New Delhi: Fewer girls are being born in north and west India, and fewer girls are being born in richer states than poorer states, according to our analysis of the latest available national health data.

Seven of nine states with sex ratio at birth--number of girls born per 1,000 boys--worse than Indian average are from the north and two are from the west; the states with the fewest girls being born are Haryana, Uttarakhand and Gujarat, among India’s top 10 richest states.

There are 900 girls for every 1,000 boys, according to the Sample Registration System (SRS) 2013-15, the latest available data.

Haryana, India’s fourth-richest state (2015-16), reports India’s worst sex ratio, with 831 girls per 1,000 boys. Uttarakhand, with 844 girls per 1,000 boys, is the eighth richest, and Gujarat, with 854 girls per 1,000 boys, is the 10th richest.

The sex ratio at birth is an important indicator [of health] and reflects the scale at which girls are stopped from being born by sex-selective abortions in India, according to a 2018 report from the Niti Aayog, an Indian government think tank.

A normal sex ratio at birth is between 943-980 girls per 1,000 boys. This ratio is not 1,000 boys for every 1,000 girls because it is nature’s way of balancing a higher risk of death for boys as they grow older, according to the World Health Organization.

A sex ratio less than the normal range of 943-980 girls per 1,000 boys suggests discrimination against girls, and the presence of female infanticide, which is the killing of girls after birth, or of female foeticide--sex-selective abortion of the foetus.

Other states with lower-than-average sex ratios at birth are Rajasthan (861), Delhi (869), Maharashtra (878), Uttar Pradesh (879), Punjab (889) and Jammu & Kashmir (899). Apart from Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh, the others are among India’s richer states.

Sex ratios are lower in richer, more literate states: Increasing literacy is correlated with rising income, which allows families to more easily access sex-selective procedures, such as amniocentesis, IndiaSpend reported in June 2015.

Sex Ratio At Birth In States Lower Than Indian Average
State Sex Ratio At Birth (Girls per 1,000 boys) Per Capita Income (In Rs) Per Capita Ranking
Haryana 831 162,034 4
Uttarakhand 844 146,826 8
Gujarat 854 141,504 10
Rajasthan 861 82,325 19
Delhi 869 273,618 2
Maharashtra 878 147,399 5
Uttar Pradesh 879 46,299 27
Punjab 889 119,261 14
Jammu & Kashmir 899 74,653 20
India 900 94,130 17

Source: Sample Registration System 2015, Economic Survey 2018
Note: Sex ratios at birth are for 2013-15, per capita income for 2015-16.

The sex ratio at birth is declining in urban areas faster than rural areas, with 902 girls being born in urban areas, compared to 923 girls in rural areas, IndiaSpend reported in August 2017.

An adverse child sex ratio is also reflected in the distorted gender makeup of the entire population. In 2031, India will have 936 females per 1,000 males, lower than the sex ratio in 1951 of 946 females per 1,000 males, the World Bank predicts.

When families opt for fewer children, the pressure on women to produce sons becomes more intense. “Modernisation and rising incomes make it easier and more desirable to select the sex of your children,” said this March 2010 story in the Economist, a news magazine. “And on top of that, smaller families combine with greater wealth to reinforce the imperative to produce a son.”

The sex ratio at birth has declined in 17 of 21 large states in India over two years, with the sharpest drop of 53 points in Gujarat, according to the previously mentioned 2018 Niti Aayog report.

“There is a clear need for States to effectively implement the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 and take appropriate measures to promote the value of the girl child,” the Niti Aayog report said.

(Yadavar is a principal correspondent with IndiaSpend.)

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