ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Child Sex Ratio and the Politics of 'Enemisation'

India's child sex ratio has gone awry despite several monitoring and corrective mechanisms. The root of the problem, the very "undesirableness" of daughters, is not remotely dealt with by the state which has adopted a modus operandi of "enemisation" of the offenders. In this world view, the state is vested with power and authority, while blame and responsibility lie with the guilty individuals. A look at the concept of enemisation in the context of India's skewed CSR argues that often the state's acts of "doing good" for the people are informed by the politics of enemisation.

India’s child sex ratio (CSR) has gone awry: between the Census of 2001 and that of 2011, even as the coun­­try  witnessed “unprecedented” economic growth and began to be perceived as one of the superpowers of the millennium, the national CSR deteriorated alarmingly. The 2001 Census recorded a CSR of 927: 1000, while the 2011 one showed 914 girls per 1,000 boys at birth. This being the national average, the ratio is obviously worse off in half the nation. Maharashtra has an unexpected ratio of 883:1000. The unexpectedness comes from the fact that it is one of the “economically developed”1 states with Mumbai ­being the financial capital of the country. So, even as we have often understood economic deprivation as the cause for a skewed CSR, Maharashtra’s reality comes to question this assumption and urge rethinking.

The Maharashtra government subsequently designed methods to plug the gap. Having realised the significance of the phrase “at birth”, it focused on the issue of female foeticide – the logic being that the numbers get skewed right at birth since several girls are not allowed to be born in the first place. They go missing at the foetal stage because of sex-selective abortion. Foetal sex can be detected by ultrasonography (USG) after the 10th/12th week of pregnancy. Indian jurisprudence marked the use of USG to detect foetal sex as criminal activity ­under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques, (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act in 1994, in a bid to curb abortion of female foetuses. The punitive ­actions recommended for anyone caught disobeying the law included shutting down of a provider’s business and the permanent cancellation of his/her registration. The Maharashtra government piloted a monitoring project that would check the illegal use of USG. In March 2010 it installed the Silent Observer (SIOB) in Kolhapur district. This was a centrally located device equipped with a satellite based tracking mechanism that could monitor all sonographies being done across all USG centres in a given ­radius. All relevant data of all pregnant women who came in for USGs – legal and illegal – were to be centrally stored on a government database.

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