Vote for bride! Amusing it may sound elsewhere but it is a fact in Haryana a state notorious for its skewed sex ratio. Bahu dilao, vote pao ( Get us bride if you want our votes ) was the slogan coined by the bachelor voters of haryana in the last general elections to draw attention to the gender imbalance in the state. The state government s ostrich approach to the vexed issues of female foeticide in the overarching patriarchal society led by a domineering panchayats, has led to a situation where politicians have become the targets of these young bachelors who hold them responsible for the gender imbalance in the state.
Blame it on Son-mania and the government's ineptitude, skewed sex ratio has started to cause cracks in Haryana societies. According to the 2011 Census, Haryana has 879 females per 1,000 males the worst among Indian states, and an even more abysmal child sex ratio of 830 girls. This is largely attributed to the failure of the state government to address the issue with strict enforcement of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act in the state. Media reports have frequently suggested the prevalence of pre-natal sex determination tests and often bring to public notice instances of discarded female foetuses found either in garbage dumps, or buried in fields.
Obviously the government's inability to check female foeticides has meant lesser females in the state and hence, resulted in shortage of brides. According to the 2001 Census, 10%-15% males in the age group of 25-49 remain unmarried in the state.
Lack of brides for the marriageable youth has resulted in a spurt in rape cases and a number of sex-related crimes including violence against women in the state. In 2011, a total of 733 rape cases were registered and in the first six months of the following year 367 rape cases were already reported.
Yet the government has woefully remained apathetic to the situation. So much so that in October 2012, a concerned National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) even sought explanation from the state government on the case-by-case action it took against the culprits in face of the rising incidents of rape of teen-aged girls in the state.
Yet, despite being nudged by the courts, the state government continues to turn a blind eye to the vexatious problem. In February 2014 too, the frightful rise in rape cases in Haryana and the lacklustre attitude of the police authorities and improper investigation leading to acquittal of the accused persons, were also brought to the notice of the Supreme Court, which took note of cases of 20 rapes in just the month of October 2012, in the state.
Indeed the number of bachelors has been ever growing. Yet, where the state government has failed, the archaic male dominated rural society with an overriding authority on women has intervened with a bizarre solution to the ever increasing rape cases abolish the marriageable age limit and marry the girls at 16!
Such diktats are rigorously followed and wield considerable influence in rural Haryana. Figures suggest that around 50 men in each of Haryana's 7,000 villages have no prospects of finding a bride locally. This has also led to yet another problem the reprehensible practise of trafficking of brides from far-off states like Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand. A recent newspaper report claims of at least 50,000 trafficked brides already in Haryana.
Yet, the crowding of bachelors, as census data shows, happens between the ages of 20 and 29 in Haryana. The shortage of brides of late has even challenged the social customs and tradition. Only recently a community in Gurgaon district was forced to abandon a 600-year-old tradition of brotherhood within the community and allow same gotra (clan) marriages. It may be mentioned that the sex ratio in Gurgaon district is the worst in Haryana - only 854 females against 1,000 males. For a state known to ban marriages within the same 'gotra' and even resort to honour klling in such cases, it has been a marked departure from their traditional custom.
In fact, even honour killing too reflect the deep-rooted apathy towards women's issues in Haryana and that there is no way to measure this crime that reflects poorly on the state government.
Indeed it is high time that the government wakes up to tackle the issue of female foeticide which, if not tackled now, is fraught with disastrous consequences sooner than later.