Pubblichiamo il testo originale, in inglese, dell'analisi di Selvaraj Arulnathan, sulla disparità numerica tra maschi e femmine (sex ratio) dopo il censimento nazionale indiano del 2011. La versione ridotta, in italiano, è uscita sul numero di marzo di Popoli.
“India no country for daughters” is the news that Times of India carried on January 28, 2012. It tells volumes about the attitude, treatment and value that India holds for its daughters. Continuous and steep low child sex ratio indicates a continuing preference for boys in India, which resulted in a further plunge from 927 in 2001 to 914 females against 1,000 males, the lowest child sex ratio in the last 100 years. While the overall sex ratio is 940 female to 1,000 male, child sex ratio is 914 female to every 1,000 male. Despite a slew of laws to prevent female foeticide and female infanticide and schemes to encourage families to have girl child, the ratio has declined from 927 females against 1,000 males in 2001 to 914 in 2011. The details of the decline are even more shocking as it demolishes the logic of fact and all sound arguments.
Indian Census statistics on sex ratio from 1901 to date (2011) reminds us that India has been very consistent in its second class treatment of women and has no qualms in considering them as an appendage. This is the crux of the issue. The sex ratio chart from 1901 (972 female per 1,000 male) till 2011 (914 female per 1,000 male) also posits the contradiction between the lofty claims of successive governments about the growth in education, economic development, social and cultural parity and the dismal reality on ground zero.
A strong prejudice against girl child which has its roots in Hindu religion and culture seems to answer the multifaceted and overwhelming attitude that is embedded in Indian psyche which looks down at women as intrinsically and inalienably inferior to men. This calls us first and foremost to examine ourselves, evaluate the impact of our education and economic progress and all their constitutive change in Indian society especially after independence. It also invites us to answer some pertinent questions like, where does the problem lie? What measures have been taken to address the issue? What really affects us to still treat women as an appendage in spite of their accomplishments in all fields?
While the overall sex ratio of the nation has increased from 933 in 2001 to 940 in 2011, an increase of 7 per 1,000, the child sex ratio has brought greater alarm as it has recorded the lowest since 1947 to a dismal 914 female to 1000 male. This is a 13 point drop from 2001 which recorded 927 to 1,000. This drop in the child sex ratio will have a long and adverse effect upon the male-female composition which would lead to other social and cultural problems. It is also very shocking to know that some of the affluent states and relatively better educated states like Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have low child sex ratio, Haryana occupying the lowest child sex ratio with 830 girls for 1,000 boys, Punjab with 846 and Jammu and Kashmir with 859 girls for 1000 boys in 2011 census. Buy why this contradiction and confusion?
India is a land of Contradictions
India has been the quintessence of contradiction in many ways; in its spirituality, in its actual understanding of women and in religion, legends and literature, etc. India maintains a perfect incongruity. There won’t be any other country in the world which is more complex, more diverse and more contradictory than India. One such mind boggling feature about India is the place of women in the country. One can notice two extreme and even contradictory dimensions about women. On the one hand, majority of our gods and goddesses, deities and saintly figures are female figures. But in reality, she bears the odium.
How is it that there is vast disparity in sex ratio
Some statistics available about the sex ratio in India lends itself to shocking revelations breaking many myths and defying all logic about development, prosperity, education and legal enactments. All these interventions would have brought about tremendous change in the life of women, but for India. Here are some statistics which will speak more loudly than any interpretation.
- According to United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ (Un-Desa) recent survey, an Indian girl child aged 1-5 years is 75% more likely to die than an Indian boy, making this the worst gender differential in child mortality for any country in the world.
- Its newly released data for 150 countries over 40 years shows that India and China are the only two countries in the world where female infant mortality is higher than male infant mortality in the 2000s.
- Rukmini Srinivasan puts it more bluntly as India is the deadliest place in world for girl child.
- When it comes to the child mortality sex ratio, however, India is far and away the world's worst. In the 2000s, there were 56 male child deaths for every 100 female, compared with 111 in the developing world.
- This ratio has got progressively worse since the 1970s in India, even as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Iraq improved (Rukmini Srinivasan, Times News Network Feb 1, 2012).
- Female sex ratio in rural India is higher than urban India. Overall sex ratio in rural India is 947 where female sex ratio in urban India is just 926.
- Bottom 3 states/Uts with lowest rural sex ratio in India are Chandigarh (Ut) with only 691, Nct of Delhi (Ut) with 847 and Dadra Nagar Haveli (Ut) with 863 females per 1,000 males. Chandigarh and Delhi are otherwise affluent states in economic, educational and other human growth indices.
- Bottom 3 states/Uts with lowest urban sex ratio in India are, Daman & Diu (Ut) with only 550, Dadra Nagar Haveli (Ut) with 684 and Chandigarh with 821 females per 1000 males.
- South Indian states reveal better sex ration whereas north shows low sex ratio. As per statistics, Kerala stands with highest sex ratio of 1084 female per 1,000 male, Puducherry 1038 female to 1,000 male, Tamilnadu 995 female to 1,000 male Andhrapradesh 922 female to 1,000 male.
There are many factors that determine the sex ratio in India. One of the important factors is gender sensitivity. This is created by an overall growth in education; economic, religious freedom and freedom of expression of women are some factors which increase gender sensitivity. As I said India is the ground of contradictions, India is also the ground of disparities. No other country has so vast a gap as India. The low sex ratio is one such sound example to affirm the disparity and contradiction of India. As a cumulative impact of negative impression and devolution of girl children,
- The latest Un report says 50 million girls are missing from Indian population as a result of gender discrimination from 1980s.
- Recently “Thomas Roiter Foundations trust law for women, in their survey “most dangerous countries for women in world are 1) Afghanistan, 2) Congo, 3) Pakistan, 4) India, 5) Somalia where the female are not safe before & after birth
- According to Dr Rajni H MD (Gynaecologist), Member of State Supervisory, Pc & Pndt Act, Gujarat, female feticide is an inhuman barbaric a criminal act committed by highly educated and respected person of civil society most of whom are doctors like gynaecologist and radiologist in so many states/Uts.
These facts speak something beyond and more than the actual sex ratio, the integral growth and gender sensitivity. There should be some mysterious reason that slips human logic, human understanding of development and progress. That is Indian world view, Indian core values and Indian long cherished inconsistencies. They reveal themselves in the following ways:
Religious- Putra Dharma (Duties of a son)
One thing that is very fundamental about Indian ethos is its religiosity. Indians, in a way still live in the Stone Age in their beliefs and practices, superstitions and religious ceremonies which define and determine their life. Indian belief which places so much importance upon the birth of a boy child becomes the root cause of most of the problems that women undergo.
According to the Vedic text (SB 4.21.46), there is a hellish planet called Put, and one who delivers a person from there is called putra. The purpose of marriage, therefore, is to have a putra, or son who is able to deliver his father, even if the father falls to the hellish condition of the put. The purpose of accepting a wife in religious marriage, as sanctioned in the Vedas, is to have a putra, a son qualified to deliver his father from the darkest region of hellish life. Marriage is not intended for sense gratification, but for getting a son fully qualified to deliver his father. Now one cannot ask a question like what if the mother goes to hell. Who cares? This is the root cause of the preference for male child, respect for male child. Respect for male child comes along with disrespect, devolution of and discrimination against girl child at every stage of her growth.
This prejudice against girl child influences even science and technology and makes medical science the handmaid of religion and religious sentiment. The same prejudice twists scientific development in sex determination prefers a girl to a boy without any qualm. This is one way of making Indian society strongly male dominated for the sake of which religion, caste, moral codes and ethics were created in India: male is better, greater, more sacred, more preferred and more important than female.
Thus the cumulative impact of strong patriarchal social ethos bears upon the lowest position of women in India. No other way does it better express than in the continuous low sex ratio. That is what one can find from the sex ratio in the last few censuses. Hence religion and culture plays the crucial role for the low sex ratio, and particularly low child sex ratio.
Social and Cultural
The recent UN report is even blunter in stating the strong prejudice that has been maintained in Indian society explained by socio-cultural values. Biological advantage of girls is much stronger than boys in early childhood that higher mortality among girls should be seen as "a powerful warning that differential treatment or access to resources is putting girls at a disadvantage". The deeply valued religious sentiment of the importance of boy over the girl has its serious impact in the social realm. Socialization process is male favoured, male preferred and male fathomed. Differential treatment starts right at home. The better part of share, space and attention is given to the boy making girl permanently dependent, deprived and deeply hurt. In short girl is looked at as liable, burden and even curse if the number of girls in the family is more than boys.
This lopsided value attached to the boy and the girl has its adverse effect upon the girl. While girl undergoes differential treatment, less attention and more burden of the family, there are even events and examples in which girls are even eliminated from this world using the crudest means possible. Female foeticide, female infanticide, dowry deaths, deaths in domestic violence, etc. are common place in Indian social setup.
Female Foeticide, Infanticide and Dowry
Among the many ways that India confounds the world, this is a particularly ignominious one. While growth and development usually lead to more progressive attitudes towards women, rising India is increasingly choosing the barbaric practice of female infanticide and foeticide. According to National Advisory Council members Farah Naqvi, a woman rights activist from Center for Development Alternatives, New Delhi and A.K. Shiva Kumar (the Hindu, “India & the sex selection conundrum,” January 24, 2012), the use of sex selection technologies to abort female foetuses is linked to the increasing devaluation and disempowerment of women. (The Hindu, Feb 04). This female foeticide and female infanticide is done in two ways: in the crudest traditional ways and the most sophisticated modern ways. Place like Usialmpatty in Tamilnadu which was once using cactus milk, paddy grain and other such methods to eliminate girl child. In the most modern way, through sex selection and sex determination, parents conveniently clean the girl foetus as early as the child is 16 months old. While the former method is used by rural, illiterate, poor people, the modern method is used by urban, middle and higher middle class families, who employ the modern methods to curb the growth of girl child.
Farah Naqvi, spoke very clearly on women and autonomy which implies crucial role in determining the role of women in the family and also in the society. According to her woman is one who is not considered as intrinsically worth. She is always looked at as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, but never as an individual; that they are not end in themselves. Even those who are concerned about the low sex ratio seem to feel so because there won’t be enough women for men, again she is in relation to the man (Naqvi, Farah, “Inclusive Growth with Dignity and Human Rights, Constitutional Club, New Delhi, Feb. 03, 2012). This betrays the deep embedded prejudice against woman as second sex.
In India even technology is male chauvinistic
The results of the 1991 Census came as the first major shock, with the child sex ratio plunging from 962 girls per 1,000 boys to 945 in just 10 years. The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act came into effect in 1996 and it outlawed the disclosure of the sex of the fetus. The act has not been able to arrest the continuous decline of India's child sex ratio. In 2001, it fell further to 927 girls per 1,000 boys, and in 2011, it crashed to 914.
Studies show a sharp drop in the sex ratio after the introduction of ultrasound machines, used for determining the sex of fetuses, resulting in selective abortion of female fetuses. Estimates for the total number of "missing girls" since 1980, show a range between 10 million to 50 million. One major reason as Rukmini Srinivasan from New Delhi points out, sex determination is possible in 16 weeks of conception while abortion in India is allowed up to 20 weeks. Of course, it is not the technology that is the cause; but the tool that allows a prejudice to be played out.
Another shocking revelation is that there has been more female foeticide and infanticide among literate and affluent families than the poor and illiterate families. According to Times of India report (28.01.2012), the 2011 numbers show that the states with the worst child sex ratio (Csr) are not the most backward, but the prosperous agrarian states of Haryana and Punjab bear that ignominy with the neighboring industrial hubs of Delhi and Chandigarh.
Nor is high literacy a good indicator: Uttar Pradesh and Bihar do far better than Maharashtra and Gujarat. Within states, rural areas tend to have a better CSR than urban areas. This clearly shows that science, technology, literacy, affluence and all other new inventions are against women. This is the modern mantra (rule) in India.
Political and Judicial drawbacks
The continuous deterioration in the child sex ratio reveals a few stinking realities. One such criminal act is that it has revealed that the Central Supervisory Board for the Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) Act 1994 did not meet for the last 3 years. The situation also exposes that female foeticide is decriminalized because of negligence, non-commitment, delay and evasiveness even if cases are booked.
The present campaigns of the government against female foeticide are hypocritical and superficial precisely because the government has utterly failed to implement its own law or perhaps has deliberately not done so. The strong links between sections of a powerful medical fraternity who make profits through the use of sex-selection technologies and politicians and bureaucrats have made a mockery of the legal provisions. For every million crimes of sex selection and sex selective abortions annually, only a few cases are filed in the courts and there are hardly any convictions. Since 1994 when the Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) law was enacted there have been only 93 convictions. This is another serious flaw which encourages female foeticide across all sections.
In general the southern Indian states (Kerala, Karnataka, Andhrapradesh, Tamilnadu and Pondicherry) have fared better in gender parity than most of the northern states. It only indicates that besides literacy and prosperity, gender sensitivity, examination of one’s attitude towards women is very necessary.
It is very interesting to see a state like Tamilnadu which had high sex ratio from 1901 till 1951 gradually went down in 1951. This trend continued till 1971 census during which there were cases of high female infanticide due to dowry and educating girl children, but once serious campaign against dowry, female foeticide and infanticide and advocacy for girl education, things stated changing from 1981 census. It only shows that there have been concerted efforts through campaign and targeted program for girl children like education, nutrition, etc so as to improve the sex ratio.
- Indian conscience is deeply religious and patriarchal. Both religion and patriarchy work against woman, devalue her worth and denigrate her to the lowest place possible. It means that male is the progeny of the family whereas as girl is a liability to the family. For them the family gains nothing by the girl, no family lineage, no material profit, no name, nothing. Religion sanctifies such prejudice. Though there may appear some changes externally, Indian male is the same old man in mind, heart and soul.
- Indian education system is basically conformist, conventional and gender biased. As a result, today most female foeticide and infanticide is among the affluent educated middle and upper middle classes. It is shocking to know that Indians settled in Us and Canada. A recent editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (Cmaj) talks of female foeticide via selective abortion in Canada’s Asian immigrant communities, sparking off a debate about the prevalence of this practice among Indians in North America. The Cmaj editorial, by the journal’s outgoing interim editor-in-chief Rajendra Kale, cited studies to show that female foeticide in Canada and the Us occurs in large enough numbers to distort male-female ratios in some immigrant groups, including ethnic Indians and Chinese (Indian Express, Feb 06, 2012).
- Science and technology too cannot change the mindset of Indian male society. Rather Indian mindset has misused medical science. It is even shocking that who are supposed to sensitize people with regard to sex determination and sex selection using medical sciences have played the most criminal act of using medical science to eliminate female child right in the foetus. There has been more modern abortion due to sex determination than due to ignorance and poverty.
- Strong prejudice against girl child has introduced some of the worst forms of women oppression such as dowry, domestic violence and death, female foeticide and female infanticide. The number of girl children shown in various statistics will prove that India is the most dangerous place for the girl to live in.
- It is also shocking to learn that it is the law makers and the medical practitioners who are supposed to ensure that girl child is valued equally with boy and spared from medical malfunction are at the helm of affair in killing them.
And finally it is only through strong advocacy against female discrimination at social, cultural, educational, economic, and medical grounds that some parity can be established. It is again the policy makers and the medical scientists who need to straighten the system. And over and above all, it is the male society which has female as part and parcel of everyone’s life, should be able to understand that woman is an integral part of man, human family and society.
Selvaraj Arulnathan SJ
India Social Institute (New Delhi)