June 14, 2008

Girl Child Still Unwelcome in Delhi Homes: Study

By Rumu Banerjee

NEW DELHI: As the city tries to break gender stereotypes, yet another study has highlighted the attitudinal differences towards the girl child in the country. The bright spot though is that the differences seem to have become far more subtle.

The study, conducted by the Women's Studies and Development Centre (WSDC) at Delhi University, has thrown up several interesting highlights, especially on the urban mindset. Interestingly, the study shows that sex preference for an unborn child is more pronounced in urban areas, and especially with fathers, while an "unhappy" reaction to the birth of a girl was again more marked in urban parents.

Said Nilima Srivastava, principal project coordinator at the WSDC, "The study, which looked at both the rural and urban areas, opens up a new window into the urban mindset. Interestingly, the attitudinal differences, wherever felt, are much more subtle than we had thought."

For instance, in Delhi, which had a higher percentage of parents who do not celebrate the birth of a girl child, the methods adopted were subtle - no distribution of clothes or religious activity. The subtlety was most evident in areas like health, where the girl child got treated at par with boys, but with a difference. "For instance, the boy would get the packet of chocolate or Maggi which was denied to the girl," said Srivastava.

The study, which had a sample size of 7,200 respondents, covered districts in six states - Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan. Around 1,200 respondents: 400 mothers, fathers and girls each were interviewed, with the age of girls ranging from 13 to 18 years.

The report, which will be presented to the UN as well as the central government, also throws up a positive. Said Srivastava, "The good news is that most girls, a healthy 77%, don't feel they are discriminated against."

But it's not goodbye to all discrimination. Take quality of nutrition for example. Of the 11.94% who felt discriminated against, a staggering 15.14% were from the urban areas, as against only 8.85% from rural areas. Urban Delhi especially seems to be biased, with the report claiming that girls in the city get restricted exposure to the outside world, remaining confined to "chatting in the neighbourhood".

Delhi also scores low when it comes to decision-making vis-a-vis marriage.

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