Sex ratio is defined as the number of females per thousand males in the population. The child sex ratio is defined as the number of females in the age group of 0- 6 years per thousand males in the population. It is an important social indicator to measure the extent of prevailing equality between males and females in a society at a given point of time. Internationally this ratio is calculated as number of males per thousand of females including the under developed sub-Saharan Africa. It is only in some of the south Asian countries where there is a rampant incidence of female infanticide and female foeticide that it is calculated the other way.
Since the first census taken in 1901 the sex ratio has shown a declining trend which has been sharper since independence (with a rare incidence of marginal increase). With 972 in 1901 to 946 in 1951 and 927 (lowest in last 100 years) in 1991, it has been showing a declining trend. It is only in last two decades, with efforts of civil society organisation and stringent law of PCPNDT act 1994 (amended in 2003) that there has been marginal improvement and has now reached 940 in 2011 census.
The decline in the child sex ratio of 0-6 years is also alarmingly high. In 1901 the Child sex ratio (juvenile sex ratio) was 976 in 1961. It has come down to 927 in 2001. The marginal improvement in overall sex ratio from 1991 to 2001 of six points (from 927 to 933) is not complemented with any kind of improvement in corresponding child sex ratio, which has dropped from 971 in 1981, to 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001.
Against all the economically developed states have the lowest sex ratio in the country. Along with historically female deficit states like Punjab (893 per thousand males) and Haryana (877 per thousand males), Maharashtra (925 per thousand males) and Gujarat (918 per thousand males) has also joined the list of states with sharply declining sex ratio in 2011. Even the child sex ratio in these states has been miserably low with almost 50 point decline as compared to its ratio in 2001.
Although declining child sex ratio is a socio-economic problem, the immediate cause undoubtedly lies in the improper use of medical technology in the form of pre-conception and pre-natal diagnostic technique (also known as sex determination test), which popular beliefs and myth the progressive and unfortunately results in pre-birth elimination of female foetus commonly known as female foeticide. Another major reason is son preference. Son–preference is deep rooted in Indian society, reinforcing the patriarchal domination. This son preference is often justified through various socio-economic or religious reasons. The economic justification is that son inherits father’s property and also becomes a source of financial security in the old age. The religious purpose is that at least one son is inevitable for performing the last rites of their parents. The social interest of carrying the family name forward and continuing the family lineage also play an important role. However the most important cause for the same is the evil of dowry, which devalues the girl child as a liability for the parents.
Several researches have shown that it is the urban, affluent, literate class of the society which is involved in sex determination and sex selective abortion. It is the small family norm and access to technology that results in the indulgence of such heinous practices by this section of society. The religion wise distribution of sex ratio reveals that Sikhs have the most gender biased sex ratio of 786 per thousand of males in 2001, followed by Jains (870) who are then industrialist community. And hence it is proven that economic prosperity varies inversely with the sex ratio.
The long term impact of this problem has already started showing with increasing crime and violence against women in form of trafficking, rape and molestation. Unavailability of brides in female deficit states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and now even Maharshtara has resulted in a trade of girls from tribal areas at a low prices resulting in further devaluation of women. With such a ratio India is ranking at the bottom half of the list of 134 countries for gender development Index.
Though there are several efforts on the part of civil society organizations, NGOs, academicians and media, government machinery and legal machinery has failed to put an end to this crisis. The welfare schemes for women’s empowerment should be amalgamated with change in the attitude towards the girl child and stringent implementation of the law.