India’s already grim sex ratio scenario runs the risk of turning worse with more women than men preferring sons over daughters.
Historically women here have longed for the girl child much against the wishes of the men in their lives. But that appears a thing of the past, according to the latest statistics and programme implementation ministry report titled Women and men in India 2012.
The October 31, 2012 issue of ministry report shows that 22.4 per cent of women look forward to have sons rather than daughters as against 20 per cent of men in India wanting a male child. The statistics ministry has culled the data from the third National Family Health Survey conducted b y the health ministry.
In an oblique reference to disparity in female literacy levels across India, the ministry report shows that women in Bihar (at 39.2 per cent) recorded the highest preference for sons. In contrast women in Tamil Nadu registered the least preference for sons at 5.7 per cent. The female literacy, according to Census 2011, stood at 53.3 per cent as against 73.8 per cent in Tamil Nadu.
However, in case of men, the literacy factor plays out in the negative. While men from Mizoram had highest preference for sons at 43.5 per cent, Tamil Nadu’s men showed the least preference for sons at 7.9 per cent. The male literacy rate in Mizoram is 93.7 per cent as against 86.81 per cent in Tamil Nadu. As per the report, the highest disparity between men and women in regard to preference for child’s gender has been recorded in Mizoram at 14.7 per cent.
The statistics and programme implementation ministry data, however, runs contrary to another report on son versus daughter preference. The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) in its 2010 report named “Son preference and daughter neglect in India” found that while 46 per cent of women wanted more boys than girls more, while more than half (54.1 per cent) said they wanted equal numbers of boys and girls bearing no specific sex preference.
Explaining the bias of Indian mothers towards male child, Anjali Pawar, at Sakhee, a child and women NGO in Mumbai said, “Mother is said to be the closet companion to the child and she is the one who is always keen to see her child’s safety. An Indian mother prefers sons than daughters as she knows that a girl child since her birth is supposed to be socialized with higher adjustments, abuses and agony. Being a mother she feels the pain of the daughter to be born, so she prefers a son.”
Depicting the disturbing trend, for years the Indian census also showed a marked gap between the number of boys and girls, men and women. According to census 2011 India’s sex ratio stood at 941. Common wisdom is that the preference for sons is motivated by economic, religious, social and emotional desires and norms that favor males and make females less desirable.
India fares among the worst in South Asia when it comes to the sex ratio. As a matter of fact, the overall sex ratio performance of India in 2011 event lags behind its neighbours -- Sri Lanka (1034), Nepal (1014), Bangladesh (978), Pakistan (943). Giving company to India is China, which has done worse with a 926 sex ratio.
While the government said it has put checks and balances in place, the mounting numbers show the situation on ground has hardly improved. Reinforcing the crisis situation, cases of foeticide registered under section 135 and 316 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) increased from 111 in 2010 to 132 in 2011.
Medical professionals on their part seem keen to push the blame on technology. Sunil Mehra, executive director at Mamta, a maternal health focus NGO, said, “Misuse of ultrasound technology for determining sex has still not been curbed. Technology is a boon to us and rather than using it for destruction we should use it in either determining congenital defects or any other complications.”