Resource for journalists reporting on violence against women in India
India's severe sex ratio imbalance is impeding economic growth and has led to horrific social tensions, manifesting itself in recent instances of appalling violence against women, said Fairfield University Professor Gita Rajan, Ph.D., project director of "Impact India 2021: Elevating the Value of Women and Girls in Society." Dr. Rajan, who was born and raised in India, can discuss the recent trend of systemically undervaluing Indian girls and women, drawing on her scholarly expertise as a senior research fellow working with Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life. The Center's successful pilot study, "Impact India," was undertaken because of advice from the Office of Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues at the U.S. Department of State. According to the 2011 National Census of India, there were 914 girls born for every 1,000 boys; in some regions reaching as low as 824 girls.
The pilot study reframed the sex ratio imbalance crisis to explore complex family dynamics surrounding the value of the girl child, and moved it away from clinical discourses of mothers' health and infant mortality. The study, conducted in partnership with two Indian institutions - St Xavier's University in Mumbai and Loyola College in Chennai -demonstrated that pressures driving the imbalance rested upon the perception that boys were better wage earners, but more important, the families surveyed were largely unaware of opportunities to educate girls, and potential for employment for trained women. But, the myth that boys are better wage earners is not limited to India alone, said Rajan, it is a myth turned to reality the world over.
The successful pilot study has resulted in the implementation of Phase II, i.e., the expansion of Fairfield University's academic partnership to a collaborative effort with a network of researchers from eight major Indian universities and has confirmed partnerships with 14 community organizations from groups across the nation, including two bodies from the New Delhi branch of the United Nations: UN Women and UN Population Fund. Researchers plan to survey 24, 000 families from various socio-economic levels to measure male-child preference, one of the root causes of this man-made crisis.
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Posted on October 8, 2013
Vol. 46, No. 69