Version classiqueVersion mobile

Gender discriminations among young children in Asia

 | 
Isabelle Attané
, 
Jacques Véron

Part I - Gender discriminations among young children in India

1. Child Sex Ratio in India: An Analysis of Census 2001 Results

Dipak Roy Choudhury

Résumé

Les résultats provisoires du recensement indien de 2001 montrent une progression substantielle du rapport de masculinité des 0-6 ans. Cet état de fait soulève de nombreux problèmes sociaux, qui ont donné lieu à des débats et ont débouché sur diverses actions, notamment dans le but de renverser la tendance du rapport de masculinité aux jeunes âges.
Au recensement de 2001, il y avait 531 millions d’hommes et 496 millions de femmes, soit un rapport de masculinité global de 933 femmes pour 1 000 hommes, et une augmentation de 6 points par rapport à une masculinité de 927 enregistrée en 1991. Mais parallèlement, on a assisté à une baisse importante du rapport de masculinité chez les enfants âgés de 0 à 6 ans, passé de 945 en 1991 à 927 en 2001. Cette dernière tendance est révélatrice des changements récents qui s’opèrent dans la société indienne, et en particulier dans les comportements vis-à-vis des filles. À noter en outre que la baisse du rapport de masculinité des naissances aura pour effet, à terme, une nouvelle baisse du rapport de masculinité global, avec toutes les conséquences sociales que cela implique.

Texte intégral

  • 1 In India, the sex-ratio at birth (SRB) is calculated by dividing the total number of female births (...)
  • 2 The ‘Paper 1 of 2001, India’ based on the provisional results of the 2001 Census highlighted this (...)
  • 3 The analysis of results at the district level on this topic in the publication ‘Supplement to Pape (...)

1The provisional results of Census of India 2001 released by the Census Commissioner showed a substantial decline1 in the sex ratio in the age group 0-6 years2. This distressing state of affairs gave rise to grave concern across all sections of society. It set into motion serious debates and resulted in a series of actions on several fronts to curb the menace of female foeticide in certain parts of the country3.

2The sex ratio is an index of the male-female balance of the population. The sex ratio across different groups, communities and areas brings out gender imbalances in the society, for example, unbalanced sex ratios in different age groups, religions, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes.

  • 4 It should be mentioned in this connection that according to international practice, the sex ratio (...)

3The census of 2001 has revealed some interesting and worrying features with regard to sex ratios. The census counted 531 million males against 496 million females resulting in an overall sex ratio of 933 females per 1,000 males, which registers an improvement of 6 points on the 1991 sex ratio of 927 females for every 1,000 males. At the same time, it is a matter of great concern that the sex ratio of the population in the 0-6 age group, henceforth called child sex ratio (CSR), declined from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001. The sex ratio in the age group 0-6 attempts to bring out the recent changes in Indian society regarding its attitude and outlook towards the girl child. The data on the child sex ratio provides a broad indicator of the ground realities as they exist in the fabric of society and, more importantly, is an indicator of the likely future trends of the sex ratio of the total population4.

4The child sex ratio is generally influenced by the sex ratio at birth and by sex selective mortality at younger ages. In India, slightly fewer females are born as compared to males. The biological sex ratio (rather than a cultural one) is usually between 943 and 954. But the decennial censuses indicate a much larger than usual shortfall of female births, which is worsening over time in the country. The child sex ratio fell from 976 in 1961 to 964 in 1971 and 962 in 1981. Since then, the ratio dropped sharply to 945 in 1991 and further to 927 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001. Thus, as against a natural shortfall of about 50 girls for every 1,000 boys in every birth cohort, the number of missing girls was as high as 73 per 1,000 boys at the all-India level in 2001, which is very substantial and a matter of serious concern.

Table 1: Sex ratio of total population and child population in the age group 0-6, 1961-1991

Year

Sex ratio in age group 0-6

Overall sex ratio

1961

976

941

1971

964

930

1981

962

934

1991

945

927

2001

927

933

Source: Provisional Population Totals, Paper 1 of 2001, Census of India 2001, Office of the Registrar General, India.

5When it was found that the child sex ratios in certain parts of the country had recorded alarmingly low values, it was decided to highlight this fact in the first report on the census of 2001. The sex ratios of the total population and the child population in the age group 0-6 from 1961 to 2001 are given above (Table 1).

  • 5 Provisional Population Totals: Paper 1-Census of India 2001.

“It is clear that the sex ratio in the age group 0-6 has decreased at a much faster pace than the overall sex ratio of the country after 1981. The decreasing sex ratio in this child population perhaps has a cascading effect on the population over a period of time leading to a diminishing sex ratio in the country. One thing is clear-the imbalance that has set in the early age group is difficult to remove and will remain to haunt the population for a long time to come. To say the least, demographically the sex ratio of 927 of the population in the age group 0-6 does not augur well for the future of the country”5.

6Comparative data on sex ratios worldwide indicate many differences between countries as well as between regions within national borders. The data tabulated from 1961 onwards show that the CSRs for India and the major states along with the Union Territory of Delhi have been declining monotonically from 1961 onwards. Between 1981 and 1991, the child sex ratio declined by 38 points in Rajasthan, 33 points in Punjab, 28 points in Orissa and 26 points in Madhya Pradesh. In fact, all the major states (having a population of 10 million and above as per the 1991 census) and Delhi showed a varying decline in the CSR between 1981 and 1991. In the 2001 census, the CSR declined further. Table 2 presents sex ratios of the total population as well as CSRs during the 1991 and 2001 censuses.

7As can be seen from Table 2, the CSRs have also declined in the 2001 census in all states and union territories except Kerala (5 points increase), Sikkim (21 points increase), Tripura (8 points increase) and Mizoram (2 points increase). Among the states where the CSRs have caught the attention of everybody in the 2001 census are Punjab (82 points decline to 793), Haryana (59 points decline to 820), Himachal Pradesh (54 points decline to 897), Chandigarh (54 points decline to 845), Gujarat (50 points decline to 878), Delhi (50 points decline to 865) and Uttaranchal (42 points decline to 906). The Punjab-Haryana-Himachal Pradesh belt in the north is called by some ‘India’s Bermuda Triangle’– where girls vanish without a trace.

Table 2: Sex ratio of total population and child population in the age group 0-6, 1991 and 2001

Table 2: Sex ratio of total population and child population in the age group 0-6, 1991 and 2001

Source: Provisional Population Totals, Paper 1 of 2001, Census of India 2001, Office of the Registrar General, India.

8A look at the decline in the CSR in different districts shows an equally dismal trend, since the situations in the states are reflections of the districts. The following table provides a fair idea as regards the deteriorating trends of the CSRs among 577 of the 593 districts of the country according to the 2001 census. The data for the remaining 16 districts could not be provided due to problems in comparison.

Table 3: Distribution of districts by ranges of child sex ratio in the age group 0-6-India, 1991 and 2001

Table 3: Distribution of districts by ranges of child sex ratio in the age group 0-6-India, 1991 and 2001

Source: Provisional Population Totals, Paper 1 of 2001 Supplement (District Totals), Census of India 2001, Office of the Registrar General, India.

9There is a sharp increase in the number of districts having a child sex ratio in the range less than 800. It may be seen that there are 16 districts having a CSR under 800 in 2001, which is in sharp contrast to 1991, when not a single district was in this group. In fact, barring only one district, Salem in Tamil Nadu, the rest of the districts had CSRs above 850 in 1991. As against this one district in 1991, there are 48 districts in 2001 having CSRs below 850 and many of them recorded an even lower child sex ratio than the lowest in 1991, accounting for about 7 per cent of the total population of the country.

10It is difficult to comprehend that as many as 456 districts constituting 79 percent of the total of 577 districts in the country have registered a decline in the CSR between 1991-2001. Of these, the decline in 70 districts is of the order of over 50 points. In certain districts of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, the decline in the CSR is more than 100 points during the decade 1991-2001. As against a natural deficiency of 50 girls for every 1,000 boys in every birth cohort, one district, Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab, has registered a deficiency of 120 points. Incidentally, this district has the lowest CSR among all the 593 districts of the country according to the 2001 census. Out of 17 districts in Punjab, the CSRs in 4 districts have fallen by more than 100 during the decade 1991-2001. In fact, the bottom ten districts according to the CSR in India are all from Punjab (7) and Haryana (3). Table 4 and Table 5 highlight the top ten and bottom ten districts respectively according to the CSR in the age group 0-6 at the 2001 Census.

Table 4: Top ten districts according to child sex ratio in the age group 0-6 India, 2001

Sl. No.

District

State/Union Territory

Child sex ratio

1

South

Sikkim

1036

2

Upper Siang

Arunachal Pradesh

1018

3

Pulwama

Jammu and Kashmir

1017

4

Bastar

Chhatisgarh

1014

5

Dantewada

Chhatisgarh

1014

6

East Kameng

Arunachal Pradesh

1011

7

Kupwara

Jammu and Kashmir

1010

8

Senapati

Manipur

1007

9

Mokokchung

Nagaland

1004

10

Badgam

Jammu and Kashmir

1003

Source: Provisional Population Totals, Paper 1 of 2001 Supplement (District Totals), Census of India 2001, Office of the Registrar General, India.

Table 5: Bottom ten districts according to child sex ratio in the age group 0-6 India, 2001

Sl. No.

District

State/Union Territory

Child sex ratio

1

Fatehgarh Sahib

Punjab

754

2

Patiala

Punjab

770

3

Kurukshetra

Haryana

770

4

Gurudaspur

Punjab

775

5

Kapurthala

Punjab

775

6

Bathinda

Punjab

779

7

Mansa

Punjab

779

8

Amritsar

Punjab

783

9

Sonipat

Haryana

783

10

Ambala

Haryana

784

Source: Provisional Population Totals, Paper 1 of 2001 Supplement (District Totals), Census of India 2001, Office of the Registrar General, India.

11It is important to mention that, out of the top ten districts as mentioned in Table 5, 8 are hilly or high-altitude districts. The reason for such high CSRs in the districts of this category could not be explained at the moment since these districts do not all belong to same cluster or region. Moreover, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have completely different cultures than those of the north-eastern region to which some of the districts belong.

12Several studies have analysed the connection between social variables and sex ratios. Possible reasons for the adverse CSRs have been put forward by a number of authors. Since India is a country consisting of different cultural groups, it is pertinent to analyse the impact of cultural differences and socio-economic practices on the sex differential in the population before arriving at any conclusion regarding the reasons for adverse CSRs. Wide disparities among regions of India are clearly visible in language, food habits, clothing, inheritance patterns, female work participation rate, etc. Several questions arise with regard to the trend in the overall sex ratio and the CSR in particular. Some of the frequently asked questions in this regard are: Has there been a greater undercount of females? Do girls have a higher infant and child mortality? Has the sex ratio at birth become more favourable to males in recent years? Is the practice of female infanticide and foeticide in certain parts of the country substantially responsible for the shortage of girls? Let us try to examine these issues with the available information from the census and Sample Registration System (SRS).

Undercount of females

13As in many countries, post-enumeration surveys are conducted in India just after every census. Estimates of percentage undercount by sex derived from the post-enumeration surveys of earlier censuses reveal that the male-female differential of undercount had decreased over time. An undercount of females thus does not seem to contribute significantly to the adverse CSR.

Sex differential in mortality

14As it is known that the life expectancy at birth for both males and females has been increasing monotonically over the years, the difference between female-male life expectancy has of course been rising. Even in the states of Punjab and Haryana, female life expectancy has generally been higher than male life expectancy. This factor also does not seem to influence the adverse CSR.

Table 6: Gender Differences (M-F) of Infant Mortality Rate, India and States, 1994-1999

Table 6: Gender Differences (M-F) of Infant Mortality Rate, India and States, 1994-1999

Source: Report of the Sample Registration System, Office of the Registrar General, India.

Differentials in infant and child mortality

15Looking at the infant mortality rates (IMR) (Table 6) and child mortality rates (Table 7) for India during the years 1994-99, it is seen that the IMRs for females have been generally more than those for males in almost all the past years; as mentioned above, the differences are in the ranges of 1 to 3. In the years 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1994, the case was reversed. Similarly, the female age specific death rates (ASDR) in the age groups 0-4 and 5-9 years were higher than the male ASDRs in the past. The IMRs, which generally reflect the overall adverse CSR of the country, show that these have been significantly higher for females than for males during the above-mentioned period in both Punjab and Haryana; the differentials in the female-male IMRs were generally in the ranges 10-19. These are also a matter of concern in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, age-specific death rates pertaining to Punjab and Haryana for the same period in the age group 0-4 years have been favourable to males. It is noteworthy that 1994-2000 data relate to the period when children aged 0-6 counted in 2001 were born.

Table 7: Infant Mortality Rate and Age-Specific Death Rates (ASDR), 0-4 and 5-9 by gender, 1984-1999

Table 7: Infant Mortality Rate and Age-Specific Death Rates (ASDR), 0-4 and 5-9 by gender, 1984-1999

Source: Report of the Sample Registration System, Office of the Registrar General, India.

Sex Ratio at birth

16The sex ratios at birth (SRB) available for the three year moving average 1998-2000 for India and major states (Table 8) show that there are deficits of girl children against the biological sex ratio of 952 in almost all the states except Andhra Pradesh, Assam and West Bengal. In Punjab and Haryana, the shortfall of girls is drastic, the SRB being 792 and 797 respectively. Few states have a SRB between 800 and 900. These are Bihar (896), Gujarat (851), Rajasthan (877) and Uttar Pradesh (868).

17From the above, it is clear that the socio-cultural bias against the girl child supported by recent medical intervention in terms of sex determination tests might be one of the significant factors for the adverse CSRs in the country.

Table 8: Sex ratio at birth for the period, India and bigger states, 1998-2000

India and bigger States

Total

Rural

Urban

INDIA

898

901

886

Andhra Pradesh

960

956

972

Assam

984

986

962

Bihar

896

894

922

Gujarat

851

859

828

Haryana

797

807

755

Himachal Pradesh

902

907

823

Karnataka

942

952

917

Kerala

930

912

986

Madhya Pradesh

907

908

903

Maharashtra

913

919

903

Orissa

928

932

885

Punjab

792

799

767

Rajasthan

877

885

830

Tamil Nadu

931

944

901

Uttar Pradesh

868

864

893

West Bengal

952

958

921

Source: Report of the Sample Registration System, Office of the Registrar General, India.

Table 9: Child sex ratio in the age group 0-6 in 1991 and 2001 Censuses

Table 9: Child sex ratio in the age group 0-6 in 1991 and 2001 Censuses

Source: Office of the Registrar General, India.

Rural-Urban differentials in CSRs

18Until now, the discussions regarding adverse CSRs have been based on information pertaining to rural and urban areas combined. But it is necessary to examine the impact of these two areas separately on the overall CSRs in the country as well as individual states. Table 9 presents the CSR in the 1991 and 2001 censuses in India, state/union territory by rural and urban area of residence.

19As compared to a decrease of only 14 points in the CSR pertaining to rural areas, the urban CSR has decreased by thirty points. We know that the universal sex ratio is 952 (sex ratio at birth). Taking that as a standard, it is observed that at the 1991 census, 22 states/union territories (excluding Jammu & Kashmir) had rural CSRs of more than 952 and the number came down to 19 in 2001. In 1991, only Punjab and Haryana registered CSRs below 900 in their rural areas. At the 2001 census, there were two new entrants in this category, namely Delhi and Chandigarh, also in North India. The pattern of CSRs in urban areas is more masculine as compared to rural areas (Table 10).

Table 10: Distribution of States/UTs by broad ranges of decrease in the child sex ratio in rural and urban areas, 1991-2001

Table 10: Distribution of States/UTs by broad ranges of decrease in the child sex ratio in rural and urban areas, 1991-2001

Note: Excludes Jammu and Kashmir where census was not held in 1991. Source: Office of the Registrar General, India.

20Table 10 summarizes the ranges of decline in the CSRs in the rural and urban areas and brings out the glaring fall observed both in the rural as well as urban areas in a majority of the states. The decline in the CSR in 32 states/union territories in their urban areas and in 29 states and union territories in the rural areas is indicative of the pathetic status and low desirability of girl children in certain sections of Indian society. This decline has been to the tune of more than 50 points in 5 states/union territories in their rural areas, and 8 states and union territories in the urban areas including Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi and Chandigarh. Except for few states, the phenomenon of decline in the CSR in the urban areas has entrapped all the states, though the magnitude of decline varies.

Situation in the major cities

21The situation regarding the adverse CSR in favour of males is no different in the affluent and prosperous pockets of some of the urban areas of India, where a steep decline in the ratio of girl children per 1,000 boys has been observed on the basis of the findings of the Census of India 2001. Table 11 below illustrates the fact.

Table 11: Child Sex Ratio of some of the major cities of India, 1991 and 2001

Major cities

State

1991

2001

Delhi

Delhi

904

850

Mumbai

Maharashtra

942

898

Pune

Maharashtra

943

906

Amritsar

Punjab

861

783

Patiala

Punjab

871

770

Ambala

Haryana

888

784

Gurgaon

Haryana

895

863

Faridabad

Haryana

884

856

Kurukshetra

Haryana

868

770

Ahmedabad

Gujarat

896

814

Vadodara

Gujarat

934

873

Rajkot

Gujarat

914

844

Jaipur

Rajasthan

925

897

INDIA

945

927

Source: Office of the Registrar General, India.

Concluding observations

  1. It was mentioned earlier that the life expectancy for females was favourable as compared to males and that the death rates of female children have become higher than those of male children. Thus, the advantage of the overall sex ratio in favour of females has been neutralized by the adverse child sex ratio in favour of males, particularly in the northern states.
  2. Looking at the infant and child mortality rates during the period 1994-2000, it is concluded that both parameters are higher for females than for males. The 1994-2000 figures relate to the period when children aged 0-6 years at the time of the 2001 census were born. In Haryana, the differentials in IMRs were of the order of 20 and 19 points, in 1998 and 1999 respectively. In that state, the overall sex ratio decreased by only 4 points during 2001, whereas the fall in the CSR was of the order of 59 points. The differential in the overall sex ratio and the CSR was 41 points. Surprisingly, a reverse trend was seen in 1991, when the CSR was 14 points higher than the overall sex ratio.. In all the districts of Haryana, the CSR has decreased. The decrease was as steep as 104 points in the Ambala district of the state. Thus, the possibility of female foeticide and infanticide in the state cannot be ruled out for such an adverse CSR. In fact, in the northern belt of the country consisting of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttaranchal and Chandigarh, there have been falls in CSRs in all the districts. In Himachal Pradesh also, barring one district, all the other districts have demonstrated a decrease in the CSR in 2001. Surprisingly, the overall sex ratios in these states have shown a different picture. For example, in Uttaranchal, the overall sex ratios have improved in all the districts in 2001 in sharp contrast to the CSRs, which have decreased in all the districts of the state. In some of the districts of Punjab and Haryana, the overall sex ratios have also improved.
  3. Generally speaking, we may argue that it is not literacy and economic factors which are responsible for the adverse CSRs in the country. Even in states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttaranchal, which have fairly high literacy rates, the CSRs have decreased. In Uttaranchal, as was mentioned above, in contrast to the overall sex ratios, which have decreased in all the districts in 2001 over 1991, the CSRs have decreased in all the districts of the state. This needs to be studied in detail.
  4. In urban areas, particularly in large metropolises, the small family norm has become a reality. Keeping this in mind, the urban couples might resort to pre-natal diagnostic techniques to be assured that at least one of the two children will be a son. This is corroborated by the fact that in tribal areas, the child sex ratios are favourable to females because of the absence of the use of these techniques.

Maps based on the Census of India 2001

Maps based on the Census of India 2001

Source: Office of the Registrar General, India, Government of India.

Notes

1 In India, the sex-ratio at birth (SRB) is calculated by dividing the total number of female births by the total number of male births, the normal SRB being around 950 female births per 1000 male births. In the other Asian countries considered in this volume, the SRB is calculated by dividing the total number of male births by the total number of female births, the normal SRB being around 105.5 female births per 100 male births.

2 The ‘Paper 1 of 2001, India’ based on the provisional results of the 2001 Census highlighted this issue by devoting a full section to the subject.

3 The analysis of results at the district level on this topic in the publication ‘Supplement to Paper 1 of 2001 Census, India’ gave further insight into the problem at levels below the state at the national and sub-national levels, particularly in certain parts of the country.

4 It should be mentioned in this connection that according to international practice, the sex ratio is defined as the number of males per 100 females, but in India, while the sex ratio at birth is expressed by the above mentioned formula, the sex ratio of the total population as well as the child sex ratio has been defined as the number of females per 1,000 males.

5 Provisional Population Totals: Paper 1-Census of India 2001.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 2: Sex ratio of total population and child population in the age group 0-6, 1991 and 2001
Légende Source: Provisional Population Totals, Paper 1 of 2001, Census of India 2001, Office of the Registrar General, India.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 181k
Titre Table 3: Distribution of districts by ranges of child sex ratio in the age group 0-6-India, 1991 and 2001
Légende Source: Provisional Population Totals, Paper 1 of 2001 Supplement (District Totals), Census of India 2001, Office of the Registrar General, India.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 91k
Titre Table 6: Gender Differences (M-F) of Infant Mortality Rate, India and States, 1994-1999
Légende Source: Report of the Sample Registration System, Office of the Registrar General, India.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 162k
Titre Table 7: Infant Mortality Rate and Age-Specific Death Rates (ASDR), 0-4 and 5-9 by gender, 1984-1999
Légende Source: Report of the Sample Registration System, Office of the Registrar General, India.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 213k
Titre Table 9: Child sex ratio in the age group 0-6 in 1991 and 2001 Censuses
Légende Source: Office of the Registrar General, India.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 206k
Titre Table 10: Distribution of States/UTs by broad ranges of decrease in the child sex ratio in rural and urban areas, 1991-2001
Légende Note: Excludes Jammu and Kashmir where census was not held in 1991. Source: Office of the Registrar General, India.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 50k
Titre Maps based on the Census of India 2001
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 255k
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 147k
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Légende Source: Office of the Registrar General, India, Government of India.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/4480/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 135k

Auteur

Office of the Registrar General, India
1st Floor, North wing, Sewa Bhawan, R.K. Puram
New Delhi–110 066, INDIA
dipakrgi@yahoo.co.in

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2005

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

Acheter

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search