ISSN 2330-717X

India’s Declining Child Sex Ratio – OpEd

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By Abhishek Kumar

India’s provisional census data are out and probably what bewilders everyone is the continious decline of the child sex ratio (age 0-6 yrs). 914 girl children against every 1000 boys, is at an ever low record level.

What could be the consequences of it? And what are probably the reasons?

Well, the consequences of it could be as simple that 86 boys will have to stay a bachalor through out his lifetime in near future, and as written by Charles Darwin in “Descent of man” –“I formerly thought that when a tendency to produce the two sexes in equal numbers was advantageous to the species, it would follow from natural selection, but I now see that the whole problem is so intricate that it is safer to leave its solution for the future.”

Initially we thought the major reasons could be low literacy rate, poor social status of women in the society, the traditional mentality of some religions that a male child only can carry forward their generation, dowry and sexual harassment of women. Thereby we aimed at all the probable causes which were leading to the drop in the child sex ratio.

We introduced The Dowry Prohibition Act (1961), Domestic Violence Act(2005), The Bill of Prohibition of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (2010), Hindu Women’s Rights to Property Act (1937), The Hindu Succession Act (1956), started numerous government schemes and programmes for women empowerment, even introduced gender based budget system in few states.
But the child sex ratio graph still declined at the same pace!

Let us consider some of the trends in last few decades: increase in per capita income, increase in literacy rate, increase in medical care facilities and increase in registered number of cases of sexual harassment, and then, the Decrease in the child sex ratio.

Are they interconnected?

India
India

Well, going with a famous saying by Paul Hawking “everything is connected to everything else, and no one thing can change by itself.”

But are these trends interconnected?

Let’s take an analogy…

Per capita income of India (2010-2011 FY, base rate 2004-05) is Rs 36003; lets assume per family dowry burden is Rs 50000, thats approximately 1.4 times the per capita income of a person.

20 years down the line when the girl child reaches her age of marriage the percapita income(PCI) by that time would be Rs 1.4 lakhs (calculated at the minimum expected rate of increase in PCI ie 7%). Thus the dowry rate being 1.4 times of the PCI equals Rs 2 lakhs!

Considering the fact that the banks offer approximately the same interest rate as the rate of GDP growth, it would be a wise decision to deposit a sum of money equivalent to the present dowry rate in the bank and as the girl grows, the dowry demand grows and so the dowry money grows! And intrestingly, many people do this!

Lets have a look at the dowry market then-

According ti the census 2011 provisional report, total female population is around 586 million, and as per trends around 27% of female population lie in the age group of 25-44 years, thus amounting to 158 million females at marriagable age. 158 million females with approx Rs 50,000 dowry burden on each of them, sums up tp Rs 7.9 trillion or 176 billion dollars! That amounts around 1/8th of our total budget!

Extrapolating the data even further, for our 193 million female babies (0-6 years), who probably will become wives 20 years later, the total dowry market would be of a hopping 860 million dollars.

Undoubtadely the married couples have been made enough literate to calculate their dowry liabilities in advance.

The next vague analogy follows; the action plan of the government to increase the medical facilities. That sounds well and good…

Now a better medicare facility requires the number of doctors and hospitals to be raised, that means increase in the number of vaccancies in the medical colleges, thereby, an increase in the ratio of a doctor candidate per family. Now even though no matter how we take our laws to the strictest level, the “relative of a doctor factor” always works in leaking out the sex of the foetus.

Furthermore there can’t be any question over the connection between increasing women’s sexual harassment and low child sex ratio. And needless to say, many other linkages still do persist.

It absolutely wont be justified to say that an increase in PCI,increase in the number of doctors or for that matter an increase in literacy have been the sole inititator of the problem. But yes, there are loopholes in them for sure, and they have been working in towards the draining out the female foetuses in the thrashbins.

As far as I introspect, there can not be a change in the scenario until and unless we target the psychology of the individuals and that can only be done by “educating” them.

In this era of quantitativeness, we have started considering everything quantitatively. The government turns up to us with its score card showing starry figures of literacy and per capita income in one hand and a demand for votes in the other and we feel happy being befooled. We have to stop getting foxed by these numbers. Don’t forget, that ‘literacy’ was planned to be only a medium for providing ‘education’ but in the due course of time the meaning of ‘education’ has got completely discombobulated and the ‘medium’ itself has become the goal.

Its high time we mediate upon the education pattern and prevent ourselves from being dishounered by our fututre generation.
What could the measurement index of education?

Well, child sex ratio could be one of it and we know where we are heading into.

(* The datas in the article have been approximated)

Abhishek Kumar (IAS Aspirant), Patna, India

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