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According to the provisional census figures released on Thursday, the sex ratio (the number of females per 1,000 males) for the 0-6 age group, has dramatically dropped to 914 in 2011, from 927 in 2001. This means in a decade when the country enjoyed unprecedented economic growth, it also became a terrifyingly hostile place to be conceived or born as a girl. It's extremely alarming and everybody should be worried and careful against this malaise, said Girija Vyas, chairperson of the National Co
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  According to the provisional census figures released on Thursday, the sex ratio (the number of females per 1,000males) for the 0-6 age group, has dramatically dropped to 914 in 2011, from 927 in 2001. This means in a decadewhen the country enjoyed unprecedented economic growth, it also became a terrifyingly hostile place to beconceived or born as a girl. It's extremely alarming and everybody should be worried and careful against this malaise, said Girija Vyas,chairperson of the National Commission for Women. Vyas said the PC & PNDT Act (Pre-conception and Pre-natalDiagnostic Techniques Act, 1994) needs to be bolstered. Convictions under the Act are very low. Female foeticideis high even in states that have high education and are affluent. The government needs to step in and act urgently, she said.Union home secretary GK Pillai acknowledged the meed for meaningful interventions to address the issue. Whatever measures that have been put in over the last 40 years has not had any impact on child sex ratio andtherefore that requires a complete review, Pillai said.The sheer scale of the country comes through in the Census exercise. During 2001-2011, India added nearly as many people as there are in Brazil. If Uttar Pradesh was a country, it would be the fifth most populous country in theworld.The overall sex ratio in the country improved from 933 to 940, the highest recorded sex ratio since the 1971 census.Three states-J&K, Gujarat and Bihar, showed a decline in the sex ratio.There was good news on the literacy front as the effective literacy rate rose to 74.04, up from 64.83 in 2001. Maleliteracy rate, at 82.14 is ahead of the female literacy rate of 65.46. The female literacy rate, however, posted greater gains, at 11.8 points increase between 2001 and 2011, compared with the male literacy rate, which only grew by 6.9 points. More females came into the fold of the literate than males. Ten states and union territories achieved a literacyrate of above 85%.Population density rose at almost the same rate as absolute population-at 17.5% from 325 persons per square km in2001, to 382 in 2011. The massive decadal census exercise covered 6.41 lakh villages deploying 2.7 millionofficials. The cost of the exercise worked out to be Rs18.19 per person. The census figures are critical for  policymaking and captures a country in transition. The single loudest message coming through is that female foeticides continue unabated. This is extremelyworrying, said Pronab Sen, a former chief statistician of India and a senior advisor to the Planning Commission. The long term sociological effects of this are already visible in states like Haryana, where human trafficking hasgone up, setting off a chain of fairly nasty events, Sen said.Amrita Paul “Let a man be careful to honour his wife, for he owes to her alone all the blessings of his house.”  -Talmud.  And finally Meera walked into the living room. Dressed in a simple salwaar kameez  she came and servedtea to the guests. She sat down grimly beside her parents while the boy’s family continued to stare at her. At last, Meera’s mom decided to break the silence and as she started speaking about her daughter it felt asthough she was giving the job profile of her maid. “Oh she can cook anything. Indian, Lebanese, Chinese.She is good at household work too. She is…”   “She is an economics graduate with a post graduation in Business Administration. She is an author of several research papers and has been teaching at the University level for two years.”  - finished Meera asshe left the room disgusted.Welcome to 21st Century India. We women are progressing after all. I mean look at us, we have six seats‘reserved’ for us in public buses. We are leading political parties, multinational corporations; we dancearound in movies wearing skimpy clothes without any objection from the Censor Board whatsoever. Tenyears into a new era, a woman is no less than a man; she is gritty and brimming with self confidence. Shecarries herself with élan and smartly conceals that black patch underneath her eye which was a gift fromher husband as dinner was not ready when he had come back from work, the night before.There are thousands of other Meeras who are married off every day to someone they barely know because, ‘their parents know it best’  . More often than not, these marriages fail miserably because the very premise of Indian marriages is based on a gender prejudice. Think about it. Why do women alone have to leave their parents house and settle down with her in laws irrespective of whether they respect her or not? We call ittradition but we never mean it. The younger generation although more aware, still feels that- “Only westernized families have the luxury of falling in love.”  So then is that it, Is it okay to compromise our ownhappiness for some obtrusive convention we fondly call, - “TRADITION?”  “May you be the mother of hundred sons.”  For an Indian woman, her greatest accomplishment is motherhood. Everything prior to marriage ispreparation. Everything after motherhood is reward for fulfilling her destined role. In Semitic religions,children are considered to be the “Gift of God”which leaves little scope for family planning. As far as a Hinduwoman is concerned, it is tacitly understood that she must bear sons. Because, with the birth of a son thecontinuity and safe keeping of the father’s soul is assured. It is almost implied that bringing up a daughter would be a sheer waste since she is destined to cater to someone else’s family. No matter how much wedebate, even in the present times the birth of a son calls for special celebration. And after thirty years, whenthe same son disposes his parents off to some old age home, his folks continue to believe that it was for their best. One can’t help being taken aback by such an astounding faith in a child whose immediateconcern is anything but them. “Self immolation: Distant Myth or a Harsh Reality?” Year 1987. Roop Kanwar, 18 had been burnt alive on her husband’s pyre who died at the age of 24. Mostof the villagers stood testimony to this heinous crime but no one; absolutely no one had come forward tohelp the young girl. Even Roop’s parents were oblivious to this incident till they read about it in thenewspaper. As Roop’s in laws continue to stress on the fact that it was her decision to commit sati, onecannot help but wonder as to why an educated girl like her would possibly give into any sort of religiousfancy unless she was forced into doing it? Today, Twenty four years later, women continue to be victimizedin this society and are not only burnt to death but raised to see self immolation as their only escape frommiserable marriages or worse as an act of courage or inspiration. The number of dowry deaths reported inthe year 1987 was 990, and today it has increased to 7618. Such cases almost always meet a futile end  because of the difference in opinions between the victim, prosecutor and police. But if a woman does nothave the right to decide whether she wants to marry and when and whom, how far she wants to study,whether she wants to take a particular job or not, how is it that she suddenly gets the right to take such amajor decision as to whether she wants to die?Irrespective of her financial and socio political status a woman continues to be someone whom we expect totake care of us, to make ends meet, to suffer in silence as her husband continues to have an affair with hissecretary. A woman has so many things piled up in her mind; she has so much love in her heart but sadlynot much of it is reciprocated in a similar manner. To bring about a change in her life, we have to changethe way we look at her. Even at an individual level we must understand that just like we need our mothers,wives and sisters, they also need us at some point of time. To even remotely comprehend the seriousnessof the issue, we need to be comforting and patient rather than demanding and insensitive. Thetransformation has to begin within us first, so that we can take up the cause and inspire others to do thesame. Quoting filmmaker Aparna Sen, – “…But I feel that by doing my own thing the way I believe, and not abiding every single rule that is laid down, I am holding up myself as an example. I don’t presume I am but I don’t see what else I can do.”  By Mamta: In India homemakers are equated with beggars, prostitutes and prisoners. It might appear shocking to somebut it is a gruesome reality. This has come to forefront when the Supreme Court asked Parliament to rethinkthe value of homemakers pointing out that even the Census of India officially categorises them as“economically non-productive workers” alongside beggars, prostitutes and prisoners. The court said thisapproach is ‘insensitive’, ‘callous’ and ‘indicative of strong gender bias against women’.The observation has come on an appeal filed by Arun Agrawal whose 39 year old homemaker wife Renudied after their car met with an accident a few years ago. Arun sought a compensation of Rs 19.2 lakh fromthe insurance company for the death of his wife. The court said, “A wife or mother does not work by theclock. She is in constant attendance of the family throughout the day and night unless she is employed andis required to attend the employer’s work for particular hours. She takes care of all the requirements of husband and children including cooking of food, washing of clothes, etc. She teaches small children andprovides invaluable guidance to them for their future life”.It is really unfortunate that people still don’t consider the value of a homemaker. She compromises her career for the sake of her family. In our society, cooking food, looking after children and other householdchores has often been considered as a moral duty of women. Since birth they are told that they have to lookafter their family and it’s their first and foremost responsibility. An aspiring woman is considered as ignorant,irresponsible and sometimes evil.Women are still trapped in their traditional role as a homemaker. It is not that they voluntarily opt for thisrole. Our value system and patriarchal set up don’t let women to step out of their house. And even if theywant to work the incidents of sexual harassment at workplace such as in women’s hockey team putobstacles in their way.What could be said about our value system when even our laws are not favourable for women? The judgesaid, “Gender bias” is shockingly prevalent in the work of the Census – a statutory exercise blessed byParliament in the form of the Census Act, 1948. The judgment said, “Monetary value of cooking for familymembers could be assessed in terms of what it would cost to hire a cook or to purchase ready cooked foodor by assessing how much money could be earned if the food cooked for the family were to be sold in thelocality”.  It is a very significant observation by the apex court. Indeed the time has come and women should get their due. At least women should get the recognition for their work By Prabhu Mallikarjunan: When the clock strikes half past six, Priyanka gently requests her husband Rahul to prepare a cup of coffeewhile she gets ready to go to office. Rahul accepts and prepares a strong cup of coffee. Quarter past seven,he prepares breakfast and keeps it ready for her and he manages to do all other household work for rest of the day. Rahul does not work, instead Priyanka heads the family. Isn’t that possible in reality? It could bepossible in some urban households. Does it really meanwomen are empowered?The latest National Family and Health Survey (NFHS)report (Figure 6.1) indicates an increasing trend in females heading the household. But it could also happenthat a woman is heading the household because her husband has died or he’s working elsewhere. But, thisopens up the issue of gender inequality in the society.Where do we stand in terms of  gender equality ? Our Constitution guarantees equality and opportunity while prohibiting any discrimination. India’s top postis held by a woman, and yet we are far away from attaining equality and empowering women.The Global Gender Gap Report 2010 report indicates that India stands at 112 among 134 countriesworldwide.The Global Gender Gap Report 2010 brought out by the World Economic Forum benchmarks nationalgender gaps on economic, political, education and health based criteria, and provides country rankings thatallow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups, and over time. It ranks countriesaccording to gender equality rather than women’s empowerment.It is important to understand and define ‘gender’, before I proceed further.While ‘sex’  refers to the biological differences between males and females, gender describes the sociallyconstructed roles, rights and responsibilities that communities and societies consider appropriate for menand women. (Source: UNICEF)
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