A Country Without Women: The Truth Behind Wavering Sex Ratios Across Indian States

Posted on June 17, 2012 in Specials

By Priyanka Mittal:

Imagine a world without women. Misogynists may consider it their ideal place but coming to its logical conclusion, it would amount to extinction of the human race. One may think that this seems short-sighted and mankind would be sensible enough to avoid such a scenario but over the years, the thirst for a male child has led to countless female foetuses being killed. In order to avoid spending lakhs for a daughter’s wedding, parents seek a solution at birth itself — kill the baby if it is a girl.

The immediate result of this is a drop in the sex ratio with the current figure being at 940 girls for every 1000 boys. This overall sex ratio has shown marginal improvement since 2001 going from 933 to 940 females per 1000 males but this cannot be taken as reason enough to celebrate as it differs from region to region.

According to Census 2011, Kerala (1084 females per 1000 males) and Puducherry (1031 females per 1000 males) are the only two places in India where total female population is higher than male population. The lowest sex ratio was recorded in Haryana (877 females per 1000 males).  A healthy sex ratio remains a largely southern phenomenon – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh round out the top five with the north-eastern states also showing a rather healthy attitude to girl children than the rest of the country.

As per popular belief of growth and economic progress going hand in hand with progressive attitude towards women, few Indian states have managed to bend this trend bringing much shame and disgrace. Sex ratios in states like Delhi and Chandigarh are expected to be higher than those of agrarian states. This has been invalidated with the figures of Delhi and Chandigarh standing at 866 and 818 in comparison to Punjab and Haryana which are at 893 and 877 respectively.

New Delhi being the capital of the country and one of the most developed states holds one of the lowest ratios of 866 females per 1000 males adding fodder to India’s shameful story. Within Delhi itself, it can be seen that it is most skewed in VVIP areas with high-end Connaught Place and Chanakyapuri topping the list of ignominy. What could possibly be the reason of this skewed paradigm?

It may be drawn that it is not the poorest and least literate states that are killing off their infant girls as per popular belief; in fact the reverse holds true. Nor is high literacy a good indicator: Uttar Pradesh and Bihar do far better than Maharashtra and Gujarat. To add to it, the districts, which have a high tribal population, record sex ratios which are more egalitarian thus exploding the myth that growing affluence and spread of basic education alone will result in the erosion of gender bias. These trends lead to the inescapable conclusion that growth and development brings greater access to pre-natal sex determination, and hence, worse sex ratios.

As a consequence of less number of females, polyandry would rise with her being shared amongst several men in the same household. There is also an emerging pattern of trafficking of girls to areas where gender gaps are most acute. The trafficked women and girls are sexually exploited and forced to give birth to a male child.

With the government passing the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act and Aamir Khan enthralling the nation by exposing the ugly face of female foeticide, we seem to have taken a step forward in this direction. Reflections of changing trends can be seen in tiny mirrors where a sarpanch in a Rajasthan village has decided to register police cases against women and families going for tests to detect and abort the girl child, and also in Gujarat where girls are beating the boys at in vitro fertilization across 12 centres in the city.

The key question is that when there are not enough women to match the number of men — what then?  What happens to the boys who are left without a corresponding female partner? This is a question which deals with not anything that is yours or mine but something that is ‘ours’; the future of us all.