Bias against girls spreading in Kerala too?

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 01, 2013 13:10 hrs

Thiruvananthapuram, Mar 1 (IANS) Child sex ratio trends in Kerala may be following the trends in the country's northern states, warn academics who have undertaken a detailed study analysing disaggregated data from the state over four decades.

The trend, which shows declining numbers of girl children for every 1,000 boy children, is widespread in the region and reported also in South Asia and China. Kerala, however, was long perceived to be uninfluenced by the trend, with its traditionally matriarchal Nair community and wide participation of women in the workforce.

Academics M. Kabir and K. Pushpangadan, as part of a project sponsored by the state's social welfare department, analysed data from different districts of the state over four decades to show that the child sex-ratio in Kerala declined from 976 to 958 in the course of the two decades between 1971 and 1991. It registered a marginal increase by two points in 2001, but a decline by one point - from 960 to 959 - in 2011.

On the sidelines of a seminar Friday at the Centre for Development Studies where these findings were presented, Kabir told IANS that disaggregation of the data to the taluk level throws up disturbing facts -- 26 of the state's 63 taluks had lower FMRs (female- male ratio) in 2001 than in 1991; 39 had lower FMRs in 2011 than in 2001.

He said that the taluks that registered the decline fall into clusters, and are contiguous, cutting across district boundaries.

"In 2011, the decline spread to more areas, adjoining those which reported decline in the preceding decade, while a few that had reported decline in 1991-2001 escaped decline in the next decade. Studies on India and China have already noted the diffusion of decline in the child sex ratios, which they have called the "contagion effect". Scholars have noted "this geographical clustering as a typical feature of sex ratio degradation in Asia and directly refers to the diffusion process of discriminatory behaviour," Kabir said.

The study points out that considering the censuses of 1991 and 2011, when district boundaries remained unchanged, the female deficit increased in six districts - Kasaragod, Kannur, Waynad, Palakkad, Thrissur and Idukki - out of the fourteen in the state; Palakkad showed steady decline in all censuses from 1991.

Considering the censuses of 2001 and 2011, decline was recorded by Palakkad (by one point, from 963 to 962), Thrissur (10 points, from 958 to 948), Idukki (11 points, from 969 to 958), Kottayam (five points, from 962 to 957), Alapuzha (nine points, from 956 to 947) and Pathanamthitta (three points, from 967 to 964).

Kabir also pointed out that the calculations based on the 1991 and 2001 census clearly indicates that in the below age five category, there is an excess of female infant mortality over male infant mortality; the latest Sample Registration System data indicates excess of female infant mortality over male infant mortality - this is a disturbing finding, one that points to possible discrimination against the female child in Kerala.

"In the 1981 census in the below age five category 85 male children died, while there were 76 female infants deaths; in the 1991 census it was 60 males and 61 females; in 2001, it was 40 males and 54 females; and figures for 2011 are yet to come out, it should be no different," Kabir said.

Incidentally, this detailed analysis comes at a time when, according to the 2011 census, Kerala had 1,084 females for every 1,000 males.

This is not only the highest in India, but is also comparable to those in large parts of the developed world.

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