- A recent study reported that “son bias” is on the decline in India as the sex ratio at birth declined from 111 boys per 100 girls in 2011 to boys per 100 girls in 2019-21 the ratio became 108.
Major findings of the report:
- The average annual number of “missing” girl children in India declined from about 4.8 lakh in 2010 to 4.1 lakh in 2019.
- “Missing” here means how many more female births would have taken place during this time if there were no female-selective abortions.
- The sex ratio at birth decreased slightly to about 109 in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) report 2015-16 and NFHS-5 (year 2019-21) from 111 boys per 100 girls in the 2011 Census of India. This number has gone up to 108 boys.
- Nine crore female births went “missing” due to female-selective abortion “between” 2000-2019.
Sex Ratio by Religion:
- The report also analysed gender selection on the basis of religion, stating that the difference was highest for Sikhs.
- The sex ratio of Sikhs in the 2001 census was 130 males per 100 females, much higher than the national average of 110 for that year.
- By the 2011 Census, the sex-ratio of Sikhs had been reduced to 121 boys per 100 girls.
- According to the latest NFHS, it is now around 110, which is similar to the ratio of males to females (109) at birth in the Hindu majority of the country.
- The sex ratio among Christians (100 girls per 105 boys) and Muslims (100 girls per 106 boys) is close to the natural norm.
Religion wise share of missing girls:
Share in Indian Population:
- Sikhs: 2%
- Hindu: 80%
- Muslims: 14%
- Christian: 2.3%
Share of girls missing due to sex-selective abortion:
- Sikhs: 5%
- Hindu: 87%
- Muslims: 7%
- Christian: 0.6%
History of Sex Ratio in India
- Globally, the number of boys is less than the number of girls at birth, i.e. in the ratio of about 105 male babies per 100 female babies.
- In India, this ratio was the same in the 1950s and 1960s before prenatal sex testing became available across the country.
- The problem began in the 1970s with the availability of prenatal diagnostic technology, which allows sex-selective abortions.
- India legalized abortion in the year 1971 but due to the introduction of ultrasound technology, the practice of sex selection started in the year 1980s.
- In the 1970s, India’s sex ratio was equal to the global average of 105-100, but rose to 108 boys per 100 girls in the early 1980s and to 110 boys per 100 girls in the 1990s gone.
Challenges in ensuring balanced birth sex ratio:
- Generally, sons are given preference in all states except Kerala and Chhattisgarh.
- The tendency to give preference to boys is related to the regressive mindset, as dowry system is prevalent in the case of girls.
Abuse of Technology:
- Affordable technology like ultrasound encourages the trend of sex selection.
Failure to implement the law:
- The Pre-Conception and Antenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC-PNDT), 1994, which provides for imprisonment and heavy fines for conducting antenatal tests about the sex of the child to health professionals and parents, fails to regulate sex selection Used to be.
- The report found large gaps in the training of personnel implementing PC-PNDT.
- Lack of proper training means that they are unable/incapable of punishing the guilty as per law.
- Illiterate women in the reproductive age group of 15-49 years give birth to more children than literate women.
Bringing Change in Practice:
- Increase in female education and economic prosperity helps in improving the sex ratio. In this endeavour, the Government’s “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” campaign has achieved remarkable success in bringing about behavioural change in the society.
- There is an urgent need to reach youth for reproductive, health education and services as well as development of gender equality norms.
- For this, services of Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) can be availed especially in rural areas.
Strict enforcement of law:
- India should more strictly implement the Pre-Conception and Antenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC-PNDT), 1994 and devote more resources to address priority issues of boys.
- In this context, the decision of the Drugs Technical Advisory Board to include ultrasound machines in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 is a step in the right direction.