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Activists use theatre and film in fight against sex selection in India

Anti-Sex selection. Sex determination ban in India By Melanurya (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A sign announcing the ban on prenatal sex determination, which is outlawed in India to prevent sex-selective abortion.
Campaigners are using theatre and film to campaign against sex selection in India.

Sex selection is commonplace in India, despite such practises being illegal. As a result, India’s sex ratio is skewed. The 2011 census recorded just 940 females for every thousand males as per the 2011 census. If sex selection continues, this could drop to 898 women for every thousand men by 2031.

One common method of sex selection is the use of sex selection drugs (SSDs). It is their usage that campaigners like the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Apoorva Pande Foundation are trying to combat.

“Sex selection is commonplace in India, despite such practises being illegal”

People take SSDs in the belief that they will help conceive a boy. This is despite the fact that the sex of a child cannot be changed when they are in utero. The effect of the drugs is not, then, the guarantee of a male child. In fact, the drugs increase the risk of stillbirth and birth defects.

A short film produced by the PHFI aims to highlight this. In the film, which is being shown at railway stations across India, a woman has a stillbirth in hospital. Flashbacks show her being forced to take SSDs by her family.

The Apoorva Pande Foundation, meanwhile, is staging a play also wishing to educate spectators about the risks of SSDs. The play is about a girl who is bullied because she suffers from a disability. This is linked to her mother being forced to take SSDs by her husband and mother-in-law during pregnancy.

The link between both projects is that they desire to engage male spectators.

In a patriarchal society, who can challenge an idea better than anyone else? Men,” says Abhijit Das, director of the Centre for Health and Social Justice in Delhi. “Men together can create new social norms. We believe that once men begin applying and understanding equity in their day-to-day relationships, then change will happen.”

Sex selection has resulted in India missing 63 million women and girls. Without a cohesive effort to engage all elements of Indian society and communicate the dangers of SSDs and sex selection, the situation is poised only to get worse in future.

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