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Gap widens between boys and girls in India

In India there are seven per cent more men than women and the number of females continues to decline, says a new book.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2006 11:26 IST

While in the rest of the world, women outnumber men by three to five per cent, in India there are seven per cent more men than women and the number of females continues to decline, says a new book.

Neither education nor affluence has brought any significant change in the attitudes towards women. In fact, the increase in the deficit of young girls noticed in the 1981, 1991 and 2001 censuses was indicative of a strong possibility that the traditional methods of neglect of female children were being increasingly replaced by not allowing female children to be born, the book, Sex-selective Abortion in India. Gender, Society and New Reproductive Technologies says.

The sex ratio figure in 1921 of 972 women in India for every 1000 men and its decline to 933 in 2001 questions the relationship between social development and sex ratio, the book edited by Tulsi Patel, a Professor in Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, says. Internationally speaking, socially as well as economically advanced societies have shown a sex ratio favourable to the female, it says.

Since 1980s, India has witnessed a sharp decline in juvenile sex ratio in the age group of 0 to 6 years, the book says. A collection of essays by distinguished demographers and social scientists, the book describes the sentiments and sexual mores that lead parents to kill unborn daughters.

Is sex-selective abortion responsible for unfavourable female-male ratio? According to the essay by Leela Virasia, higher mortality of girls until recently is one factor responsible for adverse sex ratio. According to Virasia, Professor and Director of Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad, until 1980s, the life expectancy of women was lower by 2-3 years than that of men. It is only in the 1990s that the trend has begun to reverse. The author says that deficit of women in India's population has been documented ever since the first decennial enumeration of people was conducted in the late 19th century.

Over the span of more than 100 years, the deficit has progressively increased as evident from the sex ratio of the population — the number of women in India steadily declined from 972 in 1901 to 933 in 2001. India shares with China and other South Asian countries with the exception of Sri Lanka this phenomenon of deficit of women, the book says.

It says that in spite of the overall faster decline in mortality among women in India registered in the past two decades, the deficit of girls has progressively and dramatically increased in the last 20 years. Thus, compared to 1981 when there were 1.9 per cent fewer girls than boys, the percentage doubled to 3.8 by 2001. The States of Haryana and Punjab enumerated 10 to 11.6 per cent less girls than boys in 2001, respectively up from five per cent in 1981. In absolute numbers, there were 23 million fewer women compared to men in 1981 but by 2001, the number increased to nearly 36 million.