Updated: Dec 17, 2019
According to CIA World Fact Report and WUNRN 2016 India ranks 4th highest with dropping female sex ratio; for every 100 females in the Country there are 112 males (refer to exhibit 1 below).
The declining sex ratio of females in India has been a national problem since 1961, largely due to violent practices like female feticides, sex selection during conception (IVF) and female infanticide. These practices have resulted in killing more than 10 million female babies over the last 25 years. In 2011, India’s female sex ratio (0-6 years) was drastically low at 905 females per 1,000 males. The World Bank predicts that if the current trends continue, India’ female sex ratio (0-6 years) will decline further to 931 by 2021 and to 936 by 2031 (refer to exhibit 2 below). Globally, India is low on gender inequality and development and is now amidst the crisis of facing greater gender imbalance.
According to the Government of India a declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) of females is a major indicator of lack of female empowerment. 2011 census data on India shows that Northern States have a greater gender imbalance with high gender selection against females and high on social violent practices towards women. States like Haryana, Punjab and Delhi are amongst the 10 highest with low female sex ratio (0-6 years - refer to exhibit 3).
IndiaTVNews highlights that the States with lowest sex ratios have the highest percent share of female members in parliaments. These States also have gender budgeting for development by the central government. The States are also lowest in female education and literacy compared to national average. The decline in female sex ratio has been largely due to socio-cultural norms and practices such as high preference for male child. India ranks highest on ‘Son Bias’ in South Asia on Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI 2014 - refer to exhibit 4). Technological advances in the medical field such as ultrasound testing and IVF treatments have also contributed to existing problem. The Wire 2017 reports that the problem is more with urban population than rural one with urban cities like Delhi and Mumbai low on female sex ratio, 2011.
India already has an existing law that bans pre-natal testing and sex selective abortions ‘The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act’, introduced in 1994. However, the law is poorly implemented and enforced. In 2015, India launched ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ program meaning ‘Save a Girl Child, Educate a Girl Child’. The scheme aims to encourage everyone not only to protect girls socially but also to educate the girls and help build a better future for women. The campaign’s objectives are to eliminate gender biased selections, enforce legal actions, encourage social protection, ensure survival of female child and invest in educating the female child. The program is supposed to be implemented nationally in states and districts low in Child Sex Ratio (CSR) for females. In a country, where female child is considered social and economic burden, India is working on addressing the problem by implementing programs that focus on education and savings for girl. For example, the ‘Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana’ a female girl welfare scheme that encourages Indians to open an account for their girl child and invest money towards their daughter’s future education and marriage and economic prosperity, additionally, the principal and interest is tax exempt and the daughter becomes beneficiary of the fund at 18 years of legal age.
While the above are good measures and footsteps towards women’s progress, India has more work to do in terms of eliminating deep social biases and preferences towards male child, stop cultural practices that demoralize girls early in life (child marriage, violence, lack of education), introduce and enforce legal laws to protect women’s rights and provide a safer, equal and better work environment to encourage labor workforce participation. Ironically, some homes in India celebrate and associate the birth of a girl or arrival of a new bride with the arrival of “Goddess Laxmi”, the goddess of wealth and prosperity; Indian women couldn’t have a better significance than that because every girl or woman lost to violent social practices is a loss to the Country’s national income, wealth, economic and social prosperity.