Questioning the sex ratio and reflexive assumptions: India census 2011

Our gender ratio is now 912 female kids to every 1000 male. Female foeticide is a bitch. No pun intended. Sex abortions are illegal in India. I am totally against them, though my views about making a law of it are not kind.

However, has there been any research to rule out other factors? Say, the possibility of medical/changing genetics related factors?

Female foeticide is essentially a private crime, so its difficult to know if someone does it. It may possibly be rampant in rural India, though I did not see such desire personally, not that anyone will discuss it with me….

However, in the last four years, among my friends in the city, there are twice as many boys born as girls – often within a year of marriage or 3 years of previous child – not enough time to kill a female pregnancy and do it again. Many of us are ones who actually had a girl preference, and extremely unlikely to kill an unborn girl baby. Loads of people on my facebook friends list itself. I know I wanted a girl till I fell in love at first sight with my scrawny wailer and decided not to ask for a refund. Changed my mind on a dime, I did, but till then, I wanted a girl.

Of course, I understand that I am not the measure of what all want. I am only pointing out that there are more boys even among those with a girl preference, or those who are neutral. Small sample, yes.

India’s overall gender ratio is 940 females to 1000 males – improved from 933 females to 1000 males.

We have 158.8 million kids under 6 years of age, which is about five million less than the previous census. Apparently, either abortion or birth control has been busy, considering that our overall population has increased by more than 181 million during that same time. They are 13.1 of the population while in 2001 they were 15.9. So it isn’t as if only girl children are decreasing, children as a whole are decreasing with girls at a higher percentage at 3.80 than boys at 2.42. We are talking millions of kids here. If they are being killed, it would be a massive scandal.

Not a process of denial, but it is a massive scale of sex abortions we are talking about. Even if parents kept it quiet, clinics would have made headlines one way or the other, if nothing, then through reputation as places where people could still avail of such “facilities”.

The other thing here is medical and sociological factors. The numbers being attributed to gendericide are taken from statistics for age group 0-6. A three year old girl dying of neglect skews this ratio in the same way as an unborn female pregnancy terminated. Are there other factors like malnutrition or abuse involved, where a girl child is likely to be taken less care of?

Joel Dousset examines some of these factors in a chilling article We are a Nation of Daughter killers – Affirms India’s 2011 Census. Bringing up data relevant to negligent homicide where girls under 5 are 40% more likely to die of neglect or deprivation than boys within households [2007 UNICEF Report], homicidal violence where these girls are 21% more likely to die from violence in their own homes [2011 joint report by Indian Council of Medical Research and the Harvard School of Public Health] and premediated muder in the form of baby girls dying 4-5 times more than boys from diseases like pneumonia or diarrhea [Study by the Registrar General of India published in the Lancet], he shows that it is not only about terminated pregnancies.

He brings in a chilling quote from Gita Aravamudan’s book Disappearing Daughters that is a slap of horror on our society.

“[To avoid arrest] families adopt more torturous methods of killing [infant girls]…Female infanticide I found had become more ‘scientific.’ Inducing pneumonia was the modern method. The infant was wrapped in a wet towel or dipped in cold water as soon as it was born or when it came back home from hospital. if, after a couple of hours, it was still alive it was taken to a doctor who would diagnose pneumonia and prescribe medicine, which the parents promptly threw away. when the child finally died, the parents had a medical certificate to prove pneumonia.  Sometimes the infant was fed a drop of alcohol to create diarrhea: another ‘certifiable disease.’ (pg.22)

[Updated - 1st April 2011 - READ the article]

Another anomaly that comes to mind is that in many other aspects, the conditions for women are much improved. It doesn’t make sense that a society where conditions for women are improving kills its female babies on such a stupendous scale. Surely we haven’t started killing MORE girls after doing it was banned?

  • The literacy has overall improved from 9.21% from 64.83% in 2001 to 74.04% in 2011. The female literacty levels have improved by 11.79% from 53.67% in 2001 to 65.46% in 2011 compared with an increase in male literacy by 6.88% from 75.26% in 2001 to 82.14% in 2011 – almost at twice the speed. Most of this increase is inevitably kids.

Also, are we being complacent in blaming this on choice alone and not looking at other possible factors? There are many illnesses that are gender specific, or gender biased. Is this also a health crisis?

I cannot help think that in the process of creating laws and micromanaging people’s procreation tendencies, there have been things we have missed. Be them factors that could explain such imbalance or creating introspection and reflection around the sanctity of life rather than banning certain kinds of killing. Either abortion is considered illegal, or abortion of any sex is considered legal. Then, talks of equality make people find out more.

Right now, the fight for gender equality in children is among pregnant women and their doctors/techinicians. This can’t be right. This can’t be the only threat resulting in such a drastic difference. Anything that is a danger to a child below six has an impact on this ratio. While female foeticide is responsible for quite a few of these, I think that we have found one target to blame all our problems on and are living in blissful indifference – the problem is taken care of. There are laws. The cops will take care of it. This law has done more harm than good, by absolving the nation of any guilt and transfering the responsibility to one segment of its population.

Somewhere, this willingness to ignore is also a residual unimportance for females in our minds. Why are we not investigating this further? In my eyes, its simple. If the cops are shutting down such clinics where they find them, and the problem continues, we MUST look at all reasons females die more than males. Be it researching hospital birth records to see if there are patterns, medical records where an illness might manifest more in girls enough to be a problem, social initiatives to promite dignity…. we can’t just sit on our hands and say…. oh, the government will do something about it. You’ve got kids. You’ve been a kid. You live around kids. Its your problem too.

I have always said that as long as our “solutions” are based on problems, they will never fix anything. Ask Einstein. You cannot fix caste by creating reservations on the basis of caste, and you can’t prevent gender discrimination by creating laws based on gender. The issue is not in the mechanism of the killing, but in the desire to kill.

It appears that this census agrees. There were laws. Every hospital and healthcare testing facility has large, visible posters disclaiming that they will not determine gender. Pregnant women can’t have tests done without signing disclaimers, etc. And this is even before anyone asks for it. Yet, these are the numbers we have.

Vidyut

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut 

  12 comments for “Questioning the sex ratio and reflexive assumptions: India census 2011

  1. 50millionmissing
    July 23, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Please note the post you mention here from The 50 Million Missing Campaign blog Gender Bytes, is a campaign post.  Joel Dousset is only the photographer of the picture posted with this post. He is not the writer. Please do see our copyright notice — page is on the top right of the site http://www.genderbytes.info

  2. 50millionmissing
    July 23, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Please note the post you mention here from The 50 Million Missing Campaign blog Gender Bytes, is a campaign post.  Joel Dousset is only the photographer of the picture posted with this post. He is not the writer. Please do see our copyright notice — page is on the top right of the site http://www.genderbytes.info

  3. April 4, 2011 at 1:06 am

    See this article by The 50 Million Missing Campaign founder, Rita Banerji in The Journal of Gender and Sexuality in Asia and The Pacific on “The Female Genocide in India.” http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue22/banerji.htm

    Also see the posts on the campaign blog Gender Bytes at http://www.genderbytes.info

  4. April 4, 2011 at 1:06 am

    See this article by The 50 Million Missing Campaign founder, Rita Banerji in The Journal of Gender and Sexuality in Asia and The Pacific on “The Female Genocide in India.” http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue22/banerji.htm

    Also see the posts on the campaign blog Gender Bytes at http://www.genderbytes.info

  5. March 31, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Vidyut,

    Another thought-provoking article!

    I was also surprised to see under 6 sex ratio getting further skewed, and almost for the same reasons as yourself. This is all the more surprising as the pockets where the practise might have been most prevalent – Haryana & Punjab – have shown an improvement in sex ratio.

    I have myself seen sex-detemination clincs being dealt with very severely in a district in Maharashtra.

    Also, with increasing awareness, parents also apparently averse to getting female fetus aborted.

    However, I must add that for a clever practioner, none of the laws can act as deterrent unless and until those who ask for abortion of female fetus themselves ‘spill the beans’.

    I had read long back (it makes intuitive sense & is perhaps backed by statistics) that the sperm carrying the Y chromosome ‘swims’ faster than the one carrying the X chromosome, because the Y chromosome is lighter. So, at the time of conception there ar more male zygotes.

    However, the above difference is very small, and also gets offset by the fact that the female fetus is more likely to survive because there would always be at least one functioning X chromosome, even if the other would be abnormal. However, in the male fetus, there is only one functioning X chromosome to begin with, and if something goes wrong, the fetus becomes non-viable. [One functioning X chromosome is essential for survival of fetus, whereas Y chromosome is redundant].

    As you said, the overall cumulative impact ofeabove kind of biological factors must be assessed as well.

    One more thing some people have suggested is that with fewer children per couple, the male child has become all the more ‘precious’ now.

    I am also against making gender-specific abortion illegal. I’m also against making any kind of abortion illegal.

    As a side-note, I was heartened by the significantly declined number of children under six. Now I have some hope for this country. :)

  6. March 31, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Vidyut,

    Another thought-provoking article!

    I was also surprised to see under 6 sex ratio getting further skewed, and almost for the same reasons as yourself. This is all the more surprising as the pockets where the practise might have been most prevalent – Haryana & Punjab – have shown an improvement in sex ratio.

    I have myself seen sex-detemination clincs being dealt with very severely in a district in Maharashtra.

    Also, with increasing awareness, parents also apparently averse to getting female fetus aborted.

    However, I must add that for a clever practioner, none of the laws can act as deterrent unless and until those who ask for abortion of female fetus themselves ‘spill the beans’.

    I had read long back (it makes intuitive sense & is perhaps backed by statistics) that the sperm carrying the Y chromosome ‘swims’ faster than the one carrying the X chromosome, because the Y chromosome is lighter. So, at the time of conception there ar more male zygotes.

    However, the above difference is very small, and also gets offset by the fact that the female fetus is more likely to survive because there would always be at least one functioning X chromosome, even if the other would be abnormal. However, in the male fetus, there is only one functioning X chromosome to begin with, and if something goes wrong, the fetus becomes non-viable. [One functioning X chromosome is essential for survival of fetus, whereas Y chromosome is redundant].

    As you said, the overall cumulative impact ofeabove kind of biological factors must be assessed as well.

    One more thing some people have suggested is that with fewer children per couple, the male child has become all the more ‘precious’ now.

    I am also against making gender-specific abortion illegal. I’m also against making any kind of abortion illegal.

    As a side-note, I was heartened by the significantly declined number of children under six. Now I have some hope for this country. :)

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