to 747 in 2006. Around Irumblikurichi, it has fallen from 985 to 725, in Gunamangalam it has fallen to 709 female children per thousand male children.
In Cuddalore district, the female-male ratio at birth has fallen from 960 at the turn of the millennium to 915 now. In 2006, in villages and towns round Marungur and Perperiyankuppam, the sex ratio fell to 647/1,000 and 695/1,000 respectively from around 800 in 2001.In infanticide hotspots like Salem, the sex ratio has improved from 890 to 912, but in places like Elampillai, where the ratio was already low (819), it has become lower still, 746/1,000 male births.The problem continues to persist in Chellampatti region of Madurai where female births have declined further.In places like Powerkadu, in Namakkal, where for every 1,000 male births there were 1,176 girl children in 2001, only about 702 are born now.Virudhnagar district too has seen a decline of the sex ratio from 949 to 915/1,000 male children in the last six years.Tuticorin district, industrialising rapidly, has also seen the sex ratio fall from 969 to 930 in six years.
In areas like Mukuperi, the ratio has fallen from 1,134 female children/1,000 male children in 2001 to only 704 female children per 1,000 male children being born in 2006.Erode district, a well-known educational and textile hub, has seen the sex ratio at birth fall from 957 female children to 927/1,000 male children, indicating technology has aided in reducing the number of girl children.
In S. Kailasapuram area of Kovilpatti, only 631 female children were born per 1,000 male children in 2006.Only Dharmapuri district has shown remarkable improvement, the figure rising from 888 to 920/1,000 male births in six years. All these figures come from the government health department.Almost 40 years after the first campaigns to stem killing of the female new-born and foetus in this state began, special secretary to the Tamil Nadu government, health and family welfare P.W.C. Davidar says, 'the truth is, we spend more time at meetings than on inspections'.
'The data coming in from even our public health centres tell us we need to question our methodology of intervention,' Davidar told IANS. Before 1971, the abortion laws, which were part of the Indian Penal Code, recognised the right of the unborn child over the reproductive right of the mother.In 1971 came the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, which for the first time established the right of the mother to an abortion. In 2002-3 came the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (prohibition of sex selection) Act (PCPNDT Act), which was punishment legislation.The conclave demanded that the IPC provisions and the PCPNDT provisions should become part of the MTP Act. A Unicef study has shown that sex selective abortions account for 500,000 missing girls annually in India; the female-male ratio at birth is a universal societal health indictor.