Explain Why In India Sex Ratio has alwasy remained unfavourable to Females?



That the sex ratio in the Country has always remained unfavourable to females and the sex ratio which was 102.9 in 1901 has increased to 107.2 in 2001 showing more and more preponderance of males in the population.

During 1961-71 there was a sharp increase in the sex ratio froml06.3 males per 100 females to 107.5 males per 100 females. After 1971, the sex ratio has fluctuated from 107.1 to 107.9. During 1991-2001 there is slight improvement in the sex ratio from 107.9 males per 100 females to 107.2 females per 100 females.

Provides sex ratios for 35 States and Union territories as obtained from the information of 2001 census. There is a wide difference in the sex ratios over the states.

At one end there is Kerala with sex ratio of 94.5 males per 100 females indicating numerical excess of females, and at the other end there are Haryana (sex ratio of 116.1 males per 100 females) and Punjab (sex ratio of 114.4 males per 100 females) indicating numerical paucity of females.

Among different states, there are 8 states which have recorded higher sex ratios than the country as a whole. Seven Union Terrotories have recorded very high sex ratios ranging between 141.0 males per 100 females for Daman and Diu and 105.6 males per 100 females for Lakshadweep. Pondicherry has recorded an almost equal number of males and females.

The interest in the sex ratio of the Indian population (unfavourable 10 females) is as old as the census-taking itself. All the Census Commissioners in British Raj have shown keen interest in the sex ratio of India and its provinces.

They have been shocked to observe the numerical excess of males in the population of India. The Census Commissioners in Pre-Independence India were primarily shocked by such a situation as in England and Wales, the situation was exactly opposite (numerical excess of females over males). They tried to seek explanations for this "strange" fact.

The sex ratio in India increasingly becoming unfavourable to females during past three censuses has been a matter of great concern for the Indian demographers, social scientists, women's groups, research scholars and planners and policy makers.

Several meetings and seminars have been held after each of the previous census to discuss the sex ratio in India and states, and several explanations have been offered for the numerical paucity of females observed in the country. Some of the important factors affecting sex ratio in India are:

(1) Higher mortality of females (young girls, maternal mortality, female infanticide).

(2) Change in the sex ratio at birth (because of sex selective induced abortions) is becoming more and more favourable to males, and

(3) To a certain extent differential undercount.

The following section discusses each of the above three factors. Regarding the third point of under enumeration of females, more specifically of girls, researchers have, more or less agreed that differential under emanation of girls cannot explain the decline of the child sex ratio between 1981-91 and between 1991- 2001.

Throughout the census history of India till 1991, the main factor responsible for the numerical deficit of females was excess female mortality.

In an authoritarian study, Visalia showed that the persistence of sex ratio which was unfavourable to females was not due to greater omissions of females in the censuses, not from unusually high sex ratio at birth, but because of unusually high mortality of females compared to that of males.

The numerical impact of the higher female mortality was expressed in terms of "missing women" was devised by Amartya Sen to give some rough idea of the enormity of the problem. Sen's first estimation with respect to missing women in India was 37 million.

It is already stated that the sex ratio of 107.9 males per 100 females (more imbalanced and more favourable to males compared to 107.1 of 1981) sent waves of shock to various groups in the country as it was not expected.

During 1981-91 maternal and child health care services received considerable attention; literacy and educational attainment of women increased; the gap between life expectancy of males and females reduced and the earlier trend of higher life expectancy for males was reversed.

(Higher life expectancy was observed for females from 1983 onwards.) In fact, the population projections for India, 1981-2001 envisaged that the sex ratio in 1991, 1996 and 2001 would be 106.4, 106.2 and 105.9 respectively.

Of more concern to researchers was the increase in the sex ratio of the child population (aged 0-6 years), from 104 males per 100 females in 1981 to 105.8 males per 100 females, in 1991.

This finding prompted the census authorities to probe into the phenomenon of sex ratio at birth. The Census Report of 1991 drew attention to the phenomenon of sex ratios at birth becoming more favourable to males.

Based on 6 million live births that occurred in the country during 1981-91, the sex ratio at birth worked out to be 112 boys per 100 girls. This was much higher than that observed (105-106) by Ramachandran and Deshpande in a study done during period 1945-1958.

The Registrar general in the Report of thel991 census hypothesized that the increasing sex ratio at birth (becoming more favourable to boys) could be one of the probable reasons for the high sex ratio of Indian population being more favourable to males.

The results of the 2001 census, further indicated that although the overall sex ratio has declined froml07.9 males per 100 females 1991, to 107.2 in 2001, the sex ratio of the child population (age 0-6 years) has sharply increased froml05.8 in 1991 to 107.8 in 001.

Thus it was pointed out that the proportion of boys among the new born babies is increasing sharply and it is commonly assumed to be the result of the rapid spread of the use of ultrasound and amniocentesis for sex determination and subsequent sex- selective induced abortions.

Amartya Sen refers to the abortions of the female fetus after determination of the sex of the fetus as "natality inequality." He designates the use of ultrasound as "high-tech sexism."

The census findings on the abnormally high sex ratios of young children are confirmed by the results of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-2, 1998-99.

The NFHS-2 data were collected from a nationally representative sample of over 90000 ever-married women between the ages of 15 and 49 years.

The NFHS-2, confirmed that the sex ratio of recent births in India has been abnormally high, exceeding 110 males per 100 females, in 10 of 26 states in India. In addition, the NFHS-2, showed that ultrasound and amniocentesis are often used for sex-determination.

The NFHS-2 provided convincing evidence that sex-selective abortion is a common practice in many parts of India. Accordingly to the estimates of Arnold, Kishore and Roy over 100,000 sex- selective abortions have been carried out annually in recent years.

The information available from the NFHS-2 on sex ratios at birth, abortions, the use of ultrasound and amniocentesis, and the degree of son preferences in India, presents a consistent picture of the widespread use of sex-selective abortions.

It is observed by Arnold, Kishore and Roy that the legislation prohibiting the tests of pre- sex determination has failed.

What is needed is a change in the basic conditions of such as strong and persistent son preference, the generally low status of women, widespread practices of demanding and providing dowry and considerable acceptance of the practice of sex-selective abortion.