Ad­dress­ing gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion by en­hanc­ing women’s worth

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While in Brazil and Mex­ico, the suc­cess of conditional cash trans­fer schemes has been due to a high level of aware­ness of the con­cepts of co-re­spon­si­bil­ity and com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion, in In­dia the Ladli scheme was seen more in terms of al­le­vi­at­ing the in­se­cu­rity and an­guish of hav­ing given birth to a bur­den, a pa­ter­nal­is­tic handout, a char­ity by the state rather than a pro­gramme which in­volved dual re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and ac­count­abil­ity. Hence ad­dress­ing gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion through cash in­cen­tive schemes needs to be crit­i­cally as­sessed through the the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work of a syn­cretic fem­i­nist per­spec­tive and an in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity ap­proach.

THE dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions of sexs­e­lec­tive abor­tion as gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion have led to strate­gies for in­ter­ven­tion, so­cial change, and re­form ini­ti­ated by the state, by con­cerned civil so­ci­ety ini­tia­tives and the women’s move­ments in the re­gions where it pre­vails. The li­a­bil­ity of bring­ing up a girl-child is asso­ciated with the bur­den of dowry at the time of mar­riage. This in­stru­men­tal ra­tio­nal­ity of the val­u­a­tion of women has been coun­tered by fem­i­nists, pre­dict- ably and un­der­stand­ably, to es­tab­lish and em­pha­sise women’s sub­stan­tial non­waged labour; their cen­tral­ity to so­cial re­pro­duc­tion and their con­tri­bu­tion to house­hold work, marginalised tasks, agri­cul­tural and other work. The women’s move­ment’s de­mand for recog­ni­tion and equal wages for such work done by women has had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact in this area. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the strug­gle to pro­vide women with bet­ter le­gal ac­cess to in­her­i­tance and prop­erty, to employment, and to po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence is also a strat­egy of em­pow­er­ment (Sun­der Ra­jan 2003). The state’s un­der­stand­ing of this link­ing of women’s sur­vival so their eco­nomic worth has led to many in­cen­tives such as conditional cash trans­fer (CCT) schemes floated by var­i­ous state gov­ern­ments and the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. In 1992, the Tamil Nadu gov­ern­ment an­nounced the Pu­ratchi Tha­laivi Jay­alalitha scheme’ for the girl child (named af­ter the then chief min­is­ter of the state, and was sub­se­quent-

ly re­named as the `Girl Child Pro­tec­tion scheme’) as a re­sponse to the fe­male in­fan­ti­cide prob­lem. It was a long-term in­cen­tive plan to help fam­i­lies main­tain their girl chil­dren a sum of ` 500 would be given to her when var­i­ous mile­stones were reached—on her first birth­day, on enrolment in school, on the com­ple­tion of Class VI and Class X, and fi­nally a lump sum ` 20,000 would be awarded to her at the age 21, pro­vided she passed Class X and re­mained un­mar­ried un­til then. There were other el­i­gi­bil­ity con­di­tions at­tached to this scheme: one of the par­ents should un­dergo ster­il­i­sa­tion, the par­ents should have no sons, the an­nual in­come should not be above ` 12,000 a year, etc. This is the long­est run­ning scheme of its kind in the coun­try. It is the fore­run­ner of a num­ber of schemes in­tro­duced in other states, e.g. Delhi’s and Haryana’s Ladli scheme, Mad­hya Pradesh’s Ladli Lak­shmi Yo­jana, and Andhra Pradesh’s Girl Child Pro­tec­tion scheme. In a na­tional meet­ing on `Save the Girl Child’ on 28 April 2000, the then prime min­is­ter noted that no na­tion, no so­ci­ety, no com­mu­nity can hold its head high and claim to be part of the civilised world if it con­dones the prac­tice of dis­crim­i­nat­ing against one half of hu­man­ity rep­re­sented by women.’ He went on to add that the var­i­ous schemes un­der­taken by cer­tain state gov­ern­ments such as the

Dikri Bachao cam­paign of Gu­jarat, GCPS of Tamil Nadu, Devi Ru­pak Scheme of Haryana, Ladli cam­paign of Delhi and the scheme for cash in­cen­tives to pan­chay­ats for im­prov­ing the vil­lage sex ra­tio of Pun­jab are good steps’ (Srini­vasan and Bedi 2009). This link­age of the ad­dress­ing of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion through the schemes men­tioned here by the prime min­is­ter as `good steps’ needs to be crit­i­cally as­sessed through the the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work of a syn­cretic fem­i­nist per­spec­tive and an in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity ap­proach. Eval­u­a­tion of the scheme in Tamil Nadu has been done by Srini­vasan and Bedi (2009) and Sun­der Ra­jan (2003). While Sun­der Ra­jan dis­misses the scheme as in­ef­fec­tual and not ac­tu­ally ad­dress­ing the core is­sues of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion, Srini­vasan and Bedi men­tion that a close look at the scheme re­veals that its im­ple­men­ta­tion is not tar­geted at dis­tricts with a high preva­lence of fe­male in­fan­ti­cide, that it as­sumes that only poor fam­i­lies are anti -daugh­ters, and given the ster­il­iza­tion con­di­tion­al­ity that fam­i­lies with only daugh­ters and strong son pref­er­ence are not likely to vol­un­teer. Also to what ex­tent it has al­tered at­ti­tudes to­wards daugh­ters is still not clear.

TV Sekher in a suc­cinct desk review of 15 CCT schemes re­gard­ing girl child in In­dia comes to the con­clu­sion that there are numer­ous prob­lems with the de­sign, in­tent and de­liv­ery of th­ese schemes. He also refers to the in­ef­fec­tive­ness of th­ese cash trans­fer schemes to im­prove the sta­tus of the girl child in In­dia (Sekher 2012). The con­cept of such conditional cash trans­fer schemes orig­i­nated in Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries mainly in re­sponse to the macroe­co­nomic cri­sis of the 1990s when the de­mand for so­cial ser­vices such as ed­u­ca­tion and health from poorer house­holds was per­ceived to have de­clined dras­ti­cally Th­ese pro­grammes thus rep­re­sent a shift in gov­ern­men­tal ap­proach that ear­lier fo­cused on the sup­ply-side de­liv­ery of ba­sic ser­vices to fo­cus on the de­mand side by pro­tect­ing the con­sump­tion of merit goods (Prabhu 2009), Conditional cash trans­fers are dif­fer­ent from un­con­di­tional cash trans­fers which are cash grants in the form of so­cial se­cu­rity mea­sures which make no at­tempt to in­flu­ence in­di­vid­ual/house­hold con­sump­tion pref­er­ences whereas the main pur­pose of the CCTs is to do so. A for­mal adop­tion of the CCT ap­proach was done by the Min­istry of Women and Child De­vel­op­ment, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia, in March 2008 called `Dhanalak­shmi’ or the CCT scheme for girl child, with an in­sur­ance cover. The scheme as a pi­lot was de­cided to be im­ple­mented in eleven blocks across seven States —Andhra Pradesh, Bi­har, Ch­hat­tis­garh, Jhark­hand, Odisha, Pun­jab and Ut­tar Pradesh. Cash trans­fers are pro­vided un­der the scheme to the fam­ily of the girl child (prefer­ably to the mother) on ful­fill­ing the fol­low­ing con­di­tions: birth reg­is­tra­tion of the girl-child, progress of im­mu­ni­sa­tion, and enrolment and re­ten­tion in school. In ad­di­tion, the girl child born on or af­ter the cut-off date as no­ti­fied is en­ti­tled to an in­sur­ance cover/ma­tu­rity ben­e­fit to the tune of ` 1, 00,000 through the Life In­sur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion of In­dia, pro­vided she does not get mar­ried be­fore at­tain­ing the age of 18 years. The schemes in Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Delhi per­tain­ing to the girl-child are sim­i­lar to th­ese CCTs. The Ladli schemes in Haryana and Delhi are taken up for anal­y­sis in greater de­tail here. Both the schemes have been lauded by the re­spec­tive states as hav­ing

had a pos­i­tive im­pact on the de­clin­ing sex ra­tio and bring­ing about a turn­around in the child sex ra­tio with the num­ber of girls in the 0-6 years be­ing more than boys. The 2001 Cen­sus re­ports re­veals Delhi’s child sex ra­tio as 868 to 1000 boys and Haryana’s as 834 to 1000. The anal­y­sis of the schemes was done by gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion from the Haryana state gov­ern­ment of­fices and Delhi state gov­ern­ment of­fices. Field vis­its to Gur­gaon dis­trict in Haryana and South Delhi dis­trict in Delhi were also part of it. Con­ver­sa­tions with mid­dle level func­tionar­ies in Gur­gaon, Haryana and Delhi from the Depart­ment of Women and Child De­vel­op­ment and Depart­ment of So­cial `Wel­fare, which are in charge of han­dling the schemes, and in­ter­views with pro­gramme co­or­di­na­tor of Mis­sion Con­ver­gence, South Dis­trict, Delhi and pro­gramme co­or­di­na­tors of Gen­der Re­source Cen­tres (GRCs), who are deal­ing with the enrolment for the scheme in Delhi, in­formed the un­der­stand­ing of the is­sue. Group dis­cus­sions with ben­e­fi­cia­ries and so­cial work­ers in the field were also held.

FOUR pri­mary ob­jec­tives were iden­ti­fied for this en­quiry: the first was to de­scribe the prin­ci­pal el­e­ments of the schemes, the sec­ond was to delve into the con­tes­ta­tions, chal­lenges and con­tra­dic­tions within it to ad­dress the is­sue of sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion as gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion; the third was to look into the op­por­tu­ni­ties that it pro­vides to ad­dress the is­sue of sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion as gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion; and the fourth was to ex­am­ine the im­pli­ca­tions of the schemes un­der the the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work of a syn­cretic fem­i­nist per­spec­tive with an in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity ap­proach. The Ladli scheme in Haryana was launched in 2005 and was an up­scal­ing of its ear­lier Devi Ru­pak Yo­jana. The word ‘Ladli,’ which means the dar­ling of the fam­ily, was ini­tially the name given to a cam­paign launched by the NGO `Pop­u­la­tion First’ of Mum­bai, sup­ported by UNFPA to counter the un­want­ed­ness or the aver­sion of daugh­ters lead­ing to sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion in In­dia. The cam­paign was in an aware­ness gen­er­a­tion and advocacy mode. The aim of us­ing a pos­i­tive ter­mi­nol­ogy was also to move away from ear­lier dis­courses which em­pha­sised the is­sue of miss­ing girls and the neg­a­tive side of sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion which are vi­o­lence, dis­crim­i­na­tion and death. The word ` Ladli’ was to bring to the fore the value of the girl-child in the fam­ily and the emo­tive con­nec­tions of the fam­ily with her. This pos­i­tive, be­nign and well mean­ing strat­egy was taken up by other states with the UNFPA shap­ing pol­icy dis­courses around the is­sue. In Haryana this scheme has been planned with cer­tain con­di­tion­al­i­ties. There are two par­al­lel Ladli schemes in Haryana. One is the Ladli scheme for the girl child and the other is the Ladli pen­sion plan for fam­i­lies with only daugh­ters. The Ladli scheme for the girl child was launched in 2005 and the Gov­ern­ment of Haryana ex­tended the scheme up to 201516. Un­der this scheme ` 5,000 per year is in­vested un­der a group in­sur­ance scheme of Life In­sur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion of In­dia in the name of the sec­ond daugh­ter born in a fam­ily. A ma­tu­rity amount of ap­proxi-

mately ` 90,000 to ` 1,00,000 would, thus, be avail­able to the sec­ond daugh­ter when she at­tains the age of 18. All fam­i­lies who are res­i­dents of Haryana or hav­ing Haryana domi­cile are el­i­gi­ble ir­re­spec­tive of their in­come and num­ber of sons, pro­vided there is at least one alive real sis­ter of the sec­ond girl child in the fam­ily. The other con­di­tion­al­i­ties of the scheme are: at least one of the par­ents along with the girl chil­dren should be re­sid­ing in Haryana; the birth of both the girl chil­dren should be reg­is­tered; the par­ents should en­sure proper im­mu­ni­sa­tion of both the girl chil­dren and im­mu­ni­sa­tion record (as per age of the girl chil­dren) may be pro­duced at the time of re­ceiv­ing each pay­ment; both sis­ters should be en­rolled in school/ An­gan­wadi cen­tre as per their age; even if the par­ents of the sec­ond girl child are re­ceiv­ing ben­e­fit un­der any other scheme like Ba­lika Sam­ridhi Yo­jana, they will still be en­ti­tled to ben­e­fit un­der this scheme. The Ladli Pen­sion Scheme of Gov­ern­ment of Haryana called `Ladli So­cial Se­cu­rity Al­lowance Scheme’ was launched on 1 Jan­uary 2006. It pro­vides for par­ents who have only daugh­ters `to re­move sense of in­se­cu­rity.’ Un­der the scheme, ` 500 per month is paid to the fam­ily from the 45th birth­day of the fa­ther/mother (who­ever is older) till their 60th birth­day, i.e. for 15 years. A sep­a­rate scheme (Old Age Sam­man Al­lowance @ ` 500 per month to all se­nior cit­i­zens) starts af­ter the 60th year.

THE el­e­ments of the two plans are dis­tinct from each other and over­lap at times to po­si­tion it­self as a holis­tic scheme with syn­ergy be­tween them. The scheme thus ad­dresses a num­ber of is­sues in its two avatars which may be said to be de­rived from an anal­y­sis of the pat­terns of daugh­ter dis­crim­i­na­tion, aver­sion and elim­i­na­tion in Haryana. Al­most on sim­i­lar lines, the Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory of Delhi launched its own Ladli scheme in 2008. Al­though the broad ob­jec­tive of the scheme re­mains the same, i.e. to en­cour­age fam­i­lies to have girl child and to curb sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion, the Delhi Ladli scheme puts ad­di­tional con­di­tion­al­i­ties re­lated to con­tin­ued ed­u­ca­tion of the girl child and has po­si­tioned the scheme for low-in­come group fam­i­lies only. The scheme is avail­able to two girl chil­dren per fam­ily (any two girl chil­dren). The enrolment of the girl child starts at birth when the Gov­ern­ment de­posits ` 10,000 in the bank ac­count if the girl child is de­liv­ered at home and ` 11,000 if it was an in­sti­tu­tional de­liv­ery. Ad­di­tional ` 5,000 is de­posited in the bank ac­count on each oc­ca­sion when the girl child is en­rolled in Class I, VI, and IX, re­spec­tively. ` 5,000 more is de­posited when the child passes Class X. Pass­ing Class X is im­por­tant as the fail­ure to do so will re­sult in the ben­e­fi­ciary for­feit­ing the en­tire amount de­posited till this point. Once past this post when the girl child en­rols in Class XI, she will get the fi­nal in­stal­ment of ` 5,000. A girl born af­ter 1 Jan­uary 2008 and en­rolled at birth un­der the scheme will get around ` 1, 00,000 at the age of 18. Oth­ers who join mid­way will get the amount de­posited along with in­ter­est when they at­tain this age. The con­di­tion­al­i­ties of the Delhi Ladli scheme in­clude: the to­tal an­nual in­come of the fam­ily should be be­low ` 1, 00,000; the ben­e­fi­ciary girl should have been born in Delhi and the fam­ily should have been stay­ing in Delhi at least for the last three years; and only two girl chil­dren per fam­ily can be cov­ered un­der the scheme. There are three main ob­jec­tives of the scheme as stated by gov­ern­ment func­tionar­ies op­er­a­tional­is­ing the scheme. First, to curb sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion — this is a very im­por­tant ob­jec­tive and, there­fore, the

One of the con­tra­dic­tions is that while the scheme in Delhi is tar­geted at poor fam­i­lies, the poor are not the main cul­prits when it comes to sexs­e­lec­tive abor­tion. Stud­ies have shown that sexs­e­lec­tive abor­tion is mainly an upper class, upper caste prac­tice and is un­fath­omably linked to higher lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion in women

scheme has made spe­cial pro­vi­sions for in­sti­tu­tional and non-in­sti­tu­tional birth (`11,000 and ` 10,000, re­spec­tively). The amount is im­me­di­ately sanc­tioned in the name of the girl thereby em­pha­sis­ing that daugh­ters are truly `Lak­sh­mis’ (God­dess of wealth) of their homes. Sec­ond, to im­prove school enrolment, as the next tranche of pay­ment is made when the girl is ad­mit­ted in Class I. Third, in or­der to re­duce the school drop-out rate, the pay­ment is made at five stages dur­ing school years — in the Class I, Class III, Class VI, Class IX and then af­ter pass­ing Class X.

FI­NAL tranche is paid in Class XII. Gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments and dis­cus­sions with gov­ern­ment func­tionar­ies in charge of car­ry­ing out the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the scheme re­veal that the aim of the scheme is to erad­i­cate sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion, pro­mote the cause of girl-child ed­u­ca­tion es­pe­cially in the con­text of poor fam­i­lies and en­hance the sta­tus of the girl child within poor fam­i­lies. It is based on the as­sump­tion that given the per­cep­tion of girls as an eco­nomic bur­den, it is nec­es­sary to en­hance their eco­nomic worth by pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port to fam­i­lies that bring up daugh­ters. It is mainly tar­geted at poor fam­i­lies and fam­i­lies just marginally over the poverty line. The num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries in the first year were 1,35,000 and in the sec­ond year it was 1,51,000. While the num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly, there is a need to crit­i­cally as­sess the reach of the scheme, es­pe­cially in the con­text of coun­ter­ing sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion as gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion. Dis­trict spe­cific data from Delhi do re­veal that the scheme has ben­e­fi­cia­ries from all dis­tricts. In Gur­gaon, Haryana, the num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries in the ru­ral ar­eas far out­num­bered the num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries in the ur­ban ar­eas. There was a huge con­trast be­tween the num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries un­der the Girl Child Scheme and the Ladli Pen­sion Scheme. Most of th­ese ben­e­fi­cia­ries were ac­cess­ing the Ladli Girl Child Scheme. As far as the Ladli Pen­sion Scheme is con­cerned, there were only about two to three ben­e­fi­cia­ries in each dis­trict. The main rea­son for th­ese dis­mal num­bers un­der the Ladli Pen­sion Scheme is the minis­cule monthly pen­sion, i.e. ` 500 per month per fam­ily, and the con­di­tion of hav­ing only daugh­ters. Con­tra­dic­tions, Con­tes­ta­tions and Chal­lenges: Pre­ma­ture Cel­e­bra­tion or Fact? The claims made by both Delhi and Haryana state gov­ern­ments are that there has been a turn­around in the de­clin­ing sex ra­tio due to the Ladli schemes. They have pre­sented the in­ter-cen­sal birth reg­is­tra­tion data of that pe­riod as the cor­rob­o­rat­ing ev­i­dence for it. How­ever, this has been chal­lenged by both de­mog­ra­phers and ac­tivists work­ing in the field. Mid­dle level func­tionar­ies who are in charge of im­ple­men­ta­tion of the scheme pro­vide sup­port to this by agree­ing that it is not the sex ra­tio which has turned around, but the reg­is­tra­tion of girls at birth which has in­creased. Reg­is­tra­tion of births even of non-in­sti­tu­tional de­liv­ery is a manda­tory el­i­gi­bil­ity for ac­cess­ing the scheme and that is the pri­mary rea­son for the re­sults. Sharma and Haub have pre­sented a cri­tique of this pre­ma­ture cel­e­bra­tion of the im­prove­ment of sex ra­tio in Delhi. Their main ar­gu­ments are that ac­cord­ing to the an­nual re­port for 2008, the num­ber of to­tal births reg­is­tered was 333,908 of which 166,583 were boys and 167,325 were girls, giv­ing a sex ra­tio of 1,004 girl ba­bies per 1,000 boy ba­bies. The num­ber of reg­is­tered births dur­ing 2007 was 322,044 of which 174,289 were boys and only 147,755 were girls! That gave a sex ra­tio of only 848 in 2007 (Sharma and Haub 2010). They ques­tion the sud­den

spurt in the birth of girls dur­ing this pe­riod. The Gov­ern­ment of NCT of Delhi has stated that the higher num­ber of reg­is­tered births of girls dur­ing 2008 man­i­fests a dip in sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion and in­fan­ti­cide and to some ex­tent to the ef­fec­tive Im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Ladli scheme. This needs to be looked into in depth. Ac­cord­ing to them, the Ladli scheme en­vis­aged that those girls who were born on or af­ter 1 Jan­uary 2008, are en­ti­tled to cash and non-cash in­cen­tives. This re­sulted in the reg­is­tra­tion of a large num­ber of girl birth dur­ing 2008. Dur­ing the month of Jan­uary 2008 alone, a higher num­ber of girl births were reg­is­tered and the sex ra­tio was 1,090 girl births per 1,000 boy births. From Fe­bru­ary to June 2008, the sex ra­tio for reg­is­tered births con­tin­ued to be favourable for girls. How­ever, dur­ing the sec­ond half of 2008 — July to De­cem­ber — the sex ra­tio de­clined and hov­ered around 975. Sharma and Haub re­it­er­ate, `the ques­tion which im­me­di­ately comes to one’s mind is: Why was the higher num­ber of girl births in com­par­i­son to boys re­ported im­me­di­ately af­ter the an­nounce­ment of the Ladli scheme and less in the sec­ond half of the year? This may per­haps call for ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the bona fides of ben­e­fi­cia­ries’ (Sharma and Haub 2010).

FUR­THER, a size­able num­ber of reg­is­tered births are non-in­sti­tu­tional. Dur­ing 2007 the share of the non­in­sti­tu­tional births was higher in the case of boys (25.4 per cent) than girls (24.9 per cent). Dur­ing 2008 the share of non­in­sti­tu­tional births was higher in the case of girls (30.0 per cent) than boys (23.1 per cent). The ac­tual place of oc­cur­rence of non-in­sti­tu­tional births can be quite dif­fi­cult to ver­ify. In­ter­est­ingly, the sex ra­tio of the reg­is­tered births dur­ing Jan­uaryJune 2008, taken to­gether, works out to 1,048 which then de­clined to 969 in re­spect of those births which took place dur­ing July-De­cem­ber 2008. Why this short­fall? There is ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity that some par­ents might have got the ben­e­fit of the scheme on the ba­sis of false claims. The non-in­sti­tu­tional girl births which took place out­side Delhi might have been reg­is­tered here. This ar­gu­ment is strength­ened by the fact that the higher reg­is­tra­tion of girl births started im­me­di­ately af­ter the an­nounce­ment of the Ladli scheme and this con­tin­ued for the first half and de­clined in the sec­ond half of 2008. Dur­ing the four months since the launch of the Ladli scheme, the Delhi gov­ern­ment opened 6,000 fixed de­posit ac­counts and an­other 23,000 more claims were be­ing pro­cessed. One should thus be care­ful in in­ter­pret­ing this first high sex ra­tio among the reg­is­tered births in Delhi and ver­ify the fac­tual po­si­tion (Sharma and Haub 2010). The Sh­a­gun scheme — which pro­vides ` 15,000 to el­i­gi­ble Sched­uled Castes girls upon mar­riage — in Pun­jab has come un­der scan­ner where some peo­ple re­ceived money thrice even though it could only be given twice, re­ceived three cheques for one daugh­ter and even is­sue­less moth­ers re­ceived money. Ac­cord­ing to Sharma and Haub, `the Delhi gov­ern­ment should take heed of the pos­si­bil­ity of mis­use of an ex­cel­lent and well-in­ten­tioned pro­gramme, some­thing that can hap­pen any­where when a wind­fall of funds is in­volved (Sharma and Haub 2010). While Sharma and Haub present valid ar­gu­ments against the gov­ern­ment’s claim that sex ra­tios have turned around and sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion has been coun­tered, they call the scheme `ex­cel­lent and well-in­ten­tioned.’ In or­der to un­der­stand how ex­cel­lent or well-in­ten­tioned the schemes are, it is es­sen­tial to delve into the prob­lems of tack­ling gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion through conditional cash trans­fers which raises no ques­tions about

The girl will ac­cess the money when she is 18 years, the le­gal age of mar­riage for girls. Fo­cused group dis­cus­sions with ben­e­fi­cia­ries both in Gur­gaon and Delhi re­vealed that the ma­jor­ity of them wanted to use the money for their daugh­ter’s mar­riage

the en­trenched power struc­tures, in­sti­tu­tions and em­bed­ded cul­tures that lead to gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices like sexs­e­lec­tive abor­tion.

The Is­sue of Women’s Worth: Can Money Buy me Love?

One of the con­tra­dic­tions noted is that while the scheme in Delhi is tar­geted at poor fam­i­lies, the poor are not the main cul­prits when it comes to sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion. The mon­e­tary in­cen­tives of­fered by the state to fam­i­lies to pre­serve and raise their chil­dren, as also the in­comelevel limit im­posed for a fam­ily’s el­i­gi­bil­ity are pro­pos­als based on the as­sump­tion that poverty is the chief un­der­ly­ing cause of the prob­lem (Sun­der Ra­jan 2003). Stud­ies have shown that sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion is mainly an upper class, upper caste prac­tice and is un­fath­omably linked to higher lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion in women. Data from Cen­sus 2001 an­a­lysed by Bhat and Zavier re­veal that the sex ra­tio at birth is more likely to be mas­cu­line for moth­ers with more ed­u­ca­tion (Bhat and Zavier 2007). Sun­der Ra­jan (2003) and Srini­vasan and Bedi (2009) also es­tab­lish that ed­u­ca­tion and pros­per­ity ap­pear to fa­cil­i­tate knowl­edge of ac­cess to and the use of tech­nol­ogy for sex se­lec­tion. While agree­ing with Sun­der Ra­jan and Srini­vasan and Bedi on the link be­tween pros­per­ity and ed­u­ca­tion with sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion, fo­cused group dis­cus­sions with ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the scheme re­veal a grow­ing phe­nom­e­non. The as­pi­ra­tions for up­ward mo­bil­ity amongst the poor have made them adopt the ways and means of the rich and pros­per­ous when it comes to sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion. For ex­am­ple, the ben­e­fi­cia­ries who be­longed to the Ambed­kar Na­gar in South Delhi (an ur­ban clus­ter whose pop­u­la­tion mainly con­sisted of marginalised castes who were also eco­nom­i­cally weaker) were well aware of the avail­abil­ity of med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties aid­ing sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion. Men who had ac­com­pa­nied their wives and older women who had ac­com­pa­nied their daugh­ters-in-law to the group dis­cus­sions en­thu­si­as­ti­cally shared their in-depth knowl­edge of the prac­tice. Sex se­lec­tive abor­tion ac­cord­ing to them was com­monly prac­ticed by their com­mu­nity mem­bers. The amount re­port­edly charged for sex de­ter­mi­na­tion was ` 500 and for ter­mi­na­tion of preg­nancy it was ` 3,000, an amount which in­creased if the term of preg­nancy was ad­vanced. To a ques­tion whether the scheme has brought about any change in the prac­tice, a com­plex set of re­sponses were pro­vided by the group. The ma­jor­ity felt that in the case of the sec­ond born daugh­ter the scheme leads to a weigh­ing of op­tions since the scheme of­fers ` 1, 00,000 for the daugh­ter com­pared to at least ` 3,500 which they need to get rid of the fe­male foe­tus. The fam­i­lies then de­cide to the daugh­ter (fe­male foe­tus) in this case. The Ad­di­tional Di­rec­tor in charge of the Ladli scheme in Delhi says, ` In the con­text of poor fam­i­lies it is sheer eco­nomics at work. The girl child is not wel­come be­cause of the scheme; the scheme is wel­come be­cause the girl-child is a li­a­bil­ity.” How­ever, the ben­e­fi­cia­ries were not forth­com­ing on the as­pect of the third preg­nancy. Fam­i­lies with two daugh­ters did not con­sider their fam­i­lies as com­plete with­out a son. While they did not openly share it, it was clear and im­plicit in their si­lence that the third preg­nancy could be sub­jected to the prac­tice of sex de­ter­mi­na­tion and sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion, if re­quired. So in a lim­ited and tech­ni­cal man­ner the scheme does in some sense pre­vent sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion, but it only scratches the top of the sur­face with­out ad­dress­ing the core is­sues of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion. The in­clu­sion of the third daugh­ter un­der the scheme may be able to ad­dress some of th­ese con­cerns. It would also be able to con­sid­er­ably lessen the psy­cho-so­cial da­m­age that a liv­ing third daugh­ter faces in a fam­ily where the other two daugh­ters are ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the scheme.

STUD­IES by Mary John (2008) and oth­ers also show that sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion is no longer an upper class, upper caste, ur­ban phe­nom­e­non; the as­pi­ra­tional mo­tives for up­ward mo­bil­ity do re­veal it in the poor and also amongst the sched­uled castes who had been ear­lier egal­i­tar­ian, with no re­ported cases of fe­male in­fan­ti­cide, where women had greater mo­bil­ity and oc­cu­pa­tional value and dowry was un­heard of (John 2008). How­ever, it is es­sen­tial that the pro­gramme goes be­yond the poor since daugh­ter aver­sion and sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion due to it is more wide­spread. A sub­stan­tial ef­fect on this form of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion can be pos­si­ble only then.

Women as Li­a­bil­ity: Dowry and Mar­riage

One of the ma­jor con­tra­dic­tions of the scheme is that while it is de­signed on the premise that the girl-child is con­sid­ered an eco­nomic li­a­bil­ity be­cause of dowry, the man­ner and method of ac­cess­ing the scheme leads to the re­in­forc­ing of the sys­tem of dowry it­self. The girl will ac­cess the money when she is 18 years, the le­gal

age of mar­riage for girls. Fo­cused group dis­cus­sions with ben­e­fi­cia­ries both in Gur­gaon and Delhi re­vealed that the ma­jor­ity of them wanted to use the money for their daugh­ter’s mar­riage. Sixty per cent of the girls in the group dis­cus­sion who had filled up the form in 2009, and who were el­i­gi­ble to ac­cess it in 2010, said that they would like to use the money for their own mar­riage. Neha, 18, said that she wanted to spend the money on a ` 10,000 worth wed­ding lehenga and a beauty par­lour pack­age worth ` 4,500. The spi­ral of a con­sumerist mar­ket and the no­tions of high spend­ing and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion around the in­sti­tu­tion of mar­riage have cre­ated a de­sire which is es­sen­tially gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tory, but has caught the imag­i­na­tion of young girls across class, caste, com­mu­nity bar­ri­ers. So al­though it was dear that the prom­ise of cash trans­fers has brought about a sense of se­cu­rity and self con­fi­dence in women and girls, there was lit­tle ev­i­dence of changes in their de­ci­sion-mak­ing roles or bar­gain­ing power and even less ev­i­dence of in­creased voice within the com­mu­nity. The no­tions of mar­riage, beauty and sex­u­al­ity were all wrapped to­gether and re­in­forced as a mar­ketable good which en­hanced self­worth. Dreze has, there­fore, ques­tioned the wis­dom of brib­ing par­ents to keep their daugh­ters, thereby re­in­forc­ing the no­tion that they are a li­a­bil­ity. Ac­cord­ing to Sabu Ge­orge’s find­ings, the in­cen­tive money it­self is some­times used for dowry (Sun­der Ra­jan 2003).

The Idea of Co-re­spon­si­bil­ity

The scheme’s at­tempt at ad­dress­ing school enrolment and re­tain­ing school dropouts had es­caped the at­ten­tion of the ben­e­fi­cia­ries. In fact when it was shared that a girl would have to for­feit the amount if she does not pass Class X, the ben­e­fi­cia­ries were anx­i­ety-rid­den with this con­di­tion­al­ity. Conditional cash trans­fers were pi­o­neered in Latin Amer­ica and their de­sign em­bod­ies the new so­cial pol­icy prin­ci­ples of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment and co-re­spon­si­bil­ity. Co-re­spon­si­bil­ity is for­malised through a quasi-con­trac­tual un­der­stand­ing that in re­turn for the en­ti­tle­ments prof­fered by the pro­gramme, cer­tain obli­ga­tions have to be dis­charged by the two par­ties. Fail­ure to com­ply with the re­quire­ments can lead to be­ing struck off the pro­gramme. The cash trans­fer el­e­ment is in­tended to pro­vide short-term as­sis­tance to poor Fam­i­lies while the con­di­tion­al­ity el­e­ment aims to pro­mote longer-term cap­i­tal in­vest­ments in the next gen­er­a­tion (the idea of `co-re­spon­si­bil­ity’ has been pro­vided by Maxine Molyneux as ex­plained in Kabeer; Kabeer 2010: 11.8).

THE ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Ladli scheme, on the con­trary, had very lit­tle or no aware­ness of the co-re­spon­si­bil­ity of com­plet­ing their daugh­ters’ ed­u­ca­tion. There was also no dis­cernible sign of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment in dis­cussing or de­bat­ing about the con­di­tion­al­i­ties. The schemes were dis­sem­i­nated in Haryana through the Pan­chay­ati Raj In­sti­tu­tions (PRIs) and in Delhi through the Gen­der Re­source Cen­tres (GRCs) which were part of the um­brella sys­tem of the Mis­sion Con­ver­gence. For girls who filled the forms at school level, the re­spon­si­bil­ity of dis­tribut­ing the scheme was with the school teach­ers and prin­ci­pals. The level of un­der­stand­ing on the core is­sues of co-re­spon­si­bil­ity and com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion was very lim­ited even with them. Schools de­vised their own meth­ods of dis­tri­bu­tion. Some ben­e­fi­cia­ries who have ac­cessed the scheme at the school level shared that the teach­ers dis­trib­uted forms to four mer­i­to­ri­ous girl stu­dents in the class and asked the rest to ac­cess it from a kiosk in a far-off area. While in Brazil and Mex­ico, the suc­cess of CCTs has been due to a high level of aware­ness of the con­cepts of core­spon­si­bil­ity and com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion, in In­dia the Ladli scheme was seen more in terms of al­le­vi­at­ing the in­se­cu­rity and an­guish of hav­ing given birth to a bur­den, a pa­ter­nal­is­tic handout, a char­ity by the state rather than a pro­gramme which in­volved dual re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and ac­count­abil­ity. The re­spon­si­bil­ity of ed­u­cat­ing and em­pow­er­ing her had not

per­co­lated down in terms of even ba­sic un­der­stand­ing. Again, while in Brazil the process of ob­tain­ing the doc­u­ments (such as birth cer­tifi­cates and identity cards) in or­der to reg­is­ter and ap­ply for the Bolsa Fa­milia, the flag­ship CCT in the de­vel­op­ing world to­day, led to ear­lier iso­lated com­mu­nity mem­bers to achieve a sense of be­long­ing­ness and re­late to their sense of be­ing cit­i­zens, in In­dia this process was found cum­ber­some es­pe­cially due to the in­ef­fi­ciency and cor­rup­tion that marks pub­lic of­fices and the low level of lit­er­acy and Lack of time that the poor have in or­der to do so. The tran­si­tionary liv­ing and work­ing con­di­tions along-with poor ac­cess to health care, ed­u­ca­tion and se­cu­rity of work make it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for the poor to bail out time for ob­tain­ing such cer­tifi­cates. Gir­ija Sahu, the co­or­di­na­tor of the Dis­trict Re­source Cen­tre, South Delhi, of Mis­sion Con­ver­gence says: Those who get left out of the loop may be the most de­serv­ing, how­ever the process of ob­tain­ing cer­tifi­cates is some­times so dif­fi­cult that they en­ter into a vi­cious cy­cle and fi­nally can never ac­cess the schemes they want to. Cor­rup­tion is so uni­ver­sally ac­cepted that the poor them­selves of­fer some bribe even when they are fill­ing up the forms taken to them by work­ers of the Gen­der Re­source Cen­tres. Some­times they are fleeced by third par­ties who are aware of their gulli­bil­ity lead­ing to a fail­ure of such pro­grammes. More­over, ir­re­spec­tive of the scru­tiny done by the Gen­der Re­source Cen­tres, it is clear that in many cases the ben­e­fi­cia­ries are frauds, peo­ple who have used un­fair means to ob­tain cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pro­gramme is also fraught with prob­lems. Ad­min­is­tra­tive de­ci­sions to change the sys­tem of sanc­tion­ing amounts leads to in­or­di­nate de­lays which make peo­ple lose faith in the sys­tem and in the cred­i­bil­ity of the Gen­der Re­source Cen­tre or the PRIs which are in di­rect touch with them.

THE eval­u­a­tion of the Ladli scheme, based on the views of the mid­dle level func­tionar­ies who are in charge of im­ple­ment­ing it, is that it can do won­ders for ed­u­ca­tion of the girl-chil­dren and this needs to be em­pha­sised when talk­ing about the scheme. How­ever, the qual­ity of school­ing leaves much to be de­sired. While con­di­tion­al­i­ties were all im­posed on the ben­e­fi­cia­ries and they would be ejected if they failed in Class X, there was no re­cip­ro­cal obli­ga­tion on part of the teach­ers or the in­sti­tu­tion or the state to pro­vide them with bet­ter level of ed­u­ca­tion un­der what Molyneux calls `co-re­spon­si­bil­ity’. More girls are at­tend­ing school

to­day due to on­go­ing con­certed ef­forts like Right to Ed­u­ca­tion, Sarva Shik­sha Ab­hiyan and other such ini­tia­tives. This pic­ture of im­proved par­tic­i­pa­tion of girls in ed­u­ca­tion needs to be framed around the re­mark­able de­mo­graphic change that has taken place in gen­der gap at birth which can be at­tributed to the per­sis­tence of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tory child-rear­ing prac­tices, to the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of new pre-birth sex de­ter­mi­na­tion tech­nol­ogy and eas­ier ac­cess to sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion fa­cil­i­ties. This phe­nom­e­non, which has evolved as a par­al­lel process dur­ing the same pe­riod in which rapid in­crease has oc­curred in girl’s ac­cess to pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion, has a modern face in as much as it is asso­ciated with symp­toms of moder­nity, such as the spread of lit­er­acy and ed­u­ca­tion among women and ur­ban­i­sa­tion (Ku­mar 2010: 83). This pic­ture forces us to con­clude that while the state’s ef­fort to bring a greater num­ber of girls to school has made im­mense progress, the num­ber of girls in the over­all pop­u­la­tion have de­creased con­sid­er­ably due to gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices like sex-se­lec­tive abor­tion. Kr­ishna Ku­mar points out that this con­tra­dic­tory pic­ture helps us view and as­sess the state’s over­all pol­icy and per­for­mance in the con­text of girl’s childhood rather than in the con­text of girl’s ed­u­ca­tion alone. Girls’ enrolment is in­creas­ing in a so­cially regressive en­vi­ron­ment. More girls are get­ting ed­u­cated, but in an ethos which em­phat­i­cally con­veys its neg­a­tive view of girls. Those who are study­ing can hardly be ex­pected to es­cape or over­look this broader mes­sage, par­tic­u­larly be­cause they are get­ting ed­u­cated, even as they might-ben­e­fit from ed­u­ca­tion in dif­fer­ent ways (Ku­mar 2010: 83). The enrolment and re­ten­tion of girls in school thus needs to take into ac­count qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion which ques­tions gen­der stereo­types, pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to chal­lenge dom­i­nant im­ages and to un­der- stand the dy­nam­ics of the re­pro­duc­tion of in­equal­ity in ed­u­ca­tion. Fi­nally, the ed­u­ca­tion re­ceived by the poor does not bring re­wards in terms of eco­nomic re­turns. On the con­trary, they ex­pe­ri­ence long pe­ri­ods of un­em­ploy­ment in the re­serve army of labour and be­come VuIn­er­a­ble to dis­crim­i­na­tion in terms of work and wages (Ve­laskar 2003). Hem­lata, a ben­e­fi­ciary of the scheme who was part of the group dis­cus­sion dur­ing this re­search, was al­ready en­rolled in a cor­re­spon­dence course to pur­sue a B.A. pro­gramme. (She was interested in a law de­gree but was not aware of how to do so). The de­sign of the pro­grammes did not serve to ad­vance women’s eco­nomic se­cu­rity or au­ton­omy. There was lit­tle in the way of ap­ti­tude test­ing, train­ing for the job mar­ket or child care pro­vi­sions later in their lives if they wanted to study, train or work.

THE crit­i­cisms draw at­ten­tion to the fact that such pro­grammes rep­re­sent sin­gle in­stru­ments of so­cial pol­icy and can­not be ex­pected on their own to ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing causes of the prob­lems that gave rise to them. They also point to the need to link th­ese pro­grammes to changes in the wider pol­icy en­vi­ron­ment in which they are lo­cated (Kabeer 2010: 140). The syn­cretic fem­i­nist per­spec­tive brings in the two di­men­sions of in­clu­sion and recon­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion here. In­clu­sion of women and girls within pro­grammes, and their ac­cess to po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­cial rights are de­rived from the prin­ci­ples of lib­eral fem­i­nism. The idea of recon­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion is de­rived from rad­i­cal and post­mod­ern fem­i­nism. While the lib­eral fem­i­nist per­spec­tive would em­pha­sise on for­mal equal­ity and po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion, the rad­i­cal fem­i­nist’s main con­cern here would help to ques­tion the power struc­tures at play whether within the state agen­cies or the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions. Post­mod­ern fem­i­nism cau­tions about treat­ing women as a ho­mo­ge­neous cat­e­gory and the in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity ap­proach would be to delve into the class, caste, com­mu­nity, race, eth­nic­ity and age di­men­sions. The im­pli­ca­tions of this the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work in this con­text are that anti-gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tory pro­grammes in In­dia de­mand much more than just cash trans­fers. They re­quire ad­dress­ing many chal­lenges like im­ple­ment­ing gen­der-sen­si­tive laws, build­ing women-friendly ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, and pro­vid­ing qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion which coun­ters gen­der stereo­types and cre­ates a truly egal­i­tar­ian ethos. It should also in­clude lever­ag­ing mar­kets for the poor and marginalised women, along with skill de­vel­op­ment, and vi­brant col­lec­tives with ideas based on par­tic­i­pa­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity.

Ti­tle: “Sex-Se­lec­tive Abor­tion and the State: Poli­cies, laws and In­sti­tu­tions in In­dia” Au­thor: Bi­jay­alaxmi Nanda Pub­lisher: Har-Anand Pub­li­ca­tions, 2018 Price: ` 795

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