May 29, 2024

India’s census pinpoints the disappearing girls

The sex ratio of India’s children is notoriously skewed in favour of boys, but recently-released figures from the 2001 census give a more detailed breakdown according to religion. They show that the ratio is lowest amongst the Sikhs and Jains and highest amongst Christians and tribal religions. The natural sex ratio at birth is between 940 and 950 girls per 1000 boys, according to the Population Reference Bureau. The Indian ratio is highest amongst tribal people (976) and Christians (964). Amongst Buddhists it is 942 and amongst Muslims and Hindus 925. However, amongst the Jains it is 870 and amongst the Sikhs it is 786.

Ratios are lower in urban areas, with a district in Uttar Pradesh scoring the lowest ratio in the country — 678. A Calcutta demographer, Satish Agnihotri, told the Washington Times that urbanisation and prosperity had not modernised Indians’ attitudes towards girls. “The reality is the opposite. As prosperity goes up, the sex ratio seems to go down,” he said.