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The sex ratio crisis

India fares among the worst in South Asia when it comes to the sex ratio.

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group

India fares among the worst in South Asia when it comes to the sex ratio. The 2011 Census reveals India performed at a much lower level with 914/1000 for 0-6 years category and 940/1000 aggregate sex ratio.

As a matter of fact, the overall sex ratio performance of India in 2011 event lags behind its neighbours - Sri Lanka (1034), Nepal (1014), Bangladesh (978), Pakistan (943). Giving company to India is China, which has done worse with a 926 sex ratio.

In India’s immediate vicinity, Afghanistan and Bhutan are the only two countries which score lower than India, with an overall sex ratio of 931 and 897 respectively.

The 2011 Census reveals an alarming sex ratio scenario in the region with two growing economies - China and India - being outranked by relatively smaller neighbours on this key social indicator.

Globally, the Russian Federation leads the sex ratio (1,167) followed by Japan (1,055), Myanmar (1048), Brazil (1,042), Sri Lanka (1034), USA (1,025), Nepal (1014), Indonesia (988) and Nigeria (987). China, Indonesia, Nigeria and USA witnessed a decline in the sex ratio during 2011 over the previous decade.

India may take pride in marginal growth in sex ratio during the last decade but historically, the male-female proportion has been negative for most of the decades of India’s post independence, portraying a dismal social record.

Experts say that the continuous downfall in the sex ratio straightaway shows the failure in the implementation of Pre-Conception, Re-conception & Pre Natal Diagnostics Techniques Act (PC & PNDT ACT).

Ranjana Kumari, president, WomenPowerConnect (WPC), says,” Law is present but is not an effective tool to stop the practice. Until and unless the guilty are punished through effective and speedy legislation, the decline in sex ratio would remain a burning issue.”

The PC & PNDT Act was enacted in response to the decline in sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991. Female infanticide had been prohibited through legislation in pre-independence period and certain provisions were included in the Indian Penal Code.

The penalties under the act include a fine up to Rs 1,00,000 and imprisonment up to five years.

As per the latest Census report, in the post independence period the sex ratio slipped down for two consecutive decades after 1951 to reach 930 in 1971. During 1961-71 a steep fall of 11 points (from 941 to 930) was recorded in the sex ratio. According to the Census the lowest sex ratio in India was at 927 in the year 1991 and the highest at 972 in 1901.
The Census report does not make any distinction between urban and rural areas. But Dr Meenakshi Ahuja, senior obstetrics & gynecologist at Fortis La Femma, a women-only hospital from the group, said sex discrimination was majorly a rural phenomenon and in urban areas it was rarely observed, rarely at times amongst the business families, but not at all evidenced with the working class.

The relative growth in sex ratio during the last decade (2001-11) has been fuelled by southern states. As against the national sex ratio pegged at 940, southern neighbours - Kerala (1084), Tamil Nadu (995), and Andhra Pradesh (992) - stand out as growth stories among various states. In Union Territories (UTs), the top three are Puducherry (1038), Lakshadweep (946) and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands (1,038).

The drag states in respect of the national average are Haryana (877), Jammu & Kashmir (883) and Sikkim (889), and UTs - Chandigarh (818) Daman & Diu (618), Dadra & Nagar Haveli (775).

The bigger worry comes from Bihar and Gujarat, two states with loud claims of socio-economic development. Bihar has witnessed a steep fall over the decades. From a high of 1,005 in 1961, Bihar’s sex ratio has plummeted to 916 in 2011 with the worst decade recording a sex ratio of 907 in 1991. Similarly, Gujarat has witnessed a consistent fall over the last two decades beginning 1991 (934) and 2001 (920) and now standing at 918 in 2011.

Indrani Sinha, director, ‘SANLAAP’, an NGO in women empowerment, has a solution to the vexed sex ratio crisis: “Include gender equity and gender sensitization into academics and send every child to the school; sex ratio would definitely be under control.”

Three major states (J&K, Bihar & Gujarat) have shown decline in sex ratio between 1961-2011. The decline ranged from two points in Gujarat to nine points in Jammu & Kashmir.

However, 29 states/UTs have shown an increase in sex ratio over the last decade. Perceptible increase has been observed in the populous states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and all the states located in the Northeast.

A point to be noted is that the states having historically low sex ratio such as Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Chandigarh have shown appreciable increase in the sex ratio in Census 2011.

Majority of the states identified as gender critical for special attention and intervention as part of Census 2011 have shown increasing trend in the sex ratio as per the provisional results.

As per the Census report Punjab has shown a increase from 882 in 1991 to 893 in 2011; Haryana has shown a decadal increase of 12 points from 1991 (865) to 2011 (877); and similarly, Chandigarh has also shown a decadal increase of 28 points from 1991 (790) to 2011 (818).

Sex ratio of 940 in 2011 represents a male population of 623.7 million and 586.4 million female population. This shows that there is difference of around 37.3 million amongst the two genders and the gap is yet to be fulfilled as always.