SEX RATIO IN INDIA
SEX RATIO IN INDIA
The sex ratio is an important indicator of gender balance in the population. As mentioned in the section on concepts earlier, historically, the sex ratio has been slightly in favour of females, that is, the number of females per 1000 males has generally been somewhat higher than 1000. However, India has had a declining sex-ratio for more than a century.
From 972 females per 1000 males at the turn of the twentieth.century, the sex ratio has declined to 933 at the turn of the twenty-first century. The trends of the last four all time low of 927 in 1991 before posting a modest increase in 2001.
But that has really alarmed demographers, policy makers , social activists and concerned citizens are the drastic fall in the child sex ratio. Age specific sex ratio began to be computed in 1961. The sex ratio for the 0-6 year age group (known as the juvenile or child sex ratio) has generally been substantially higher than the overall sex ratio for all age groups, but it has been falling very sharply. In fact the decade 1991-2001 represents an anomaly in that the overall sex ratio has posted its highest ever increase of 6 points from the all time low of 927 to 933, but the child sex ratio has dropped from 945 to 927, a plunge of 18 points taking it below the overall sex ratio for the first time.
The state-level child sex ratios offer even greater cause for worry. As many as six states and union territories have a child sex ratio of < 900 females per 1000 males. Punjab is the worst off with an incredibly low child sex ratio of 793 (the only state below 800), followed by Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Uttaranchal, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are all under 925, while Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Orissa are above the national average of 927 but below the 950 mark.
Even Kerala, the state with the best overall sex ratio does not do too well at 963, while the highest child sex ratio of 986 is found in Sikkim.
Demographers and sociologists have offered several reasons for the decline in
The health factor that affects women differently from men is childbearing. It is relevant to ask if the fall in the sex ratio may be partly due to the increased risk of death in child birth that only women face. However, maternal mortality is supposed to decline with development, as levels of nutrition, general education and awareness as well as the availability of medical and communication facilities improves. Indeed, maternal mortality rates have been coming down in India even though they remain high by international standards. So it is difficult to see how maternal mortality could have been responsible for the worsening of the sex ratio over time.
Combined with the fact that the decline in the child sex ratios has been much steeper than the overall figure, social scientists believe that the cause has to be sought in the differential treatment of girl babies.
Several other factors may be held responsible for the decline in the child sex ratio including.
Sex specific abortions that prevent girl babies from being born and
Severe neglect of girl babies in infancy leading to higher death rates,
Female infanticide (or the killing of girl babies due to religious or cultural beliefs).
Each of these reasons point to a serious social problem and there is some evidence that all of these have been at work in India. Practices of female infanticide have been known to exist in many regions, while increasing importance is being attached to modern medical techniques by which the sex of the baby can be determined in the very early stages of pregnancy. The availability of the sonogram, originally developed to identify genetic or other disorders in the foetus, may be used to identify selectively abort female foetuses.
The regional pattern of low child sex ratios seems to support this argument. So the problem of selective abortions is not due to poverty or ignorance or lack of resources only. For example, if practices like dowry payments are there for marriage of their daughters, then prosperous parents would be the ones most able to afford this. However, we find that sex ratios are lowest in the most prosperous regions.
It is also possible (though this issue is still being researched) that as economically prosperous families decide to have fewer children- often only one or two now-they may also wish to choose the sex of their child. This becomes possible with the availability of ultrasound technology, although the government has passed strict laws banning this practice and imposing heavy fines and imprisonment as punishment. Known as the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse)
Act, this law has been in force since 1996 and has been further strengthened in 2003. However, in the long run the solution to problems like the bias against girl children depends more on how social attitudes evolve even though laws and rules can also help.