Gender-based sex selection, leading to skewed sex ratios, has spread to the relatively “newer” areas instead of being concentrated in certain “problem” states in the last two decades, a study released by the UN Women and the UNFPA stated.
The study, “Sex ratios and gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates and Future directions”, by Dr Mary John looked at the population trend and research done since 1901 on sex ratios and causes of skewed sex ratios.
According to the data in the study, Northeast states such as Manipur and Nagaland — seen as areas with lower gender discrimination — have shown a sharp decline in the child sex ratio between 2001 and 2011, even as the number of girls born per 1,000 boys has risen in Punjab and Haryana, which were traditionally considered the areas with a skewed sex ratio.
The child sex ratio in Manipur has dropped 21 points from 957 girls to only 936, while Nagaland went from 964 to 943 in the decade. In contrast, the ratio in Punjab improved from 798 to 846 and in Haryana from 819 to 834 in the same period.
However, when looked at data for a longer period of time, the study found that the ratio had declined across the country. Between 1951 and 2011, the child sex ratio dropped from 983 to 918 women per 1000 men, the study found.
“The life chances of women are decreasing even with the onset of development,” Mary John of the Center for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) said.
Speaking at the release of the study, deputy executive director of UN Women, Lakshmi Puri, spoke of government schemes such as “Beti Bachao” and said there was a critical need to deconstruct the entire structure of patriarchy because gender-based sex selection was linked to a larger system of inequality and imbalance of power in the country.
“As the UN and as NGOs and civil society, there should be an expiry date for patriarchy by 2030,” Puri said.
Discussing her study, Mary John said the changing political and economic situation was an important factor that had to be taken into account to develop the policies and norms to tackle the situation.
“The current PC-PNDT Act is designed not to check abortion but to stop sex determinative testing. The norms are there but laws are not being implemented properly… there is often a nexus between the ultrasound clinics, medical personnel, police and the families going in for sex selective abortions,” Mary John said.