Thursday, May 26, 2011

And why?

One thought education and means would save our girls. But the latest report by The Lancet tells us that it is those mothers with lesser education and wealth but with a better sense of responsibility who seems to be saving our girls.

The conditional sex ratio for second-order births when the firstborn was a girl fell from 906 per 1000 boys (99% CI 798–1013) in 1990 to 836 (733–939) in 2005; an annual decline of 0•52% (p for trend=0∙002).

Declines were much greater in mothers with 10 or more years of education than in mothers with no education, and in wealthier households compared with poorer households. By contrast, we did not detect any significant declines in the sex ratio for second-order births if the firstborn was a boy, or for firstborns.

Between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, more than twice the number of Indian districts (local administrative areas) showed declines in the child sex ratio as districts with no change or increases. After adjusting for excess mortality rates in girls, our estimates of number of selective abortions of girls rose from 0–2•0 million in the 1980s, to 1•2–4•1 million in the 1990s, and to 3•1–6•0 million in the 2000s. Each 1% decline in child sex ratio at ages 0–6 years implied 1•2–3•6 million more selective abortions of girls. Selective abortions of girls totalled about 4•2–12•1 million from 1980–2010, with a greater rate of increase in the 1990s than in the 2000s.

We did not yet see any clear evidence of selective abortion of firstborn female fetuses. This is partly because India does not enforce a one-child policy, which led to the selective abortion of firstborn female fetuses in China. However, selective abortions of first-order girls might increase if fertility drops further, particularly in urban areas.

The following maps are from the 2011 Census report.

Country wise Child Sex Ratio in age 0-6 (Year 2001 vs 2011)

Ranked State/UT wise for Year 2011

Ranked distict wise for Year 2011

Even Kerala’s sex ratio within the 1-6 range is declining.

Has Kerala too started killing their girls?

With the Indian setup in mind, it would not be fair to blame just the mother since the decision making and even power seldom rests with the mother alone in most households. Yet, let me blame those mothers who are educated and have financial means, since they have failed to exercise their position. They have succumbed to the cultural norms and failed to curb an evil practice when they could.

It is time the educated women in India stopped blaming men alone for all the woes.

What have these mothers gained from education if they fail to love/protect their own lot. Why have they failed to give a chance to girls like themselves? Is it the mother in India who yearns for a boy child more than the father?

And if education alone will not curb this, then only jail terms shall.

The Indian Government implemented a Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1996 to prevent the misuse of techniques for the purpose of prenatal sex determination leading to selective abortion of girls.22 It is unlikely that this Act has been effective nationally because few health providers have been charged or convicted.

But this act has not been effective:

Furthermore, the PNDT Act itself provides scanty information about what penalties would apply either to doctors performing s*x determination tests or to in-laws and family members forcing women to seek them.

And these tests are still done under different pretexts and the information conveyed in “innovative” ways. Even sign languages!

'Laddu' Means A Boy, `Barfi' A Girl A `V' sign would normally mean `victory'. But in some northern States of the country, a doctor uses this sign after ultrasonograhpy of a pregnant woman to indicate, "Voila, it's a son!''

If the doctor asks the patient to come back on a Friday, it means it is a girl she is carrying and she should return for an abortion. And if he says, "Let's meet on Monday'', it means its going to be a boy.

"Our planners and policy makers have not understood the grip of the son complex in Indian society, nor have our sociologists and behavioural scientists done enough research on the subject,'' the study notes.

The study, which covered Kurukshetra in Haryana, Fateh Saheb in Punjab and Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, categorically states that female foeticide was the result of an unholy alliance between the traditional preference for a son and modern medical technology, increasing greed of doctors and rising the demand for dowry that makes daughters financial burdens.

One of the main reasons that the PNDT Act has failed is "because of the connivance of doctors in s*x determination and selective abortions." These procedures have become lucrative business for many of India's medical practitioners.

For further reading.


  1. Hi,
    Thanks for the post ... as always!

    The tendency to abort the second child if its a girl is strong and the tendency is spreading onto states like maharashtra where traditionally so such prejudice really existed. Saddening to see that valuing a child's worth is based on the gender and how better can the family benefit economically is usually prevalent among the middle class.

    The social situation is pathetically biased against families with girls. I am beginning to realise that because my "BRIDE-HUNTING" is on and I happen to encounter and witness some of my close friends marriage dealings as well. The way the boy's father feels important and addresses others; and the girls side should be totally humble to the dealings. My friends themselves feel embarassed and disgusted; however cant press beyond a point. Even my usually liberal parents seek out those virtues in a girl; that I donot possess. I feel amused also when i see desperate parents of the girls trying to somehow push through their alliance. Then my dad quibs "You dont know the worth of a boy".

    Sorry to have bored you with personal experiences; but this were few such instances where I could relate to the prevailing gender biases even in our socially concious Mallu mindset.

    - Deeps

  2. Deeps: Thank you for the response. It saddens me to hear that inspite of education, the social situation continues to be biased against families with girls. It is not as though I am not aware of this myself, having come from a family of 3 girls and 2 boys.. My Father did have his share of woes, but that was many years ago.. and Kerala was not into killing their girls..but now even after a decade and more, if the situation is only worsening then it is dangerous.
    and if youngsters like yourself cant take the pressure, then whom can one depend upon? :)
    hence I feel it is upto the girls themselves to put their foot down. They have done everything to improve their lot, yet they continue to be treated thus.

    and if this situation continues, in future boys would find it very difficult to find a girl for themselves..maybe only then our society will wake up. and it is already happening in some states.

    Thank you once again for your thoughts..


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