Declining Sex Ratio In India: Beyond Intent

Posted on April 7, 2011 in Society


By Manki Patel:

On Monday morning I decide to write my very first entry for ‘Youth Ki Awaaz’. I have my tools prepared, a blank word document and a strong cup of coffee to keep me alert, my office door shut and my ears plugged with headphones to block out all noise. As I begin, I hope the team of YKA will be tolerant and patient with me for the uncertainty of where this post will end, but nonetheless I make a start.

Thinking about the plethora of issues concerning India, it is easy to feel a little lost in the sea of choices for a topic. Taking cue from current news, census of India 2011 was released recently. And for the first time there has been a significant dip in the growth rate of India’s population, but the growing imbalance in the current child sex ratio of 914 girls against 1000 boys is a matter of concern.

There evidently still prevails a preference for a male child among Indian parents. The reason puzzle’s me and I am compelled to ask a simple rhetoric question: ‘Why’. In order to get a basic grasp on the problem, I have on many occasions tried to put myself in the shoes of city dwelling, educated Indian parents trying to make a life and thought about the reasons that could create biases and tilt the balance in favor of a male child. In my attempt, I was able to reduce the reasons to: social pressure from immediate family, cultural driven mind-sets which claim, less effort and attention is needed for raising boys and boys seen as financial investment for old age.

As is obvious, the benefits of a boy child over a girl are limited and less than a handful. Now if I try to change my role to a village-dwelling, uneducated Indian parent then the resourcefulness of a male child instantly increases. And to be fair I am unqualified to dissect the lives lived in scarcity; being an alien to that world I can never fully understand the driving force behind their decisions. So having identified the culprits i.e. city dwelling educated parents with a gender preference, I will continue forth in light of the above disclaimer.

Without digressing, the other day, as I went for a bike ride, I happened to notice a 40-something lady walk into the park with her two children; a boy and a girl aged around 8 and 10 approximately. The moment they entered the park, the son grabbed his soccer ball and ran off to play with his friends. The daughter quietly walked to a bench with her mother and as the mother sat down, the girl picked up her shovel and bucket from the cart and started to play in sand few feet away from the bench. Every now and then, the girl would occasionally look up, turn her head around and smile reassuringly to her mother. By the end of the evening, when it was time to go home, the girl packed her things and ran to the bench. Her mother grabbed her little hand and said ‘come let’s go look for your brother so we can all go home’.

It will be diminishing to explicitly state what a girl child brings to the family so I decided to narrate the above incident in the hope that the readers will be able to derive for themselves the value of having a daughter. Since 2001, Indian literacy levels have grown from 65% to 74% and it still remains to be seen if this will have an effect in decreasing the gap between child sex ratio.