Minister misses both the points on gender and sexuality

Commenting on declining child sex ratio, Farooq Abdullah, Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Government of India, said that the day is not far when there will be "no girls to marry" and men will "all become gays" (Source: The Indian Express, 15 April 2011). We believe that the Indian minister has not only conveyed a misconstrued understanding on sexuality but also appalling sense of gender-based inequalities that continue to fuel discrimination and violence against women in communities across India. His remarks also smell of male domination and obsession with interests of men only.

Let us see the first point (declining sex ratio).

According to the Census 2011 conducted periodically by the Government of India, the child sex ratio (0-6 years) has further declined in India to 914:1000 (female:male) but overall sex ratio at the country level has upped by 7 points to 940:1000. However, sadly, three major states of Jammu and Kashmir (from where the above quoted minister hails), Bihar and Gujarat (whose Chief Minister Narendra Modi can't stop beating drums that it is a 'model for development') have shown a DECLINE in overall sex ratio as well when compared to Census 2001.

How could the honourable minister be so insensitive so as to completely ignore the unacceptable levels of female infanticide in India, the blame of which should surely be slapped on men, and also on women to some extent (who hardly have a choice with their age-old conditioning and social norms that stink of male chauvenism). Despite of all talks, no state in India can say that it is able to walk the talk of gender-equality and abolishing gender-based discrimination from all walks of life and at all levels. There are states that are doing better than others, but over all, entire nation is far behind from what can remotely be considered as desired in terms of sex ratio, human rights, equity, health and social justice indicators.

In India sadly alarming numbers of women still die during child birth. According to a recent report published in The Lancet, nearly one-fourth of all stillborn babies worldwide are from India, the highest for any nation, and more than half of them could be saved by better maternal and obstetric care. An average of 2.6 million stillbirths occurred every year between 1995 and 2009, 23.2% of which were from India (1,680 babies were born dead every day in India).

Alarming degree of sexual and domestic violence women face in India is another reason why we have declining sex ratio Mr Minister.

Clearly a lot more needs to be done in de-conditioning age-old norms and sensitising men and women, boys and girls, on how to mutually live a life of equality and dignity. This is not about sexual orientation Mr Minister, this is clearly about deeply ingrained preferences for a male child. A mountainous change is required to turn the tables on the right side.

Now let us see the second point of sexual orientation (men becoming gays because there are lesser women), the more controversial perhaps!

Minister's argument is entirely flawed. Just because there are more men around than women, women who have same-sex orientation haven't turned heterosexual.

In India, homosexuality has been age-old yet controversial. A landmark judgement of Delhi High Court, on Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) in July 2009, said that every citizen has a right to live a life with dignity and enjoy equality. This was a turning point in terms of ending criminalisation of homosexuality in India.

The point made by the honourable minister is clearly missing-the-point because men or women don't become homosexuals but they are born with same-sex orientation and it is as normal for them to be homosexuals as it is for others to be heterosexuals. Sexual orientation is a self-perceived identity Mr Minister and men will not become homosexual because of declining sex ratio or homosexual men will not become heterosexual in states where sex ratio is doing good like Kerala.

Linking declining sex ratio to sexual orientation was in very poor taste, and is so insensitive and disappointing Mr Minister.

Hope better sense prevails.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS 

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