Revisiting the ‘Missing Girls’ in Haryana, India
Tiwari, Meera (2016). 'Revisiting the 'Missing Girls' in Haryana, India' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.
In the early 1990s Amartya Sen put forward the concept of 'Missing Women' based on the low ratio of women to men mostly in China and India. This ratio when compared with sex ratios in developed countries and translated into numbers indicated the number of women who would be alive if the ratio was normal. Sen (1990, 1992) estimated over a million 'missing women'. Within the comprehensive literature on infanticide trends in different societies in the 1970s, Dickemann (1981) hypothesised female-preferential infanticide. She indicated the male child preference and prevalence of infanticide in the Indian society for centuries. Within the last three census data points child sex ratio in the country continues to decline from 927 girls born in 2001 to 918 per 1000 boys born in 2011 (945 girls born to 1000 boys in 1991). National policy makers and the research community have engaged with the issue and continue to do so through legislation, media and the rich literature on the subject. The wide spectrum of investigations comprises analyses of trends and estimates at inter-state and rural-urban levels, distribution of the 'missing women', discriminatory attitudes, causation and technological externalities amongst other themes. The declining trend though remains tenacious.
This paper explores the grassroots perceptions of foeticide together with how girls and women are valued and norms that underpin this in the society. The purpose of the paper is to further understandings of factors that continue to perpetuate the declining child sex ratio. Addressing these at the root level then offers potential to change the child sex ratio declining trend. The research is based on primary data from two peri-urban localities in the city of Hissar in the state of Haryana in India. This state has the lowest child sex ratio in the country with 830 girls born to 1000 boys as per the 2011 census.
The present inquiry is part of a larger evaluation of 'Save the Girl Child' project launched in 2012 by an NGO Child Reach India (CRI) to combat this trend in the community. The work of CRI focuses on empowering the girls and women and creating a social environment that respects an individual’s right to birth. It does so through a range of activities within a multi-stakeholder approach that considers all members of the community as stakeholders - adolescent girls and boys, mothers, mothers-in-law, young and elderly men as well as key community persons. By understanding the functionings, capabilities and aspirations of adolescent girls and married women as well as those of men for their daughters, sisters and wives, the paper offers a novel way of capturing the value placed on women in the society by all stakeholders. Perceptions and awareness of foeticide are also captured as part of this investigation. The research uses mixed methods complemented with most significant change narratives.
Key words: missing girls, foeticide, empowerment, India