Any imbalance in sex ratio is a disturbing fact. But when the number of girls exceeds that of boys, it says positive things about the social fabric. The politically vibrant Kannur district of Kerala has topped the sex ratio in the country as per the 2011 census. Kannur has a sex ratio of 1,133 females for 1,000 males, much higher than the national average.
What contributed to its gender balance? Kannur’s long history of people’s struggles for social justice, the freedom struggle and the Communist movement that encouraged female initiatives in social issues — all played their part.
“Rearing up girl children and giving them in marriage is less expensive in this region compared to other parts of the state,” says Professor Lakshmanan, former director of KILA (Kerala Institute of Local Administration).
The legacy of the female rulers of Arakkal, the sole Muslim dynasty of Kerala is still inspiringly alive in the social memory of the district. Bibi Harrabichi Kadavube ruled Kannur during the first half of the eighteenth century. The last ruler of the kingdom was also a woman — Ali Raja Mariumma Beevi Thangal.
The girl child was also supported by its culture industry. Indulekha, the first novel in Malayalam authored by O.Chandu Menon was published from Thalassery, a major town in Kannur district known as the cultural capital of north Kerala. The novel presents a bold female character who challenges the patriarchal Brahmanical hegemony while the hero of the novel, Madhavan, is feeble in attitude.
The total absence of the burden of the dowry system among the Hindu community, here, is a pivotal factor in the welcome the girl child gets at birth.
(The writer is a research scholar.)