Rural India's gender imbalance widens

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    Rural India's gender imbalance widens
    India - 16 July 2011

    Rural India has experienced a sharp fall in the ratio of female to male children, new census data shows, indicating sex-selection technology has reached even the country's remotest areas.

    India's villages house just 919 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six, reflecting a massive decline from the 2001 ratio showing 934 girls for every 1,000 boys, according to figures released Friday,

    The data was seen as confirming fears that villagers are now using cheap and portable ultrasound technology easily available in India's cities in order to carry out illegal sex-selective abortions in favour of the male child.

    "Earlier villagers had to go to the city to get a sonogram," Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the non-profit Population Foundation of India.

    "Today sonographers are going into the villages to cater to people who want sons," she told AFP.

    The ratio in urban India, at 902 girls per 1,000 boys, is worse than in the countryside but the drop -- from 906 girls in 2001 -- is much smaller than the steep fall seen in the villages.

    The national ratio, 914 girls for every 1,000 boys, is at its lowest since India's independence in 1947 and compares with a global average of 1,050 girls for every 1,000 boys, figures released earlier in the year showed.

    Married women in India face huge pressure to produce male heirs who are seen as breadwinners, family leaders and carers when parents age. Girls are often viewed as a burden in traditional families as they require hefty dowries to be married off.

    India has a long history of female infanticide -- of girls suffocated, poisoned, drowned or left to die.

    More common now, thanks to technological advances, is the abortion of female foetuses, or "female foeticide" -- a simple, cheap and difficult to police process with ultrasound tests costing as little as $10.

    Brinda Karat, senior member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), told AFP the recent decline in rural India was "not at all surprising".

    "Once the preference for a son becomes the dominant preference in a society, it affects all sections of society right across the board," she said.

    As many as half a million female foetuses are estimated to be aborted each year in India despite the practice being banned in the country, according to a 2006 study by British medical journal Lancet.

    "The law alone cannot translate into a change in social norms, we need to realise that decreasing sex ratios is one of the worst indicators of the suffering girls face in our country," Population Foundation's Muttreja said.

    In the last few decades, successive governments have launched an array of schemes to alter the social bias against having girls, including offering cash incentives to expectant parents, but they have had little impact.

    The new data also showed that while India's population remains largely rural, its urban population has grown to 377 million, or 31.1 per cent of the 1.21 billion population, from 286 million or 27.8 per cent of the population in 2001.



    Source: AFP
     
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