Declining sex ratio

Shreya Bakshi

The high masculine sex ratios of the Indian population had been a matter of concern for many decades. Considerable attention has been paid to different dimensions of female deficits in India and persisting regional variations, since the numerical imbalances between the male and female sexes were pointed out in the seventies. Indicating a continuing preference for boys in society, the child sex ratio in India has dropped to 914 females against 1000 males- the lowest since independence. Despite a slew of laws to prevent female foeticide and schemes to encourage families to have girl child, the ratio has declined from 927 females against 1000 males in 2001 to 914 in 2011, which is a matter of grave concern. The sex ratio imbalances are more severe in the north western region of the country, and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the situation is rather more pitiable where the sex ratio has dropped alarmingly to 883 females per 1000 males in 2011 from 892:1000 in 2001. After a decade from 2001-2011, J&K presented a negative growth in sex ratio where Leh is a district which presents a dismal scenario of sex ratio ie, 823 to 583, lowest among all the districts in India. In addition to Leh, other districts showing decline in sex ratio are like: Kargil 837 to 775, Poonch 919 to 890, Rajouri 878 to 863, Kathua 898 to 877, Jammu 871 to 865 and also decline in six districts of Kashmir like: Pulwama 1046 to 836, Badgam 1004 to 832, Kupwara 1021 to 854, Ganderbal 1014 to 863.
Owing to the special status, Politicians in J&K has a special power to frame laws for the state and its people. Unlike in the other parts of the country, efforts are being made since last few years by the political parties and their leaders to pass the Bill known as ‘Permanent Resident Disqualification Bill’ (PRC Bill). The PRC Bill clearly states that women of the state if married to non-state subjects would be denied of their legal and fundamental rights of their identity, property and livelihood. In clear words, women of the state if married to non state subjects have to leave their jobs in state, have to leave the property of their parents, they do not have right to vote or they would not be considered as the daughters of the state any more.  But as far as men of the state are concerned, there is no such rule applicable to them, therefore, they can marry not only outside J&K rather they can marry outside the country and their rights will remain intact.
In this decade, 2001-2011, this issue of PRC was raised 3-4 times in the State Assembly and Council, therefore, it shows a kind of hurriedness in the minds of policy makers of the state to frame such a discriminatory policy which directly or indirectly degrades the status of girls. Thus, PRC Bill is one of the major reasons of declining sex rate in the state of J&K where state itself is indulged in making anti-women policies. All parents want their children to inherit their property which they have made from hard earned money and if the state itself is taking away the rights of girls, parents will surely prefer boys over girls. This PRC Bill introduced in 2004 and further introduced in 2010 intends to do the same, ie, deprivation of women from Legal, Fundamental Rights as well as of Human Rights.  So the repeated discussions and framing policies further increases son preference in the state. Therefore, in addition to the already existing factors responsible for the decline in the child sex ratio like: sex-selective abortion, infanticide and neglect /discrimination of girl child , PRC Bill is highly responsible for declining sex ratio in the state of J&K.
In 1927 many western educated men still held key positions within state administration. So Maharaja Hari Singh, the fourth Dogra ruler, attempted to soothe the ruffled feelings of his subjects by reasserting the rights of his subjects over outsiders. State legislation seems to be designed to keep non-residents out. But following a 1927 notification the legal notion of “state subject” has been modified in a way that has produced extremely discriminatory effect by enforcing the ‘resident’ status or ‘domicile’ of a husband upon a woman. And later on, the political parties for their own vested interests kept on changing the definition of state subject and also used it against the women community of the state.
In 2002, October, a landmark judgment was given by the State High Court in the favour of daughters of the state that they will not lose their identity if they marry non-state subjects and then only this controversy started in 2002. And then in 2004, the PRC Bill was moved by a member of National Conference (NC) which again stressed that if a girl marries outside the state, she should not be considered as a citizen of the state. And unfortunately this Bill was passed in just ten minutes by the state legislature on March 5, 2004 in the Lower House but did not get 2/3 majority in Upper House and now awaits only the state Governor’s assent before becoming a Law. It certainly seems improbable that in such a short period of time the state legislature would have had time to consider all the implications of withdrawing state-subject rights from women on marrying non state subject, as envisaged in the Bill. However, as it created a lot of controversy, it was stalled thereafter and could not be made in to a Law because of the interference of Centre. In March 2010, the same Bill was moved by members of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the Legislative Assembly and by its member of Legislative Council (MLC) in the Legislative Council with certain more clauses. But On April 5 2010, this Bill was dropped due to a “technical flaw”.
It was noticed that the two regional political parties of the state: PDP and NC who generally remain in opposition joined hands over this issue of PRC. They have constantly and continuously supported and introduced this Bill in the State Legislative Assembly and Council. Time and again these two parties have tried to make this Bill a ‘Law’.
The views of the people of civil society were collected regarding the probable reasons for making such Laws for women and not for men of the state and few among them are: Male dominating society, many high profile men are married to non-state subjects, policy makers are male, and no sensitivity towards women. The academicians, intellectuals, businessmen, Government employees, student of youth organizations, women of the state were interviewed, they all argued that although in the present era of advancement and modernity,  there is no difference between girl and a boy but in our state (J&K), if government itself is creating a difference between the two by giving permanent citizenship to boys and denying citizenship to a girl after marrying non state subject, then the thought of having a boy child is inevitable as it will strengthen their relationship with the state. Thus, automatically then ratio of male population will increase in the state.
The insensitivity of the politicians of the state towards women folk is so high that they are using statements like “women going out of the state are equal to in-coming women hence, situation is balanced”. They are not realizing that uttering such statements in public is derogatory for women.  This Bill is unjust on the part of the women because if we talk of equality of sexes, we also impress economic parity. The right to inherit the property of parents should be equal for both the sexes. The people who are arguing that woman of the state if married to non-state subject can sell the property of their parents to any of the state subject are ignoring the fact that property is not associated with money only rather there are certain emotional bindings and ties with the land, houses, fields, areas, localities etc which one inherits from her/ his parents or ancestors. The views of the respondents, who opposed the Bill, were collected regarding the probable reasons for the political parties to support this Bill. Their views are given as like: to appease the voters/ vote politics, to maintain the present demography of the state, to propagate patriarchy, to keep Article 370 intact, to check the inflow of the outsiders.
This Bill demands by implication, an unquestioning surrender to a state injunction to make marriage a carefully calculated act to be determined primarily by location rather than consideration of mutual likes or congeniality. The Majority of total respondents interviewed considered PRC Bill as an ‘Open Gender Discrimination.’ They argued that this Bill not only violates many Rights of women in a single stroke but also hits the identity, status and dignity of the women of the state as an individual, as a human being. They also considered this Bill as ‘Anti-women’.
Under the shade of Article 370 – Special Status, the state should try to formulate such policies which are beneficial for the people and the state too. And the policies framed should be inclusive in nature which may lead to overall development of the state and not of particular section of society. By taking away citizenship from the girls and not transferring property to the girl child, state itself is trying to institutionalize son preference because such laws are making parents to think that they must have a male child- a son, who whether marries within the state or outside the state, by virtue of being a son, can take care of the property of his parents and can keep their link with the state alive whether he lives in the state or not , whether he marries a state subject or not. Therefore, this is discriminatory policy which enhances the preference for male child, and therefore, adversely affects the sex ratio as is seen the last ten years in J&K. Therefore, such discriminatory policies of Government are leading to decline in sex ratio and are institutionalizing patriarchy.
But here certain questions arise that if in 2002, a judgment is given by High Court of the state in favour of the daughters then why the politicians of few regional political parties again and again highlight this issue and why they want to pass this Bill which is discriminatory in nature, why cant they treat women as equal human beings? When on the one hand, Government of India is making policies to mainstream the women of the country, why the Government of J&K is making unjust policies for the daughters of the state under the shade of its special status (Article 370). Are they unaware about the implications of such Bills and their impact on society and women? No, they are not. Therefore, it becomes very clear that it is planned strategy of the government of the state which is leading to decline in the sex ratio in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. And it is easily assessed that it will further go down  if the policy makers will remain so in sensitive towards women community of the state.
(The author is a Ph.D Scholar, Department of Sociology, University of Jammu)


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