Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hardly a surprise!

Census 2011 reports a steep fall in child sex ratio

For the last few days all those working on the issue of falling sex ratio have been waiting with bated breath for the release of the provisional census data. That the child sex ratio (CSR) i.e the number of girls per thousand boys in the 0-6 age group will register a fall was a foregone conclusion but the anxiety was by HOW MUCH? The data is out, the wait is over and we still cannot breathe easy.

The CSR is an important indicator not only because it reflects the pre-birth elimination of girls but also the discrimination against girls once they are born. It is true that more girls die during childhood than boys. Some under enumeration also has to be factored in as many families do not report the presence of girls in the family (Though,let me clarify that it is not a major contributor to the CSR)

At the national level CSR declined from 923 to 914 between the last two censuses. The decline of 13 points from 2001 to 2011 as compared to 18 points between 1991 (945) and 2001(927) may offer some consolation to all those working on the issue. But the fact remains that gender discrimination is continuing to be rampant.

The data shows that the overall percentage of children in the 0-6 age group has reduced by 2.8 %. They constituted 15.9% of the population in 2001 as compared to 13.1% in 2011. This indicates lowering fertility rates- a negative growth rate in this segment of the population. However, it is important to note that if we look at the growth rate among boys and girls which is -2.42 and -3.80, it is clear that girls are not really having a fair chance of survival due to discrimination at birth and during childhood. As we always said, a small family is desired but a son is a must.

What is worrying is that while there has been some improvement in the CSR of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Tamilnadu, Gujarat, Mizoram and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in the remaining 27 states and UTs the sex ratios have recorded a decline. This shows that the phenomena of discrimination is no longer limited to a few pockets but is almost assuming epidemic proportions. The SRS data of 2007 on sex ratio at birth highlighted this phenomenon and now census has confirmed it.

This poses new set of challenges to the programme managers and civil society organizations. We cannot remain focused on a few districts or states alone any longer. While it is imperative that all that is possible is done to regulate the illegal practice of sex determination there, it is equally important that we regulate the sale and mushrooming of ultrasound clinics and machines elsewhere. The poor records of machines sold, poor compliance of the PCPNDT Act requirements by the clinics, and dismal performance of authorities in regulating these machines needs to be acknowledged and appropriate administrative mechanisms need to be put in place immediately all over the country. It is no longer a problem of “those” states. It is a problem of every district and state.

I am saddened to note that Maharashtra had a fall of 30 points from 913 to 883 between 2001 and 2011 in CSR. That the political will is lacking is evident from the fact that the State Supervisory Board was constituted recently after almost three years and has shown utter lack of understanding of the issue in its very first meeting. It is demotivating to see the people in power still thinking that Maharashtra is not as bad as others!

The alarm bells are ringing. It’s time for all of us to wake up from our stupor and fight for the girl child.


  1. Sharing a response I recieved by e-mail from Pritam Pal on the issue. Places the issues absolutely in right perspective:
    Dear Sharada,
    I am also with you and today i was listening the discussion in the Lok Sabha Channel named as ASMITA. But I found that dicussions are one sided they donot address the deep down issues which are resulting this situation.
    The discussion is on changing the mind set, but no discussion on the factors which are responsible for constructing that mind set since child hood.
    it was also relised that globalisation has widen the gaps between rich and poor and rich do not want to share their property to other families, and giving property share to girl means sharing the property.
    Tribals have better sex raitio but why
    donot have private property so there is no son prefeerence
    parental are not dependent on son in their old age
    they do not feel any need to protect virginty of their daughters which utlimtely for protecting the inhertance and property.
    the live in jhonpada and they vacat these houses v. easily and they do not have any registered land or house
    commodification of women's body to sell their products is not their way of life they live on the forest products majorly
    I feel very strongly that till the time our society and mevements does not raise the accumulation of private property and cooperates are given free hand to do so we would not be in position to make major shift.

  2. Yet another interesting response recieved from Soheb Lokhandwala by e-mail

    Why our girl child still suffer?
    Things need to be seen why this has happened again and again.

    There has being great discrimination among girl child even in nutrition and access to health care which is more shocking the statistics shows us our real face. More than 90% adolescent girl (14-18years ) are anaemic against male adolescent child of only 30%.

    If this girls in few years are married and are expectant mothers than both will be prone to anaemic and this vicious cycle continues on and on. The morsel she eats has no nutritional value; we need a strong focus and correction on this end.

    State of Mah. has revealed the shocking data from 2001 it was 913 now 2011 further down to 883. This indicates various schemes related to women and child development progs. are inefficient or the implementation process a failure. We need to relook into the entire process.

    We have in place PC-PNDT act but we failed to convict the unknown perpetrators of this crime. The conviction rate is hardly to a percent in entire country.

    All the state govts must act to their fullest in implementing this act.

    It is a clear case of discrimination, negligence and socio-culture attitude towards our girl child.

    GOI must bring in progs. So as adolescent girls (14-18years) get their due nutrition and health care on urgent basis.

    We from the civil society are again and again advocating for Universalization of PDS and Health care, as this will erase the exclusion factor which in turn improve our overall data.

    We also need to change the mindset of our socio-political sector for giving a fair chance to our girl child

    Soheb Lokhandwala