In this issue, we explore what India could look like in 2031 if we fail to protect the lives of unborn girls.
A widespread preference for sons, combined with easy access to illegal sex-selective abortions, has led to a significant imbalance in the ratio of boys to girls born in India. According to the latest government census, the Child Sex Ratio, which shows the number of girls per 1000 boys between the ages 0-6, plunged down to 918 for India in 2011 from 927 in 2001.
Diminishing Sex Ratio
The Sex Ratio will further dip to 898 girls for 1,000 boys in 2031, according to a Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation report.
Recently, during the Coronavirus lockdown period, the government inexplicably suspended some key provisions of the PCPNDT (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Rules, 1996. This decision put the lives of thousands of unborn girls at risk. India cannot afford such lapses.
“The decreasing Child Sex Ratio has a cascading effect on population over a period of time leading to diminishing Sex Ratio in the country,” explains the Census of India website, “one thing is clear—the imbalance that has set in at the early age group is difficult to be removed and will remain to haunt the population for a long time to come.”
The declining Child Sex Ratio sabotages the development of our country as women contribute strongly to the economic upliftment of India. Imagine large proportions of the productive population missing ten years from now because girls were not even allowed to be born!
Scarcity of Brides
The growing disparity between the number of boys and girls born will have serious social implications. It will become more difficult for men, wanting to get married, to find a bride by 2031. In the coming decades, the number of men who can’t find brides in India could reach 40 million.
In the book ‘Too Many Men, Too Few Women’, Ravinder Kaur speaks about this ‘marriage squeeze’. Through empirical work and ethnographic accounts by well-known sociologists, economists and demographers, this book maintains that due to the economic, social, moral and psychological importance of marriage in Indian societies, the "shortage of brides" has become one of the most significant negative impacts of the sex ratio imbalance.
Increase in Violence
Gender imbalance will have dangerous repercussions to the security and stability of our society. Studies repeatedly link regions with high sex-ratios in favor of men to instances of increase in violence, sexual exploitation of women, enforced prostitution and other forms of gender-based violence. The impending “marriage squeeze” will amplify evils like bride trafficking and polyandry.
Failure in Achieving Gender Equality
A country without balance is a country without equality. Gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations aims to achieve by 2030.
“Son preference is first and foremost about gender discrimination and violations of women’s and girls' human rights,” says Luis Mora, a UNFPA human rights expert. Failure to bring balance in our Child Sex Ratio would mean failure in achieving Gender Equality for our girls.
Ms. Ravinder Kaur, a noted professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology at IIT-Delhi, has said that the consequences of skewed sex ratios are likely to be felt even more than twenty years down the line.
Improving the status of women and girls and preventing the systematic erasure of our daughters should be a national priority.