You are on page 1of 36

Gender Imbalance and its Social Consequences

Imbalanced Sex Ratios

Sex Ratios over Time

Amartya Sen calculated that 100 million women were missing in the world, many of them in India and China. (figure was revised downwards to 60 million by demographers). In India, the sex ratio has been declining since 1901 with a slight improvement in 2001 (improved from 927 in 1991 to 933 in 2001).
Sex Ratio No. of girls to 1000 boys 950 girls to a 1000 boys Normal Sex Ratio

Sex Ratio Map of India

2001 Census

The 2001 census, however, showed steep declines in Child Sex Ratios (0-6) over large parts of the country Declined from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001.

Child Sex Ratios (0-6yrs)


The declines in 2001 were spread almost all over the country and were very steep in some of the states, many of which already had adverse sex ratios. As many as 456 districts out of 577 recorded a decline in the child sex ratio in 2001 compared to 1991. In 70 districts, the decline was in the order of 50 points. In several districts, the decline was more than 100 points.

States with low sex ratios: 2001


Punjab: 874 Haryana: 861 Uttar Pradesh: 898 Gujarat: 921 Madhya Pradesh:919 Rajasthan: 921

Prosperous Major Cities: 2001


Delhi:821 Chandigarh:773 Ahmedabad:814

Percentage decline in SR and CSR between 1991-2001 in selected states


Punjab 8 CSR 82 points Haryana 4 CSR 59 points Rajasthan (+12) CSR 7 points Madhya Pradesh (+8) CSR 12 points Himachal Pradesh 6 CSR 54 points Gujarat 17 CSR 50 points Maharashtra 12 CSR 29 points (Punjab and Haryana have declined further from already low sex
ratios; the decline in CSRs is steep)


A study in The Lancet concluded that this decline can mainly be attributed to sex selective abortions and that in the past two decades 10 million female foetuses had been aborted (Prabhat Jha et al).



Female foeticide; Role of Sex Determination Technologies since the 1980s Female infanticide (in the past, but still continues in some pockets) Deliberate neglect of girl-child Improvements in female mortality and life expectancy but maternal mortality rates remain high Small family norm with son-preference (modern scientific rationality and planning the family) impact of state policies


Reasons for low sex ratios



Acute son-preference Descent, Inheritance, Ritual role - all favour males Son support parents in old age in the absence of social security Boys bring in dowry Enhance family well-being with their earnings Mother s status dependent on having sons

Perception of girls as a burden


Watering the other s garden Investments in daughters go to in-laws Dowry needed for marriage Have to be protected because family honour depends on their sexual chastity before marriage


Structural Reasons

Patrilineal Descent and Inheritance Patri-virilocal residence Old age support by sons Male-breadwinner ideology Compulsory marriage Hypergamous marriage norms accompanied by dowry


Investment in boys vs Expenditure on Girls for reasons highlighted earlier. Intergenerational transfers of property, resources for education, health, nutrition skewed towards boys


Socialization and son-preference

Children are socialized in the context outlined earlier and internalize a high value for the male child and a low value for the female child. Women s status in their marital families and in society depends on being the mothers of sons.

Honour and Security

Girls are seen as presenting an additional burden since they carry family honour on their bodies and must be protected until marriage. (hence early marriage preferred leading to high fertility and low autonomy) The North of the country has seen a lot of honour crimes ; marriages seen as socially inappropriate (love marriages, inter-caste marriages, incorrect clan pairings, inter-religious marriages) have been severely punished, to the point of death.



Parents feel the social climate is insecure for girls this affects their education and employment prospects and is becoming another excuse for why people don t want girl children. Net result is more and more missing girls .


Negative impact on women of fewer women and girls


Increase in crimes against women Greater violence towards them Following other effects can take place: Lowering of age at marriage as younger girls are sought Lower literacy and education due to early marriage Lower work force participation too much domestic and child-bearing burden

Implications for marriage

The marriage squeeze - severe shortage of marriageable women in certain parts of the country; shortage is localized. Excess of males and shortage of females has negative consequences for both sexes and for society in the long run. Haryana and Punjab - 20% deficit of women One in every five Haryanvi and Punjabi stands to remain unmarried If the decline in the sex ratio is not arrested future cohorts of men will face further difficulties




In India, female deficit 25 million by 2030 (Guilmoto, 2007) 15% excess males by 2020 (Guilmoto, 2007) In India, the sex ratio of single population is expected to be 153 males per 100 females in 2031 and there will be excess supply of grooms by 24% by 2031 in India (Bhat and Halli, 1999).


Excess males in the first marriage market will reach at least one million annually from 2015 and may exceed 1.2 million annually between 2017 and 2040 (Jiang Quanbao et al, 2007)


Aspects of shortage

Declining child sex ratios mean further future shortages with several adverse social consequences. Men who cross 35 yrs cannot find a local bride. Even younger men are looking for brides outside the community. Second wives are impossible to find within the community.

Impact on males


Higher age at marriage they have to wait longer to find spouses Marriage outside cultural region Involuntary bachelorhood for many Lower or no widower remarriage Bachelors deserted by family
Stratification between men losers in the marriage market are men who are illiterate, poor, widowers, handicapped etc.

Factors determining availability of local women for marriage in North India

Demographic Factors

sex ratio

Social Factors Rules of Marriage (avoidance of clans of mother/father/paternal/maternal grandmothers) Village Exogamy need to marry outside village


Caste Endogamy no inter-caste marriages allowed Hypergamous marriage for women Prohibition of widow marriage Class Matching; personal characteristics of groom/bride


How is the shortage being addressed?

Cross-Region Marriages (Import of Brides from other parts of the country) Involuntary Bachelorhood Fraternal Polyandry


Other adjustments

In Gujarat (such as in Rajkot and Mehsana districts) men are willing to marry widows with children; they are marrying adivasi (tribal) women or women from other castes. Many families are only giving daughters if they can get a daughter-in-law in exchange. Exchange marriage.


Long distance/cross-culture marriages

Brides are being sought from the Eastern states of Bengal, Assam, Tripura and more recently even from the high literacy southern state of Kerala. Quantum of such marriages is going up rapidly.

Issues related to such marriages

Cross- culture couples do not share language or most other dimensions of culture food, clothing, behavioural norms. Culture in the north is far more patriarchal and female-unfriendly than in the East and South.


Physical distance is large raising an issue of support systems for in-marrying women. Marriages take place either in a chain migration fashion where married women bring others or through professional agents who charge a high fee.


Issues raised by such marriages


Are such women bought ? Are they being trafficked? Is this marriage ? Are they treated well or badly? How does local society accept them?


Significant characteristics of brides


From poor states From poor families From families of several girls Marriage migration of poor women to prosperous states Question of female agency.


Who are the men who marry stranger women ?


None or little land ownership None or little education Physical handicap Social scandal Second marriage Over 35 yrs of age Family does not arrange marriage Today, in Haryana if you do not have a job, you will not find a Haryanvi girl for a wife!


These marriages are dowry-less, with the man taking care of all the marriage expenses. They are uniting couples across barriers of caste, region, language. Will they have integrative potential? Will the more patriarchal culture be modified towards acceptance of girls?

Other marriage trends

Inter-caste marriages and marriages with tribal girls in states like Gujarat. Surreptitious return to polyandry in states such as Punjab and Haryana. Large numbers of unmarried men.


Will the shortage of girls improve their value? Will it impact dowry negatively? Will it turn the sex ratio around?