India’s bias for sons over daughters reducing: Research

In India, the skewed sex ratio has roots in patriarchal social norms and economic and religious reasons
Last Updated 24 August 2022, 14:43 IST

By Shruti Srivastava

India’s sex ratio imbalance -- one of the world's most skewed -- is gradually improving with families less likely to use abortion to ensure the birth of sons rather than daughters, a Pew Research report said.

The report found that decades of efforts by the government to deter prenatal sex determination and protect baby girls have started yielding results. Pew analysed recently released data from India’s National Family Health Survey, which collects information on fertility, infant and child mortality, and family planning, among others.

“From a large imbalance of about 111 boys per 100 girls in India’s 2011 census, the sex ratio at birth appears to have normalised slightly over the last decade,” according to the report, which was released Tuesday.

Though India has barred doctors from revealing the sex of a fetus since 1996, Pew researchers found that at least nine million female births went “missing” between 2000 and 2019 because of selective abortions. However, over the years, annual figures have declined: The number of missing girls fell from 480,000 in 2010 to 410,000 in 2019.

Still, gender-based discrimination persists despite strict laws. In India, the skewed sex ratio has roots in patriarchal social norms and economic and religious reasons.

In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi started a campaign called “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao,” which roughly translates to “Save Our Daughters, Teach Our Daughters.” The initiative was aimed at reducing sex-selective abortion and keeping girls in school. However, in many villages, local customs and social practices still, prevail over national laws and are often strictly enforced by a group of local elders, almost all men.

Prejudices against girls and women have stifled economic growth. India’s employment gap between men and women is huge. If narrowed, the country’s GDP could expand by close to a third by 2050, according to Bloomberg data.

The Pew report said the sex ratio imbalance within India’s major religious groups is also shrinking. Among Sikhs, who comprise one of the country’s main religions, the sex ratio was 130 males per 100 females in the 2001 census. That ratio is now 110 males per 100 females.

(Published 24 August 2022, 14:43 IST)

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