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A mission to save the female foetus

By Sahana Charan

BANGALORE, JULY 22. Mandya district has been a silent witness to a falling sex ratio and rampant sex determination for the past couple of years. Now, a project to curb this trend initiated by the United Nations International Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) and Bangalore-based voluntary organisation, Vimochana, in the district, brings some hope to the doomed girl child.

Concerned over the skewed sex ratio in the district and reports of female foeticide, the two organisations started this campaign on June 1 targeted at creating awareness about the declining sex ratio and helping in the implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PPNDT Act).

The concern is only natural — Mandya has one of the lowest child sex ratios (number of females per 1,000 males within the age of six years) in Karnataka — 937:1,000. The scenario is even more bleak at the taluk level.

According to the Census of India 2001, the sex ratio in the rural areas of Mandya taluk is 899 females per 1,000 males, while in the urban parts it is 969:1000. In Maddur taluk of Mandya, the sex ratio is 912:1,000, with rural and urban sex ratio being 908:1,000 and 947:1,000, respectively.

The trend continues in other parts of Mandya — Srirangapatna taluk has a sex ratio of 909:1,000. In the urban parts of Nagamangala, it is 918:1,000.

"The objective of the project is to raise awareness among the local people about the declining sex ratio and the need to save the female foetus. The

UNICEF is involved in advocacy measures and is stimulating the local non-governmental organisations to take up the cause," K.R. Anthony, Project Officer (Health and Nutrition), UNICEF told The Hindu .

He said strategies were being chalked out to help the State Appropriate Authority for the PPNDT Act and government officials concerned for the effective implementation of the Act.

These would focus on both social and economic factors such as preference for sons, feelings against the girl child and supply and use of ultrasonography machines. The project would continue for around two years, Dr. Anthony added.

Donna Fernandes of Vimochana said sensitisation programmes were being held for government doctors including those from public health centres and private practitioners. Health workers and anganwadi workers were also being involved in awareness programmes.

A theatre workshop was held recently for a group of local artistes to sensitise them to the issue. These artistes would conduct `jathas' (demonstrations), put up posters and stage plays on female foeticide all over the district, Ms. Fernandes said.

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