Monday, December 05, 2016

The movie Dangal will improve the sex ratio more than the PCPNDT Act

The falling sex ratio in India has been a matter of concern, which is why the government of India passed the PCPNDT Act , with the hope that this would help to increase the number of girls . The intention was that the Act would stop people from resorting to sex selective abortions.

Sadly, the act has had previous little impact . It has become a very punitive act , which focuses on punishing doctors who are allegedly performing sex selective abortions. 9 times out of 10, the doctors who've been hauled to court for flouting the Act is not because they have been caught performing sex selective abortions , but because they have committed clerical errors in filling in the infamous Form F. The Act is obsessed with regulating the misuse of ultrasound scanning, and just ends up criminalizing doctors whose records are not picture perfect, even though they may not be performing any sex selection. This is one of those draconian laws where the doctor is considered to be guilty, until he can prove that he is innocent !

This has become a huge tragedy, which has caused a lot of harm , because patients are being deprived of ultrasound scanning facilities . Also, because of the obsession with ultrasound scanning, the Government is failing to control the use of blood tests which are being misused to commit female feticide.

We are barking up the wrong tree , because we are more focused on measuring population-based numbers such as sex ratios, while we should be encouraging each individual couple not to discriminate between having a son or a daughter.

This is where movies like Dangal shine. For one thing , it's a story which is told very well . It strikes an emotional chord, and speaks to your heart . Most importantly , it talks to each individual viewer, and shows them that girls are as good as boys - that there's no advantage to prefer having a boy as compared to a girl.
Once this message gets across , and people internalize it and understand it, this is going to have a far more lasting impact as compared to any amount of laws we can pass , or sting operations we carry out. Even slogans like Beti Bachao, Desh Badhao are just empty platitudes.

A well told film can have a powerful impact, especially given the fact that it's in a setting like Punjab, which has always had a fascination for boys. Aamir Khan is a great actor, and has a lot charisma. The trailers suggest that it's a compelling story , which is full of action, which means people will enjoy watching it !
Aamir's show called Satymev Jayate was disappointing because his team didn't do its research properly, and oversimplified matters. I think he has learned from his mistakes, and will hopefully stick to his core focus - acting - which is where he shines !

This movie is the kind of positive intervention which will reduce gender discrimination in India. We may not be able to judge the impact until a few more years go by, because it takes time for people to change their behavior , and their attitudes, but I am very hopeful !

My guess would be that the sex ratio at birth in India would definitely improve over the next four years, and while the PCPNDT activists may want to take credit for this, my guess is that it will movies like this which would have a far greater impact, and the tragedy is we'll never be able to give them the credit they deserve.

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