One thousand six hundred girls a day are being lost — a staggering number that would have galvanized anyone into action. However, when we add that this is due to the practice of pre-natal sex selection that has resulted in approximately six lakh girls going missing annually in India during the period 2001-2007, even as the response and action plan changes.
Female infanticide and feticide are practices that have been well-documented but rarely discussed. Sex selection is banned, perhaps discussed, but not enforced. The use of technology for pre-natal sex selection is a major reason contributing to this grim situation, not to mention it is lucrative for the medical and non-medical or health practitioners. The Pre-conception pre-natal diagnostic techniques (PCPNDT) Act was enacted in 1994 to regulate the use and prohibit the misuse of technology. Unfortunately, people are still very unaware about the Act that governs this practice. Media plays a critical role in building awareness in society and, as recent events have unfolded in Egypt, even has the power to disband a 30-year-old government. It is precisely to promote, highlight and recognize such media efforts that bring to the forefront the issues of the girl child and their systematic elimination even before birth, was born the idea of the ‘Laadli-National Creative Excellence Awards for Social Change’ by Population First.
Population First is an NGO working on population and health issues within the framework of women's rights and social development. Bobby Sista, the founder of Population First and a much-respected person in media circles, says, “We believe that population is not an issue of numbers alone. Numbers are but a manifestation of poor social development and lack of access to health and contraceptive services. There is a need for advocacy. Reducing gender imbalances, investing for the current and future population and reaching the goal of replacement level fertility are our key communication objectives.”
The Laadli-National Creative Excellence Awards for Social Change was instituted by Population First with the support of UNFPA. This is a nationwide contest for anyone who wants to support the campaign on the girl child and, very specifically, the campaign against sex selection. The contest is thrown open to one and all — individuals, agencies, government departments, NGOs, students, etc. The aim is to develop a pool of creative and compelling communication material for the campaign.
Dr. Sharada, Programme Director, Population First adds, “The knowledge of the PCPNDT Act is very essential as sex selection is seen as a social issue and not as a crime under the law. Lack of knowledge about the Act has allowed many an offender to escape. It is a shame that just 15 people have been actually convicted with imprisonment under this Act. Therefore, this second edition of the awards was designed to focus on developing materials on the large theme of ‘Pre-birth sex determination is a crime under the PCPNDT Act’.”
Categories and themes such as storyboards of TVCs, films, animation films, radio jingles, slogans/lyrics/songs, print ads/ cartoons, campaign ideas, posters/outdoor media, photography, innovative merchandise materials, e-banners and more. The themes that can be explored in the 2nd edition of the awards are – pre-birth sex determination is a crime under the PCPNDT Act, squealing is good if it is to protect the girl child from discrimination.
You can make a difference by being vigilant and lodging complaints on www.hamaribeti.nic.in. More information on the contest and how to participate etc is available at www.creative-excellence.org.