Where have Kerala’s ‘missing’ girl children gone?
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala’s unique sex ratio – 52% females to 48% males – is under threat from an ‘invisible’ quarter: the state’s increasingly skewed child sex ratio. In both the 2001 and 2011 census, there has been a significant decrease in the number of girls compared to boys in the 0-6 age category.
State health department statistics reveal that the child sex ratio has fallen in nine out of 14 districts in the past ten years. While the average number of girl children (the child sex ratio is calculated per 1,000 boys) in the state decreased from 963 to 959, it is the disparate district-wise figures that are troubling.
Health experts are not ruling out the possibility of female foeticide at private-run clinics across the state. “The figures are worrisome. We cannot rule out foeticide especially when many districts are showing improvement in child sex ratio,” said Dr N Sreedhar, additional director of health service. “The skewed sex ratio is an indication that female foeticide is still rampant even in Kerala which has higher literacy and better quality-of-life indicators than other states,” he said.
The child sex ratio in Kasargod district fared worst with a decrease of 24 per 1,000 in the past decade: the numbers in this district came down from 984 to 960; Malappuram and Alappuzha came second and third respectively with a decrease of 19 and 15 children per 1,000 in the same period.
However, the child sex ratio in Thiruvananthapuram district increased from 955 to 967 and in Ernakulam it increased from 948 to 954. “This shows that where there is better monitoring this illegal business has been curbed,” Sreedhar said. He added that the state should make it mandatory that every MTP and ultra sound scanning done in private clinics be recorded.
The state’s high human development index and low infant mortality rate have been inspirational for other states but as Dr B Ekbal, former vice chancellor Kerala university, said, “The state’s infant mortality rate has been stagnant at 12 per 1,000 which is a matter of serious concern for me. The girl child can outlive male child once she crosses six years.”
Varsha Deshpande, a member of National Inspection and Monitoring Committee set up under the direction of the Supreme Court cautioned that in states where the child sex ratio is on the decline the government should conduct awareness programs amongst couples who are planning to have a child. echoing her concern, a senior civic official from Mumbai said: “Literacy and economic status may not hinder a couple from committing this crime as it was seen that foeticides were rampant in clinics in posh south Mumbai area till very recently.”
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