Upholding the rights of the girl child

Since 2000 CFAR has been working in Rajasthan on reducing sex determination and ensuring the implementation of the PCPNDT Act on the ground. In March 2011 we also took on a three year program in south and south-west districts of Delhi with the focus on halting the declining child sex ratio and upholding the rights of the girl child.

How it began

CFAR’s efforts to reverse the downward spiral of the child sex ratio (CSR) in Rajasthan  goes back to 2000 when it provided media advocacy support to a group of civil society representatives who had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court to demand the inclusion of pre-conception in the PNDT Act, 1994.

By then the alarming decline in the child sex ratio (CSR) was more than apparent with the 2001 Census revealing that the child sex ratio (CSR) in the 0-6 age group in Rajasthan had gone down from 916 in 1991 to 909 in 2001, which was far below the national average of 926 girls per 1000 boys.

CFAR steps in

In 2005 CFAR decided to step in and create awareness on the alarming fall in the child sex ratio, the urgent need to halt the practices of sex selection and sex determination and related issues of the rights of the girl child. For starters, we conducted three state level training workshops for representatives of CSOs, CBOs and networks to strengthen civil society’s response against sex selection.  Seventy participants attended the workshops that were held in Jaipur, Udaipur and Bikaner between October and December 2005. This was followed by two dissemination workshops on implementing the PCPNDT Act in January and February 2006 to strengthening the official response against sex selection. Fifty seven participants, including legal experts, government agencies and other stakeholders, attended the workshops that were held in Jaipur.

Outcomes

  • Government order instructs CMHOs in all 32 districts to reconstitute District Advisory Committees
  • 70 representatives of CSOs, CBOs and networks attended 3 state level consultations to build awareness on the law
  • 57 stakeholders, attended 2 dissemination workshops held to strengthen the response against sex selection
  • April 2007 complaint lodged with District Collector, Bhilwara. CMHO instructed to take stringent action against offender
  • Registration of 5 ultrasound centres cancelled in Bhilwara district
  • Boards highlighting the penalties for violating the law given to ultrasound centres, clinics, hospitals in Barmer district

In 2006 our efforts got a huge boost when CFAR, with support from IFES and USAID undertook a year long program (August 1, 2006 –July 2007 and further extended to September 2007) for “Enhancing Legal Activism on the Implementation of the PCPNDT Act in Rajasthan”. This enabled us to extend the scale of our intervention and conduct consistent advocacy with critical stakeholders – government officials, doctors, legal experts, the media, civil society and community women - on the rights of the girl child with the focus on the urgent need to enforce the implementation of the PCPNDT Act on the ground. These interactions also helped us to understand the societal issues that have been perpetuating the practice of sex determination. For instance, it was the revelation by community women in Jaisalmer, that families from Jodhpur were accessing the services being provided by a large number of ultrasound centers in Jodhpur that prompted us to conduct a survey of 73 of the 88 registered ultrasound centers in Jodhpur city to understand the levels of violations.

Meanwhile, persistent advocacy with district functionaries resulted in the holding of the first ever meeting of the Barmer sub-division Advisory Committee. We were also able to conduct a slew of multi stakeholder workshops in Barmer, Jodhpur, Alwar, Bharatpur, Jhunjhunu, Bhilwara and Sirohi to disseminate the learning from the ground and share experiences of strengthening the law.

The stakeholders included the District Collector, CMHOs, Additional & Deputy CMHOs, officials from the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD), representatives of the Indian Medical Association, members of the Advisory Committee, doctors, ultrasound owners, advocates, representatives of grassroots and community-based organizations, anganwadi workers, ANMs, lady supervisors, Sahyoginis and the media. 

Impact of these efforts

This year long intervention went a long way in:

  • Enhancing the district level response against the misuse of ultrasound machines.
  • Building local expertise and experience to implement the PCPNDT Act. 
  • Initiating a series of local actions by grassroots practitioners.
  • Strengthening administrative will.
  • Strengthening the implementation of the PCPNDT Act

During 2008, CFAR's main focus  was  on  developing  and strengthen civil society's understanding and enabling  it with skills necessary  for implementing  the PCPNDT Act in 12 districts of Rajasthan. The scope of this project also enabled CFAR to, work closely with district administrations and NGOs to intervene against  the unlawful and unethical practice of   sex selection,  shift perceptions in the community against the girl child and more importantly to initiate a constructive dialogue on the need to reject the practice of sex selection.