Female foeticide and preference for male child are blamed for the decline
While yet another National Girl Child Day – January 24 – has come and gone, research shows that there are 10,000 fewer girls born than there should have been in the last 10 years.
Professor of Social Work Rita Noronha, who has been working on a University Grants Commission-funded project on gender sensitisation in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts, told The Hindu that an analysis of census data shows that more than 1,000 fewer girls were born than boys every year for the last decade.
She said that the child sex ratio in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts has been declining steadily over the last decade. The ideal girl-boy ratio accepted internationally was 1,050:1,000. Considering the total number of boys born, she estimated that a total of 10,000 fewer girls were born than boys.
According to figures from the Department of Health and Family Welfare, the child sex ratio (number of girls per thousand boys between the 0-6 age group) has been steadily declining over the last three years. From 982 in 2006-07, the figure dropped dramatically to 930 the following year and for the years 2008-09 and 2009-10 the figure remained at 923. (The department has maintained annual data for the 0-6 age group only since 2006). According to the 2011 census the child sex ratio for the district was 946, while the figure was 952 in the 2001 census.
Ms. Noronha said that a number of factors including female foeticide and preference for a male child were responsible for the declining number.
Another factor was the increasing preference for only one child. Although both the Departments of Women and Child Development and Health and Family Welfare are aware of the imbalance in the sex ratio, they do not appear to know the causes for this.
Reproductive and Child Health Officer of the Department of Health, Rukmini M., however, does hazard a guess. She said that considering the data maintained by her department, one factor that could be partially responsible was the increasing preference for one child.
The department keeps a month-wise record of the number of babies born in the district.
The percentage of first-time deliveries was the highest, and the percentage of women having more than one baby was significantly lower. Perhaps an analysis of this data could provide clues as to the nature of the role this factor played.
However, she admits that this alone cannot skew the numbers so dramatically. Ms. Noronha said that the overall findings of her research suggested that the space for women was shrinking, and that serious thought needed to be given on how to really welcome the girl child to this world.
Meanwhile, the Department of Women and Child Development has postponed the celebration of national Girl Child Day on account of the Bala Srujanotsav which was being held in the city between January 22 and 25.
Ms. Shakuntala A. said that the department would celebrate the day after the Bala Srujanotsav ended.