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The Danger Of Skewed Child Sex Ratio.

India, Jan. 11 -- The recently released data of Census 2011 indicating a huge dip in child-sex ratio has reaffirmed the gender preference among the son-worshipers in India who take recourse to pre-natal sex determination until they get a male child. The data reportedly has marked the biggest ever decline of 12 points among all religious communities of India. The child sex ratio among the Hindus who account for nearly 80% of the population declined from 925 in 2001 to 913 in the latest census data. Christians and Muslims too showed declines with child sex ratio among Christians dipped from 964 to 958 while among Muslims it fell from 950 to 943.

However, the turnaround among Sikhs and Jains put the silver lining behind the bleak scenario of other religious communities. While the ratio among Sikhs have risen from 786 to 828, that of Jains have jumped up from 870 to 889. This positive drive reflects a growing consciousness about the issue created partly by considerable public campaigns in Punjab. Christians are credited to have the best population sex ratio with 1,023 females for every 1,000 males, way ahead of all other communities and the national average of 943 (TOI, January 1, 2016).

India, down the ages, has been blissfully accommodating a skewed Child Sex Ratio. Child sex ratio is the number of girls aged 0-6 years for every 1,000 boys in the same age group. It is a crucial measure for India where preference for sons and the desire for smaller families have diminished the number of girls to unnaturally low levels in the past several decades. The child sex ratio for the whole country reportedly stands today at 918, dipping further from 927 in 2001, reaching the lowest level since 1961. Such a huge gender imbalance where men numerically exceed women is a worrisome trend that carries gross socio-economic impacts.

Communities with adverse sex ratio endorse polyandry, abduction and coercive repetitive pregnancy for male children which in turn adversely affect women's health and worsen the economic condition of poor families. Even as India grapples with the uninterrupted barrage of crime against women, the worst decline in the country's sex ratio ever since independence is a gravely dangerous trend.

Studies have surfaced the correlation between skewed sex ratio and rising crime against women in India. States with higher proportion of females appear to hold the crime graph against women lower than those with lower proportion of female members . Scarcity of brides increases crimes against women like trafficking, abuse, physical violence, sale and barter system where girls are sold out or exchanged for commodities. According to the latest crime statistics in India, of all the people arrested for rape, almost 60 percent were men between the ages of 18 and 30 years and nearly 30 percent were men between the ages of 30 to 45 years.

Women play a significant role in the economic growth of the country. Where men switch to non-farm engagements, women are seen as primary cultivators. Being often the household shoppers and primary consumers of beauty industry they are the face of consumer power in India. Thus a grave imbalance in the sex ratio causes great damage to the economic as well as the social system. An adverse sex ratio in a country like India is a huge national challenge. Facing this challenge ought to be the concerted effort of all stake-holders -- the government, civil society, social, educational and religious institutions. The challenge can be faced primarily by a collective awareness of the necessity to maintain a natural balance between the sexes.

Undoing gender disparity calls for policy correctives and a sea change in the mindset of Indians towards women. It is for the Government to kick-start incentivizing parents with girl child through better retirement benefits, promoting and popularizing widow-remarriage and getting rid of the dowry-menace. It can be done through the use of mass media campaigns and active involvement of social and religious institutions.

The governmental initiatives like 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' fails to take off the ground without a nation-wide effort to promote gender equality through strict measures to get all girls educated, tangible projects put in place for women empowerment, legislation that prohibits domestic violence and a total ban on technologies that promote gender identification. Introducing gender-based quotas in colleges and work places, making those couples with only girl children eligible for higher old age pension than the normal universal old age pension and reducing their pensionable age to mid-fifties et al could be added to the list of incentives that would help balance the child sex ratio .

India's child population, defined in the national census data as all children between the ages of zero and 6 years, was almost 160 million as of 2011. The overall sex ratio for this age group is 914 female children for every 1,000 male children, and it is even more skewed in the urban parts, at 902. These figures mark a severe decline from a decade ago. Overall, the average gender ratio is far behind the global average of 984 for every 1,000 men, and is the second lowest in the world, before China. Urban India is on par with China though, with 926 women per 1,000 men. In a country like India where horrific cases of violence against women happen with disturbing regularity, an adverse sex ratio adds fuel to fire.

An uninterrupted dip in India's youngest population is a worrisome trend pointing towards a new generation that if not checked could assault women with greater impunity. Unless India's tradition-based and religiously absolved high preference for sons goes, it's not easy to correct the skewed sex ratio in the country. Not long ago the Planning Commission in one of its reports on 'Women's rights and Child right' termed the gender imbalance "a silent demographic disaster in the making." Well, the 'Silent Demographic Disaster' is here. And this disaster can't be thwarted without a State-level Disaster Management. Is the government listening?

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 11, 2016
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