Biggest decline of 12 points in child sex ratio in Hindus

Child sex ratio is the number of girls aged 0-6 years for every 1,000 boys in the same age group

GN Bureau | December 31, 2015



According to Census 2011 data released on Wednesday, child sex ratio in the country is declining rapidly, since 1961. The child sex ratio is the number of girls aged 0-6 years for every 1,000 boys in the same age group. The child sex ratio for the whole country now stands at 918, dipping further from 927 in 2001, and reaching the lowest level since 1961.

Why is it important? It shows that the declining trend of child sex ratio is continuing. It has declined from 927 in 2001 and 976 in 1961. This is also lower than the overall sex ratio of 943. This reflects the persisting gender discrimination despite advancements in various spheres.

The child sex ratio among Hindus declined the most—from 925 in 2001 to 913 in 2011. Among Muslims, it declined from 950 to 943, among Christians, from 964 to 958, and among Buddhists, from 942 to 933 in the same period. Only Sikhs and Jains showed an increase in child sex ratio. For Sikhs, it increased from 786 in 2001 to 828 in 2011, while among Jains, the increase was from 870 to 889 in the same period.

Two religious communities of India, Sikhs and Jains, have turned the corner on child sex ratio while all others showed further dips, as did the national average, according to fresh Census 2011 data released on Wednesday.

Child sex ratio is the number of girls aged 0-6 years for every 1,000 boys in the same age group. It is a crucial measure for India where preference for sons and the desire for smaller families has driven down the number of girls - and women - to unnaturally low levels in the past several decades. Among Hindus, who make up nearly 80% of India's population, the child sex ratio declined from 925 in 2001 to 913 in the latest Census data. This is the biggest decline — of 12 points — among all religious communities and a chilling reminder for the continuing need for much more robust action to save the girl child.

The Christian and Muslim communities too showed declines though not as much as among Hindus. The child sex ratio among Christians declined from 964 to 958 while among Muslims it declined from 950 to 943.

The turnaround among Sikhs and Jains is a silver lining in this rather bleak scenario because these communities had the worst sex ratios despite being generally better off and better educated. It reflects a growing consciousness about the issue created in part by considerable public campaigns in Punjab where most Sikhs live. However, the ratio is still dangerously low in both communities.

The latest Census data also sheds light on the growth of literacy among various religious communities. Muslims, who showed the lowest literacy rate of 59% in 2001, recorded the biggest increase and reached 69% in 2011. Although still short of the national average of 73%, and still the lowest among all religious communities, the gap is rapidly closing.

Jains continue to have the highest literacy rate, at 95%, followed by the Christians who are now at 85%.

All communities are showing a much higher rate of growth of female literacy than male literacy. Overall, across India, female literacy jumped from 54% to 65% while male literacy rose from 75% to 81%.

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