This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by ED Times. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How The NFHS’s Figures Of India’s Sex Ratio Don’t Portray The Real Situation

More from ED Times

By Kushan Niyogi

Until recently, the figures of the ratio between the binary gender division of the two conventional sexes have been disappointing. The gap has posthumously been depicted as an ever widened rift that can sparsely be narrowed. However, this year’s National Family Health Survey revealed that the gender disparity had come down by a significant amount.

The new development has led to Indians rejoicing as it points towards the fact that, unlike other years, women are finally being provided with a safe space in the country. However, much of the pomp and ado about the survey awaits being laid to rest. NFHS’ data cannot be considered the fiat truth, and it is only fair to wait for the National Census.

This image is of someone taking census
The National Family Health Survey revealed that the gender disparity had come down by a significant amount.

What Is The NFHS?

The National Family Health Survey can be essentially referred to as a diverse survey conducted by batches of surveyors in phases. These surveys are performed on a household by household basis that elaborate and provides a skeletal base for the demographic index. The survey held this year has been reported to have been the fifth such edition of the survey thus conducted since 1992, the year of its inception.

According to the job description of the NFHS, it ensures that the data conceived from the survey is further provided to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW). The data thus obtained is then formulated and tabled to act upon the necessary developments required for the overall astute development of the country on both macro and micro levels.

This image depicts census of Indians
The surveys are performed on a household by household basis that elaborate and provides a skeletal base for the demographic index.

Development, however, is not limited to the sex ratio as fertility, the practice of family planning, reproductive health, nutrition alongside other such denominators of overall public welfare play an equal role.

To put matters into perspective, the NFHS describes itself as;

“The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted in a representative sample of households throughout India. The survey provides state and national information for India on fertility, infant and child mortality, the practice of family planning, maternal and child health, reproductive health, nutrition, anaemia, utilization and quality of health and family planning services.”

With the nodal agency based out of Mumbai, the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) provides the survey personnel with coordination and technical guidance. In addition, the IIPS employs the help of multiple other organizations and/or field operatives that provide the MOHFW with their findings from different states. Most of these organizations, to date, have been prolific NGOs and other global relief bodies such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF, respectively.

What Did The Findings In The 2021 NFHS Reveal?

According to the findings published by the survey, the data bears significance and concludes that the sex ratio gap between the two sexes has finally been overcome. The data depicts that there are 1020 women per 1000 men in India, which has been recorded as the best figure concerning the sex ratio compared to the previous four editions of the NFHS. Perceivably, the data had been obtained from 636,699 households wherein they surveyed 724,115 women and 101,839 men.

Furthermore, according to the data presented in the survey, the survey conducted by 17 field agencies recorded that there exist 1037 women per 1000 men in India’s rural villages. The fieldwork done for the surveys transpired in two phases- Phase 1 began from June 17, 2019-January 30, 2020, while Phase 2 started from January 2, 2020-April 30, 2021. However, owing to the pandemic, the accurate figures varied significantly with the statistics available.

Migrant workers carrying their belongings walk along a railway track during first phase of the pandemic when the census was taken,
The possibility of the said labourers being considered twice in the same survey does not seem too far fetched | Photo by Amarjeet Kumar Singh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Because the second phase of the survey was held at the pandemic’s peak, not much could be said objectively. During this phase, most of the migrant labourers successfully returned home. Thus, they were counted in the same vein as one would count a regular villager. However, these labourers fell under the vast conscripts of the many who had migrated to urban areas.

Considering it as fact, the possibility of the said labourers being considered twice in the same survey does not seem too far fetched. Thus, it is pertinent to remember that the NFHS is just a structural summary of the country at large and not the essential framework for a demographic as it is being portrayed.

Why Should We Wait For The Census?

According to the Census conducted in 2011, there exist 933 women for every 1000 men in India. The figures are pretty average, and it had been foretold then that the numbers would improve over time. Upon the turn of the decade, the statistics have been predicted to undergo specific improvements. However, it is still too early to state how extensive the improvements may be.

It is advisable to await the results of the Census owing to numerous reasons. However, the most pertinent is that this survey boils down to being limited to a couple of households that provide a basis for a reasonable assumption concerning the general demographic.

Furthermore, the factsheet or the figures are based on de facto enumerations, meaning that the demographic numbers were accounted for only with the number of men and women present in the households on the last night of the survey.

This image is of Jashodhara Dasgupta who has given insights on the census that was conducted
Image of Jasodhara Dasgupta | Photo Credits – Caravan Magazine

It must also be noted that because the NFHS is a survey at the end of the day, it is based on the pretext of sampling. The entire narrative of sampling deems the sex ratio to be an effective estimate as null and void, owing to the sample sizes differing with each state and Union Territory.

To put matters into perspective, the sample size of a certain Union Territory will always be lesser than a state. Thus, to put a cap on the sex ratio as definite based sample sizes gives rise to an uneven and inaccurate pretext to decide upon an issue as significant.

According to Jashodhara Dasgupta, a sex ratio expert, the census figures are much more reliable, and the NFHS figures should be taken with a grain of salt. They do provide a basic idea concerning the demographic. However, they are seldom definitive.

On the flip side, with the Census, the figures may be deemed accurate as it teaches the entirety of the population, and then the ratio is calculated with the entire populace in mind. Dasgupta stated;

“NFHS counts only certain women who belong to specific demographic categories. There is a bias in it. Just look at the state figures where the sample size is too small. We will have to wait for the next census figures to get a clearer picture.”

Hence, with the decade coming to a close since the 2011 census, it is only fair for us to await the report’s release. If the sex ratio does genuinely narrow down and go on an upward trajectory, we will have finally achieved something of great significance as a country. However, until then, let the celebrations fizzle out.

You must be to comment.

More from ED Times

Similar Posts

By India Fellow Social Leadership Program

By RAAZ DHEERAJ SHARMA✍️

By Karthika S Nair

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below