Sex ratio at birth, a major indictor of female foeticide, has not improved in Mumbai between 2013 and 2014. It has stagnated at 930 girls per 1,000 boys for the past two years, a trend experts said was “disturbing”, adding that a healthy sex ratio is 950 or more girls to every 1000 boys.
According to data with the civic body, thirteen municipal wards, including parts of Kalbadevi, Ghatkopar, Borivli, Malad and Dahisar, have witnessed a dip in the ratio during the same period. Sex ratio in Marine Lines, Kalbadevi and Pydhonie area is 808 girls per 1,000 boys, which is lower than Haryana, a state that has the lowest sex ratio in India at 861 girls per 1,000 boys. In Kandivali, the sex ratio is just 890 girls per 1,000 boys.
Municipal officials said they have not analysed ward-wise information. “There is no drop in the overall sex ratio, which is a positive indicator. We can’t look at the ward-wise data and conclude that the sex ratio has dropped,” said Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer, BMC.
Activist, however, said poor implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, which disallows sex determination of the foetus, is the cause for the drop in sex ratio.
Public health experts said the low sex ratio in some areas indicated there was sex selection. “Even in Delhi, we have seen that sex ratio is skewed in affluent localities and the situation is the same in Mumbai. They have the means to access these services and looking at the localities, we can develop means to sensitise the population indulging in illegal sex selective abortions,” said Poonam Muttreja, executive director, Population Foundation of India.
Sex ratio at birth is determined from the birth registration data collected from various municipal wards in Mumbai. “Couples have confided in me, saying they go to the neighbouring states and get the sex-determination test done, and even get the female foetus aborted there. The rich and the affluent people are the ones who are opting for such means to eliminate the girl child from being born,” said Dr Ashwin Kakas, a city-based gynaecologist.
A study by doctors at Holy Family Hospital, Bandra, in four suburban slums of Mumbai found that 30% of the abortions were done to prevent the birth of a female child. The study found that of the 84 abortions reported, 60 were induced and 24 spontaneous. “The reason stated for induced abortions was related to sex of the child in 31 cases and in 26 cases, the abortions were induced to prevent the birth of a female child,” said Dr Ancilla Tragler, author of the study published in 2011.
Experts campaigning for the girl child said as fertility (the number of children per mother) declines, people opt for sex selection to have an “ideal family”. “In cities, people are having fewer children, hence sex-selection is rampant,” said Muttreja.
Varsha Deshpande, advocate, who is part of the civic body’s task force committee for PC-PNDT, said Mumbai’s unwillingness to crack down on clinics offerings sex determination is to be blamed. “We know of various clinics in Mumbai’s suburbs that offer sex-determination tests. The corporation is not willing to take action,” she said.