Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates & Future Directions
by Mary E. John
The study maps existing evidence on gender biased sex selection in the Indian context, weaving in significant social debates and policy developments that have influenced perceptions, and pathways to action. It offers practical suggestions to advance the path of critical inquiry by focusing on different domains such as family and household, education, labour and employment, and on institutions that directly or indirectly aid or combat the practice of sex selection.
Scroll down for further related media Reports New Delhi – The sharply declining child sex ratio in India has reached emergency proportions and urgent action must be taken to alleviate this crisis. The study ‘Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates and Future Directions,’ undertaken by Dr. Mary John on behalf of UN Women and with support from UNFPA, helps to understand gender-biased sex selection more holistically, and aids in the identification of the important way forward for organisations and people working on the problem.
“Gender-biased sex selection is first and foremost a reflection of how little our society values girls and women. The sharply declining child sex ratio in India has reached emergency proportions and urgent action must be taken to alleviate this crisis. The deteriorating ratio from 976 girls to 1000 boys in 1961, to 927 girls in 2001, and to 918 girls in 2011, demonstrates that the economic and social progress in the country has had minimum bearing on the status of women and daughters in our society,” says Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Assistant Secretary General of the UN.
The study maps existing evidence on gender biased sex selection in the Indian context, weaving in significant social debates and policy developments, and the way forward on action. It offers practical suggestions to advance research and understanding on the subject by focusing on different areas such as family and household, education, labour and employment, and on institutions that directly or indirectly aid or fight the practice of sex selection.
“This report provides a road map for what has a widely researched topic and includes study on several pertinent topics such as the emergence of female infanticide from the mid-nineteenth century, the discovery of declining sex ratios in the 1960s and 1970s through the use of census data, history of relevant legislation and policy and a critique of its implementation, an interesting viewpoint on the extent to which dowry is a cause for the practice of sex selection and, finally, a look at different perspectives for research, namely culture, violence and political economy,” says Dr. Rebecca Tavares, Representative, UN Women Multi Country Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives & Sri Lanka.
The study forms part of a component of the UN’s joint work on Sex Selection. This joint group is made up of UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, WHO and the UNRCO and endeavours to support the UN’s work on preventing and reducing Sex Selection.
“India has witnessed many critical initiatives made by the government, academia and civil society to understand and resolve the issue of gender biased sex selection. UNFPA has played a key role in drawing attention to the issue in the last one decade, through engagement with multiple stakeholders. UNFPA leads and coordinates the efforts of the UN core group on sex selection in India, and is pleased to support UN Women in this joint initiative to map existing evidence on the issue. This report bears testimony to the research work thus far, and points to the wisdom that we can build on for evolving a definitive response to skewed sex ratios in India,” added Ms. Frederika Meijer, Representative, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) India.
The report also provides a brief overview of the sociological and ethnographical areas of study, including the role of civil society and the state, and changing familial patterns. Unequal inheritance rights, dowry, unequal socio-religious status, unpaid work, unequal pay, lack of economic opportunities for women, focus on male lineage, a culture of honour that places a greater burden of safety and protection on the parents of girls – all contribute to building a society that favours sons and men, and neglects daughters and women.
“The government and the civil society must go beyond policy-making and must quickly identify specific behaviours, cultural attributes, practices, media representations, mind-sets, and notions that propagate discrimination against daughters and, consequently, help sex-determination testing flourish despite its illegality. While we are witnessing a rapidly changing Indian society with modern and egalitarian values finding their way into the traditional and conservative family systems, the numbers, however, prove otherwise. A wider mindset change is crucial if we are to indeed save and empower our daughters,” adds Ms. Puri.
“The Government’s commitment to gender empowerment is evident – from Prime Minister Modi’s speeches confirming zero tolerance for violence against women to the very substantial funds that are being allocated for schemes. When it comes to gender biased sex selection, however, entire social structures including those linked to work, marriage and community need to change and the root causes of son preference, acknowledged and fought,” concludes Ms. Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP Resident Representative in India. NOTES TO EDITORS:
UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. For more information, visit http://www.unwomenindia.org
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. For more information, visit india.unfpa.org
To read the detailed report, please visit the UN Women website HERE
For more details, please contact: UN Women: Bina Emanvel;
; +918130981081 UNFPA: Shobhana Boyle or Preyam Bhasin,
; +9111 42225018, +9111 46532221 ~~~~~~~~~~
India’s aversion to girls has touched new heights. A new UN report reveals that in some parts of the country, girls-only families are a rarity.
The report ‘Sex ratios and gender biased sex selection: history, debates and future directions’ points out that girls-only families constitute just 2 per cent of families in states like Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. This figure draws attention to another dimension of the shocking child sex ratio (CSR) – the number of girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 -- in the country. Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan have traditionally recorded the worst CSRs in the country, prompting demographers and gender specialists to describe them as ‘India’s Bermuda Triangle’ i.e. where girl children seem to be disappearing without a trace. The UN study now shows that there are very few families in these states that do not have sons. Other areas of concern too are highlighted. States that were once acclaimed for being more girl child-friendly are changing for the worse. In the past, India’s North-eastern states had more even CSRs. They are now slipping up. Manipur’s CSR has fallen from 957 in 2001 to 936 in 2011.
Pointing to India’s uneven CSR – from 945 in 1991, it has fallen to 918 in 2011 – the UN report describes the situation as an ‘emergency.’ Indeed it is. Girls are not being allowed to be born. Some 500,000 female foetuses are aborted annually in India. An adverse CSR shows that violence against women begins even before she is born. Despite the enactment of legislation to ban determination of the sex of the foetus – sex determination of the foetus often leads to abortion if the foetus is found to be female – its practice persists. Government authorities claim they are helpless as rarely does sex determination of the foetus or sex selective abortion get reported to the police. Social activists have a different story to tell. They point to connivance of local authorities with the crime.
Even when a clinic is ordered to be shut down for violating the law, authorities allow them to re-open. Besides the legal route to tackling sex selective abortions, India must tackle misogynist perceptions that justify violence against women. Our skewed CSR has its roots in our patriarchal culture, one which sees women and girls not just as a burden but as a curse. Such mindsets, which both men and women possess, need to be tackled vigorously through a systematic and comprehensive campaign. ~~~~~~~~~ Wednesday July 29, 2014
Gender-based sex selection practice on the rise
New Delhi: A recent United Nations study has pointed out the worsening trend in gender based sex selection practices – elimination of girl child during pregnancy – in the country.
The study says that though the north-west region, which has been traditionally infested with the malady has reached a plateau as far as the Child Sex Ratio (CSR) in the age group of 0-6 is concerned, the problem has spread slowly across the country.
The report, which was recently released by UN-Women and authored by Mary E John of Centre for Women’s Studies, points out the shift in the 2011 census where the practice reached its peak in the north-west region, and was spreading in large parts of the country. The report says that the provisional results of Census 2011 have added new twists to the saga.
Though CSR is still severe in the north-west, a slight improvement was observed. “It would appear that there has been a peaking (or plateauing) of the practice of sex selection in states like Gujarat, Haryana, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh with actual small improvements from very low levels in Punjab and Chandigarh,” it stated.
The national level CSR improved from 933 girls per 1000 boys in 2001 to 943 in 2011. In worst affected areas there was a slight improvement. In Uttar Pradesh it improved from 898 to 912, in Punjab from 876 to 895, in Haryana 861 to 879 and in Delhi 821 to 868. The report says that the malady has spread across states in every zone.
“Whatever the extent and nature of positive change in north-west India, CSRs are falling in large parts of western, central and eastern India – Maharashtra, Goa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and even Andhra Pradesh has joined the ranks from among the southern states,” the report says.
The report terms it as the widening of the circle, “In other words, the state wise figures demonstrate a widening of the circle, well beyond the so-called prosperity belt of north-west India, to the poorer states.” The study has also noted some micro-level trends at district levels in worst affected district where CSRs are very low. In these areas no one prefers a family with only girls.
The report pointed out that the district of Fatehgar Sahib in Punjab demonstrated the presence of families with just one son, but very few with only girls.
By Meena Menon A protest in New Delhi against sex selection (The Hindu)
Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan in the dock
In the context of falling sex ratios in India, a United Nations report points to a new level of ‘daughter aversion,’ most starkly visible in the negligible number of girls-only families in some parts of the country.
“Sex Ratios and Gender Based Sex Selection, History Debates and Future Directions” by Dr. Mary E. John, senior fellow, Centre for Women’s Development Studies for UN Women, was released on Tuesday. The report, which reviews existing studies, says it’s time to look at girls-only families, which are starting to disappear they are only two per cent in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.
The report says there is no doubt that contemporary India is witnessing a highly gendered version of fertility decline in northwest India.
Extra sons are no longer wanted either. This cannot be read as reduced son preference, says Dr. John who feels that families are planning to have at least one son and at most one daughter. It points to institutions and personnel directly mediating sex ratios at birth, for example clinics and medical practitioners, as an important area for research.
There are studies on the skewed sex ratios of children of doctors and gynaecologists that make it clear that they are guilty of practising sex selection for themselves, the report says. ~~~~~~~~~~ Mumbai ~ July 22 2014
India's child sex ratio drops: UN report
By IANS New Delhi: India needs to take urgent action following a sharp fall in its child sex ratio, a United Nations report said Tuesday.
The study named "Sex Ratios and Gender-Biased Sex Selection: History, Debate and Future Directions", says the child sex ratio in India has deteriorated from 976 girls to 1,000 boys in 1961, to 927 girls in 2001 and to 918 girls in 2011.
The report has been constituted by the United Nations Women with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
UN Women is the United Nations organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
It also says India is among the few countries where the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) for girls is worse than boys.
The other countries are Nepal and Bangladesh.
Speaking at the report launch, Lakshmi Puri, deputy director of UN Women, said: "Gender-biased sex selection is first and foremost a reflection of how our society values girls and women."
"The deteriorating child sex ratio demonstrates the economic and social progress in the country has had minimum bearing on the status of women and daughters in our society," she added.
The report offers practical suggestions to advance research and understanding on the subject by focusing on different areas such as family and household, education, labour and employment and institutions that directly or indirectly aid or fight the practice of sex selection.
"India has witnessed many critical initiatives made by the government, academia and civil society to understand and resolve the issue of gender-biased sex selection. The report bears testimony to the research work thus far, and points to the wisdom that we can build on for evolving a definitive response to skewed sex ratios in India," said Frederika Meijer, representative of UNFPA to India.
The report also provides a brief overview of the sociological and ethnographical areas of study, including the role of civil society and the state, and changing familial patterns.
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A major report on sex-ratios and abortion in India gives detailed background information on the scourge of gendercide. Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates and Future Directions has been published by UN Women and covers the history, the figures and the debate about the causes of gendercide.
India’s child sex ratio (CSR) – the number of girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 has deteriorated sharply over the past 20 years, dropping to 918 in 2011 from 945 in 1991, even though levels of education and wealth have risen significantly.
The report emphasises that sex-selective abortion has decreased in traditionally problematic regions, mostly in the north, but increased significantly in other areas. In the northwestern state of Punjab, where the CSR was extremely low, the number of female children per 1,000 male children rose to 846 in 2011 from 798 in 2001.
However, in regions like Manipur, in the northeast, and Andhra Pradesh, in the southeast, the traditionally even CSR has dropped below 940.
Dr. Mary E John, author of the report and senior fellow of New Delhi’s Centre for Women’s Development Studies, argues that the decline reflects a common gender-biased family plan: “families are actually ‘planning’ to have at least one son and at most one daughter.” Dr. John suggests that parents are concerned about dependent female adults, rather than female children. Women in India are marrying later and tend to stay live at home for longer, she writes in the report.
The trajectory of gendercide is a little-know feature of the problem. When the British colonised India in the 18th century, they were shocked to discover “missing girls”. Some accounts describe villages without a single girl. In that era, the principal causes seem to have been large dowries and hypergamy, the practice of women marrying men of a higher caste. According to census figures in 1901 put the ratio was at 961 women for every 1000 men, which fell to 946 in 1951, 941 in 1961 and 930 in 1971.
Why does the ratio keep falling even as India becomes more “modern”? The report says:
… two broad claims emerge. On the supply side, as we have repeatedly seen, we have medical technologies, granted fullest agency in the hands of the aggressive radiologist who takes his mobile machine into the hinterland of rural India to vend his wares, unmindful of the criminality of such actions. Such unscrupulous practitioners in turn are being ably supported by multinational capital, and several activists have pointed to the role that companies like General Electric are playing in pushing the market for ultrasound machines, further and further, into India’s rural heartland.
On the demand side, what appears with equal frequency is, quite simply, ‘dowry’. “Like a black shadow in the wake of dowry demands, is the spread of sex selection”.
This is an extremely interesting report which sheds much light on a complex problem.