Status of the girl child
Papers documenting the status of the girl child in the Asian region
GENDER DISCRIMINATIONS AMONG YOUNG CHILDREN IN ASIA: Isabelle Attane, Jacques Veron Editors; Pub. by French Institute of Pondicherry & Centre Population et Developpement, Department of Social Sciences, 11, Saint Louis Street, PO Box 33, Pondicherry-605001. Rs. 400.
This book is a compilation of papers presented at a seminar organised by French Institute of Pondicherry, the French Centre for Population and Development (CEPED), the UNFPA in India and the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) of Paris.
Female deficit or the `missing girls' phenomenon in five Asian countries is featured in the book. There are three articles on India, one comparative study of India and China, three on China, one article each on Korea, Taiwan and Pakistan. All of them highlight the strong preference for son and the reasons, which are well known.
Preference for boys
However, some interesting facts are brought out. Two of the countries, Korea and Taiwan, have reached demographic profiles similar to developed countries with a fertility rate below the replacement level. Doo-Sub Kim of Korea states that 50 per cent of women who have sons from their first pregnancies terminate their `reproductive behaviour' afterwards. The rest of the 50 per cent who had sons, stop with the second child irrespective of the sex of the next child. But a woman who has a daughter from the first pregnancy keeps moving on to the next till she has a son. A key to this quiz would be how many deliver a male child in the first pregnancy.
Interestingly Wen Shan Yang and Likwang Chen's article examines the values and attitudes towards raising children in Taiwan. Yet, underlying all the social changes and the economic development of the area, sons are still regarded as `lifelong members of the family' and daughters become `members of another family'.
Mehtab S. Karim of Pakistan states that infanticide and foeticide are not practised but couples, who desire a male child, have successive female children until they achieve their desired goal. However, his paper accepts that a fairly high sex ratio is reported in one district of Sindh Province, which borders Rajasthan, where he adds, "intentional or unintentional infanticide of female children" cannot be ruled out.
The Indian situation
The four papers on India highlight the situation in some of the worst affected states with sex ratio figures over a period of time. It would have been interesting if one of the studies could have analysed the areas where there has been an improvement in the sex ratio and the likely reasons for the change. The participants' field visit to Salem district and their interaction with the local NGO and a person who has been working on this issue for some years add a touch of ground reality to the entire proceedings of the seminar.
In all the papers changing trends are well documented and the analyses raise various queries. They show that neither higher educational levels nor mere economic development by themselves can bring about a change in the mindset towards the girl child and that the outlook and attitude of society towards women need to be transformed, and mental blocks removed. This book would be of special interest not only to social activists but also should be studied by policymakers as well in India.
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