Child sex ratio plunges in island city

Child sex ratio plunges in island city

Source Times of India

Are the well-heeled denizens of the island city more prejudiced against the girl child than those living in the suburbs? The Census 2011 data on the dropping child sex ratio across Mumbai seems to suggest so.

The island city’s child sex ratio fell from 922 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2001 to 874 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2011. In contrast, the child sex ratio in the suburbs slipped from 923 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2001 to 910 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2011. The drop in the number of girls in the city is almost four times that in the suburbs.

Child sex ratio enumerates the number of girl children born for every 1,000 male children. While more male births are natural, the ratio has been getting increasingly skewed in the last three decades because of the advent of sex determination tests such as ultrasound scans and blood-based genetic tests. Maharashtra’s child sex ratio in 2011 was 883 girls to 1000 boys as against 913 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001. The national average stands at 914 this year.

These alarming statistics were discussed at a meeting of the state health department on Tuesday, where public health minister Suresh Shetty expressed his concern about the dropping sex ratio in the urban areas. “While a conservative mindset can explain the declining sex ratio in rural areas, the urban statistics are disturbing, and we need to study the reasons carefully,’’ he said.

He also announced an awareness plan to correct this discrimination against the girl child. P Arokiasamy of the International Institute of Population Sciences, Deonar, blamed falling fertility rates (the number of children born per woman) and the fact that the economically better sections had better access to testing centres. Child sex ratio: It’s a grim situation across the state

A senior Mantralaya official said that couples usually went to cities such as Bangkok and Singapore, which offered genetic testing to determine the sex of an unborn child. “If it’s not a boy, these couples abort the foetus before returning home,’’ he said. Incidentally, only last month medical journal Lancet published a study that showed that rich and educated Indian parents were increasingly aborting a second girl child and trying for a boy.

Shetty said the child sex ratio had also fallen in cities such as Thane, Pune and Nagpur. In Thane, the 2011 sex ratio is 918 girls/1000 boys, down by 13 girls from the 2001 census. Similarly in Pune and Nagpur, the ratio has seen a fall by 29 and 16 respectively. In 2001, Pune had a sex ratio of 902 girls/1000 boys and Nagpur had 942 girls/1000 boys.

The situation is equally grim in the rest of the state. The average drop in the sex ratio in 35 districts is 30; in 2001, 913 girls were born as against 883 girls in 2011. Beed was the worst, with a drop of 93 in the last decade—894 girls in 2001 as against 801 in 2011. Of the 35 districts, the girl child sex ratio has seen a sharp decline in 31 districts. The situation is marginally better in the rest of the districts (see box for details).

At the Mantralaya meeting, which was attended by Congress leader and former Mumbai mayor Nirmala Samant-Prabhavalkar, Congress MLA Praniti Shinde and MLC Alka Desai, it was unanimously decided to step up awareness campaigns on the issue. “Our slogan used to be ‘Save a girl child’,” said Shinde. “We need to go beyond this. We will now focus on the emotional aspect with ‘Love your child’.” However, the MLA also remarked that only awareness would not help resolve the issue and stringent punitive action needed to be taken against erring parents and doctors.

Shetty said the government would enlist NGO help, while Samant-Prabhavalkar said the state would rope in a brand ambassador to spread awareness. “The name has not been decided, but it will be someone who has influence in both urban and rural areas,” she said. The government has decided to involve the corporate world too. “Corporate houses will be asked to print the girl child message on electricity, telephone and other utility bills to bring about awareness on this sensitive issue,” said Desai.