The latest data from National Family Health Survey (NHFS) suggests that seven States in the country fell short of the World Health Organisation (WHO) benchmark for gender ratio at birth.
The normal gender ratio at birth is, according to WHO, between 102-106 boys for every 100 girls. This translates to 943-980 girls for every 1000 boys.
Data released by NHFS shows that Delhi, the national capital, has the lowest gender ratio at birth. The number of girls for every 1000 boys is alarmingly low at just 817, a sharp fall from 840 in 2005-06.
Surprisingly, Jharkhand, which had more number of girls (1091/1000) than boys in 2005-06, saw a huge decline in terms of girl population (919/1000) in 2015-16.
States such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which have a high infant mortality rate, did not improve in the last decade. Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, though above the national average (919/1000), fared poorly in 2015-16.
The gender bias is also evident in terms of enrollment in schools. Data from the District Information System for Education shows that the gross enrollment ratio stood at 56 per cent in 2015-16 for higher secondary education, which means only 1 in 2 girls complete school education in the country. The 2011 Census data shows that the percentage of illiteracy among girls (13.2 per cent) is higher than boys (10 per cent).
Despite the government’s initiatives such as Right to Education (RTE) and ‘Beti Padao, Beti Bachao’, policy and advocacy group Child rights and You (CRY) notes that the “basic mindset of the society towards its girls has not yet changed much.
“With a population of 225 million, girls account for 48% of India’s children. Yet a girl in India continues to face discrimination in almost every aspect in every phase of life – in accessing proper nutrition and health care during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy, having proper education, enjoying equal right to participate in the decision making processes within the family space and in the external world as well. In order to address the underlying gender inequality that holds girls back, India has to re-strategise and undertake focused initiatives, and hence investments, for its girl children, and also monitor progress and revisit strategies on a regular basis.” Said Komal Ganotra, Director, Policy & Advocacy, Child rights and You.
“To make any transformational change in our society possible, the first step is to make change happen at the mindset level. It is only when we collectively battle patriarchy, discrimination, gender based violence that girls would live freely. We wouldn’t have to celebrate a special ‘Girl Child Day’ talking about their plight and glorifying their achievements the day we all truly celebrate the existence of girls as equals in our society.” She further added.
In India, over 18 lakh girls who are under 14 years of age are married, and more than one third of them (4.2 lakh) have children. According to the Census, more than 44 lakh girls who are under 14 are working, and more than 3 lakh of them are married and working.
“These are children who are barely into their teenage – a critical juncture that plays a huge role in shaping their lives,” CRY notes.