India's appalling sex ratio worsens

Michael Cook
1 Apr 2011
Reproduced with Permission

The latest figures show that India's child sex ratio is getting even worse. The normal ratio for children between 0 and 6 is about 950 girls to 1000 boys. However, early returns for the 2011 census show that the number of girls to 1,000 boys has shrunk to 914 girls to every 1000 boys, down from 927 in 2001.

There are striking regional differences. The ratio in the state of Haryana is the lowest in India, although it registered a small increase from 819 from 2001 to 830 in 2011. The best state, overall, is northeastern Mizoram, at 971. The lowest district in the country is Jhajjar, in Haryana, with a ratio of 774. Even in the capital, Delhi, the ratio slipped from 868 to 866.

Portable ultrasound machines and readily available abortion have made the decline in the number of baby girls possible, but its cause is a deep-seated preference for male offspring. A 1994 law banning sex-selective abortions set down stiff penalties, but with a wink and a nod its strict safeguards are easily circumvented.

And while a falling birth rate may give good cheer to supporters of limits on population growth, it makes the sex ratio far worse. When people choose to have only one or two children, they choose boys. "The issue of discrimination is one that is deep rooted in the Indian society," says Ravi Verma, director of the Asia office of the International Center for Research on Women. "With fertility decline, the preference for son is becoming stronger.", March 31