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Declining Sex Ratio in Gujarat : Campaign Against Sex Determination and Sex Pre-Selection.

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LET THE DAUGHTERS BE BORN, BLOSSOM AND TOUCH THE SKY

Declining Sex ratio in Gujarat :
Campaign Against
Sex Determination and Sex Pre-selection.
- Dr. Trupti Shah,

"in our society the male child is always a precious child for a mother having three daughters. To her it is of a more value. Because of illiteracy and social customs the status of a mother would change after having a male child." The above mentioned lines are not quoted form the speech of some traditional Kathakar (preacher). These were the wording in a judgement dated 10th July 2001, by the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Ahmedabad in Complaint No. 271/1993. The Consumer Redressal Commission has delivered an order of compensation of Rs. 25,000 for medical negligence in a case that involved sex determination and subsequent abortion of a foetus, which was earlier detected as female foetus but after the abortion it was found out to be a male foetus. In addition, the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission further observes, “The loss of motherhood of only male child can not be compensated by any amount." This attitude of people sitting in judiciary reflect the kind of forces we are fighting in Gujarat. The data from 2001 Census make this point much more clear. Gujarat is among the top four states (including Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh) to register the most alarming declines in the number of girls in the 0-6 years category. Gujarat is one of the DEMARU states as termed by Ashish Bose.
1. Declining Sex Ratio in Gujarat
Table-1: Declining Sex Ratio in 0-6 Age group
| |1961 |1971 |1981 |1991 |2001 |
|India |976 |964 |962 |945 |927 |
|Gujarat |955 |946 |947 |928 |878 |

• Census data for 1961-2001 show that child sex ratio in Gujarat has declined from 955 in 1961, 946 in 1971, 947 in 1981, 928 in 1991 to 878 in 2001. • The decline has been particularly drastic in the last decade, recoding a drop of 50 percent points in the number of girls in the 0-6-age category, from 928 to 878 for every 1000 boys. • In Absolute Numbers,4,45,964 girls are less compared to boys (2001 Census)

Table-2 Child and overall sex ratio, Gujarat: Comparison of 1991 and 2001 census data

| State/district |Sex ratio |Sex ratio |
| |0-6 Population |(7+ Age group) |
| |1991 |2001 |Diff. Pts. |1991 |2001 |Diff. Pts. |
|Gujarat |928 |878 |-50 |936 |927 |-9 |
|Kutch |929 |NA |NA |964 |NA |NA |
|Banaskantha |931 |907 |-24 |934 |931 |-3 |
|Patan |NA |862 |-NA |944 |933 |-11 |
|Mahesana |897 |798 |-99 |951 |926 |-25 |
|Sabarkantha |933 |876 |-57 |965 |948 |-17 |
|Gandhinagar |879 |816 |-63 |934 |911 |-23 |
|Ahmedabad |897 |814 |-83 |897 |892 |-5 |
|Surendranagar |905 |861 |-44 |921 |923 |-2 |
|Rajkot |916 |844 |-72 |946 |930 |-16 |
|Jamnagar |916 |994 |-78 |949 |941 |-8 |
|Porbandar |NA |897 |NA |960 |946 |-14 |
|Junagadh |926 |898 |-28 |960 |955 |-5 |
|Amreli |932 |894 |-38 |985 |986 |-1 |
|Bhavnagar |925 |886 |-39 |944 |936 |-8 |
|Anand |NA |873 |NA |912 |910 |-2 |
|Kheda |898 |880 |-18 |924 |922 |-2 |
|Panchmahal |985 |934 |-51 |934 |939 |-5 |
|Dahod |NA |964 |NA |976 |985 |-9 |
|Vadodara |934 |873 |-61 |913 |919 |-6 |
|Narmada |NA |952 |NA |947 |948 |-1 |
|Bharuch |965 |909 |-56 |925 |920 |-5 |
|Surat |944 |873 |-71 |901 |835 |-66 |
|The Dangs |999 |974 |-25 |983 |986 |-3 |
|Navsari |NA |912 |NA |958 |955 |-3 |
|Valsad |966 |934 |-32 |957 |919 |-38 |

• In Gujarat, only 8 districts have more than 900 girls for 1000 boys, whereas in 1991, 20 districts had sex ratio of more than 900 girls. In the districts of Rajkot, Ahmedabad, and Gandhinagar, sex ratio has declined well below 850. The decline has been very drastic in Rajkot from 914 in 1991 to 844 in 2001. Mahesana has the lowest sex ratio in the state with only 798 girls. The Dangs (974), Dahod (964), and Narmada (952), are the districts with better sex ratios.

2. Sex Selective Abortions:
No state level statistics are available on sex selective abortion. But We can infer the wide spread use of sex selective abortions from the following information. • According to the NFHS data on infant mortality, neonatal, infant and child mortality in Gujarat by sex show improvement in girl child survival, but the child sex ratio is adverse for females. The mortality rate in the age group of 3-5 years was higher among females (129) as compared to males (119) in Gujarat in 1981. Both these rates declined in 1991 with the under-five mortality for females declining to 104 and 97 for males. • Sex ratio at birth (SRB), i.e., number of male births per 100 female births is an effective indicator of sex selective abortions. SRS data for SRB for Gujarat was much above the national average at 111.1 male births per 100 female births in 1981-90, and during 1996-98, it was 113.9 male births per 100 female births (Premi, 2001), while it is normally 105 male births to 100 female births.

3. The Development has failed the Girl Child

Gujarat is among the more developed states is evidence of the fact that ‘development’ as a category – based on indicators such as urbanization rates, female literacy, and access to modernisation - has failed to capture the deteriorating situation of women.

female literacy, while having a positive relationship to fertility overall, has an inverse relationship to the status of the girl-child.

Table-3 Sex Ratio and Literacy Rate of six major Urban Agglomerations – 2001

Table- 3 Sex Ratio and Literacy Rate of six major Urban Agglomerations – 2001

|Sl. No.|Name of City/U.A. |Sex Ratio |Literacy Rate |
| | |Overall Population | 0-6 Age group|Total |Male |Female |
|1 |Ahmedabad UA |885 |809 |84.29 |90.23 |77.66 |
|2 |Surat UA |760 |829 |83.40 |88.60 |76.48 |
|3 |Vadodara UA |905 |832 |87.15 |92.13 |81.72 |
|4 |Rajkot UA |906 |820 |83.82 |89.18 |77.98 |
|5 |Jamnagar UA |906 |867 |77.46 |84.71 |69.50 |
|6 |Bhavnagar UA |914 |833 |82.38 |89.43 |74.76 |

The most drastic reductions have occurred in areas, which are the most urbanized. Ahmedabad leads with a child sex ratio of 809, followed by Rajkot (821), Surat (830) and Vadodara (832). There is a positive relationship between urbanization and low female-male sex ratio. This is seen at the national level as well. This could be because of the accessibility to sex determination (SD) and sex selective abortion (SSA) facilities. Studies suggest that this since SSA is related to birth order (with the second, third and later pregnancies more likely to be subject to SD for giving birth to a male child), the small family norm which is more prevalent in cities is likely to be a causative factor). However, there is a need to be cautious about viewing SSAs as an urban phenomenon, since rural-urban disparities in many cases are not high, and there are certain talukas in the state where rural sex ratio is lower than the urban. Easier accessibility to ultrasound facilities, and reduction of costs are likely to lead to a reduction in the rural-urban gap in the future.

Table -4 Sex Ratio in the age group 0-6, and literacy rate by sex for State and Districts

|Sr. No |State/ District |Sex Ratio |Literacy rate # |
| | |Sex Ratio |Persons |Males |Females |
|1 |2 |6 |7 |8 |9 |
| |GUJARAT* |878 |69.97 |80.50 |58.60 |
|1 |Kachchh (estimated) |N.A. |N.A. |N.A. |N.A. |
|2 |Banas Kantha |906 |51.26 |66.91 |34.54 |
|3 |Patan |862 |60.59 |74.07 |46.36 |
|4 |Mahesana |797 |75.54 |86.52 |63.96 |
|5 |Sabar Kantha |876 |67.31 |81.19 |52.85 |
|6 |Gandhinagar |816 |76.83 |87.92 |64.85 |
|7 |Ahmadabad |813 |79.89 |87.81 |71.12 |
|8 |Surendranagar |861 |62.46 |75.33 |48.72 |
|9 |Rajkot ** |843 |75.88 |83.66 |67.64 |
|10 |Jamnagar *** |893 |67.19 |76.95 |56.90 |
|11 |Porbandar |896 |69.09 |78.88 |58.83 |
|12 |Junagadh |898 |68.35 |79.37 |56.92 |
|13 |Amreli |893 |67.72 |77.68 |57.77 |
|14 |Bhavnagar |885 |66.98 |78.83 |54.46 |
|15 |Anand |873 |74.95 |86.31 |62.53 |
|16 |Kheda |880 |72.71 |86.58 |57.77 |
|17 |Panch Mahals |934 |61.50 |76.62 |45.43 |
|18 |Dohad |964 |45.65 |59.45 |31.70 |
|19 |Vadodara |872 |71.32 |80.65 |61.24 |
|20 |Narmada |952 |60.37 |72.88 |47.16 |
|21 |Bharuch |909 |74.79 |83.43 |65.42 |
|22 |Surat |873 |74.99 |81.85 |66.71 |
|23 |The Dangs |973 |60.23 |71.35 |48.99 |
|24 |Navsari |912 |75.98 |82.93 |68.74 |
|25 |Valsad |934 |69.41 |78.10 |59.92 |

Note: $Literates exclude children in the age group 0-6 years who were by definition treated as illiterate in the
Census of India 2001 # Literacy rate is the percentage of literates to population aged 7 years and above.

The female to male child sex ratio was much more adverse in the districts with high rates of literacy. Ahmedabad district heads the tally with just 813 girls for 1000 boys. Ironically, districts like Mehsana (797), Gandhinagar (816), Rajkot (843) and Ahmedabad enjoyed above-average female literacy rates of 64, 65, 67 and 71 per cent respectively. On the other hand, tribal districts of Dangs, Dahod and Narmada, with low female literacy rates of 49, 32 and 47 per cent respectively, have seen higher child sex ratios of 973, 964 and 952.

Prosperity and child sex ratio linkages: As Shah’s (2001) study in Vadodara city shows, SSA is resorted to even in families which can economically support a girl child. Smaller family size among urban upper middle class families appears to increase the desire to have at least one son to manage the wealth of the family. Visaria’s study (2003) in Mehsana also shows that it is among the upper caste landed communities where son preference is highest. Data on average per capita monthly expenditure from the 40th, 50th and 55th NSSO for Gujarat suggest a distinctly inverse relationship, in both urban and rural households, between expenditure and number of girls in the 0-14 age group. Interestingly, there is no clearly discernible relationship in the case of boys (Sidhanta, Nandy and Agnihotri, 2003).

A look at the regional differences within Gujarat bears out the hypothesis that development has failed the girl-child. The most drastic reductions have occurred in areas which are the most urbanized, with fairly high female literacy, as well as high values on micro- and macro-level indicators. This bears out Hirway and Mahadevia’s (1999, p. 241) argument, based on their analysis of intra-state and inter-district variations, that not only has economic development not translated into gender equality in Gujarat, the dominant development paradigm has actually enhanced gender inequity. Further, data from other sources indicate that the female to male sex ratio at birth in Gujarat has registered a decline over the years. This suggests the prevalence of SSA in favour of boys in addition to the other discriminatory practices which imperil the girl child after she is born (Premi, 2001; Parimal, 2001).

3. Issues, concerns and the campaign against sex determination and sex pre-selection in the state

Why this adverse sex ratio ? Women and girls face discrimination, exploitation and oppression and violence in all the patriarchal societies. The manifestation of patriarchal values are different in different societies/cultures. “Son Preference” and “Hatred for daughters” is one of the extreme form of discrimination prevalent in some of the societies/cultures of some of the Asian countries. This discrimination is manifested in various forms. One of the observed form historically in various parts of India including some castes of Gujarat was female infanticide. The custom known as “Dhudh Piti” (drowning the new born girl child in to milk) was prevalent among Patidar and Rajput Castes. References are found in gazetteer of Baroda State In 1923 about this practice. It is mentioned that high death rate of women was due to female infanticide in castes like Rajaputs and Kunbis. In 1870 a law was passed against female infanticide in Baroda state. A completely new dimension was observed in this problem 1980s when “modern Medical Technology” was used to appease the traditional values of “Son Preference” and “Hatred for daughter”. By mid 80s the use of Amniocentesis test became wide spread in all the major cities of Gujarat as test detecting the sex of the foetus. Advertisement regarding the availability of the test was seen every where in all the public places. Several clinics were started for the sole purpose of sex determination and subsequent sex selective abortion if the foetus was detected to have a wrong sex i.e. female sex. A nation wide campaign against the misuse of medical technology to eliminate female foetus was carried out by women’s organisations, health activists and concern Demographers. As part of the National campaign, a state wide campaign against sex determination and sex selective abortion emerged in Gujarat. Forum Against Sex Determination were formed in the various cities like Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Surat and Valsad.

Conducting surveys about the spread of the SD (Sex Determination Tests), organising signature campaigns for the law against SD, rallies and demonstration, street theatre, wall painting and picketing against clinics etc. were some of the methods used by these forums. Dialogue with medical professional and government was also undertaken.

A bill was drafted by the activists and lawyers. The bill was introduced as a private bill in the Gujarat Sate Assembly. By that time Central Government started the process for PNDT ACT and the bill was withdrawn.
After the enactment of PNDT ACT the state level campaign lost its dynamic though several organisations continue to emphasis on the issue in their awareness programmes.

The more accessible and less invasive technique of sonography increased the spread of sex selective abortions in Gujarat.

To understand the extent and methodology of the spread of SD a micro study was conducted by Sahiyar (Stree Sanghthan) in the year 2000. Though the sample was very small the study is significant because of the timing of the study. It was conducted before the announcement of 2001 Census data and the Supreme Court Judgement in the Public Interest Litigation. It was based on interview with women from various class and castes, medical professionals and implementing authority for PNDT ACT. All of them shared their views candidly because there was no hue and cry about either declining sex ratio or non implementation of PNDT ACT. The study was based on the in-depth interview with 70 women, 30 from low income group, 20 from middle income group and 20 from high income group.
Some High lights of the study. • Information about the availability : 69 out of 70 women were aware about the availability of SD test. • Source of information: 44% have got information form relatives and neighbours, 37% have got information form medical professionals, i.e. General practitioner form their area or form the gynaecologist when they went for pregnancy test. 19% from the media. • Out of 70, 16 that is 22.8% have undergone SD them selves. Three were planning to go for test during their next pregnancy. • Two out of four women who wet for SD from high income group had SD during their first pregnancy because they want only one child. • 28 women i.e. 40% of women know at least one family from their neighbourhood or extended family who had under gone SD. • Majority of the medical professionals admitted and defended the practice for SD. • The health officer was not available for interview in spite of several attempts and the other officials in the department were not aware about the act. No clinics were registered in that particular year. They did not have information about the functioning of earlier registered clinics. The advisory committee was defunct.

The results of the study were used to prepare awareness material, campaigning in the media and coordination with various organisations at state level. Net working of the organisations started once again during the process of Jan Swastya Sabha (People’s Health Assembly) in Gujarat. This became one of the major networking issue for Jan Swastya Abhiyan during 2000-2001. About 30 organisations were actively involved in this network. District level committees were formed for awareness campaigns.

Memorandum was sent to the Health minister for the implementation of PNDT ACT. Workshops were organised to train activists to take up this issue in their respective areas.

Meeting with FOGSI representatives were organised.

The state level activities of the net work were interrupted due to earth quake in 2001 and after 2002 carnage it became in active. Individual organisations were continuing awareness programmes at local level.

Media Campaign was continued by Sahiyar. A Programme was prepared in which the Health Minister was questioned as an accused in the Lok Adalat on Tara T.V.

Sahiyar presented the status of implementation on PNDT ACT to NHRC in the western Region Meeting.

Sahiyar contributed to a paper on declining sex ratio in Gujarat for the Shadow report for CEDAW on health.

Recent Initiative :
Once again in 2004 initiative is taken by some organisations to make coordinated efforts at state level. Several meetings have taken place during September-November. A meeting was organised with Health mister for proper implementation of the Act. Several programmes for conducting training of the people in appropriate authority will be planned. Awareness programmes targeted at particularly low sex ratio area, villages is also being planned. At State level AWAG, CHETNA, SWATI, ANANDI, SARATHI, SAHAJ-SHISHUMILAP, OLAKH and many more organisations have taken up this issue intensively for campaingn during last few months. During the 16 days of activism campaign against violence on women 25Dec. -10Jan. several awareness programmes were planned on the issue. CHETNA had organised a meeting with MLA’s in Sept. 2004 on this issue.
In Baroda about 11 organisations have joined the campaign coordinated by Sahiyar. Many more are Joining. It is decided that the focus of this years women’s day programmes should be declining sex ratio and non implementation of the PCPNDT ACT.
A meeting to reactivate Gujarat Jan Swasthy Abhiyan was organised and a draft policy for interface between government health department and JSA is prepared to circulate among more group.

4. Possible areas of Advocacy, campaign and strategies for the state.

We need to analyse some of the major programmes and policies of the Government. In spite of rhetoric about gender equality there are serious inconsistencies in the government policies. Some examples are programmes like Kuwarbai nu Mameru, Mangal Sutra Yojana and proposed policies like population policies and Gender Equity policies.

Programmes for the Girl Child

Programmes for women and the girl child at the state level, are contradictory in their analysis of gender. Programmes such as Dikri Rudi Saachi Mudi (a daughter is the real treasure) which addresses the discrimination against the girl child, coexist with programmes such as Kunwarbai nu Mameru Yojana and Mangal Sutra Yojana which legitimize the notion of marriage as the ultimate destiny of all girls and high marriage expenses, which is legitimating the practice of dowry.

The Kunwar Bai Nu Mameru as well as the Mangalsutra scheme introduced for the “benefit” of backward class women are in fact introducing upper caste Hindu customs and practices, like making extravagant marriage expenses, gifting daughters with money (dowry), wearing a marriage symbol, into the backward castes where bride price and not dowry was practiced in past. This is an example of state promoting the process of sanskritisation. Moreover, both schemes exclude women of other religious communities and women who are single of government subsidy, besides reinforcing the patriarchal notion of marriage being the only ‘choice’ available to women.

Gujarat Population Policy (2002)

The goal of the proposed GPP is still to achieve replacement level fertility as articulated by the National Population Policy, 2000. A lot of advocacy by pressure groups had gone into influencing the Government of Gujarat to include the gender perspective and the problem of declining sex ratios in the GPP. However, the efforts of the Government to enforce the two child norm in the proposed policy may increase the sex selective abortions.
On the one hand, is the strong preference for sons, on the other hand, desire to limit family size to two children is increasing. Thus the desire to produce fewer children of the preferred sex forces couples to resort to sex selective abortion if their first or second born is not a son. This is amply evident from the fact that there is a preponderance of boys in the later births. The analysis of NHFS-2 data as well as a study by Healthwatch Trust in Mehsana district Gujarat and Kurukshetra district in Haryana show that there is a preponderance of boys among the second and third order births. And this was found more among women who have above primary school education, belonged to upper castes, were not engaged in any economic activity and whose families were landed (Visaria, 2003)

Gender Equity Policy

The draft Gender Equity Policy of the Government of Gujarat acknowledges that gender-based violence and that violence against women is present throughout their life cycle, in different ways and magnitudes that “a girl’s first encounter with violence may occur even before she is born.” It recognizes female foeticide and infanticide besides nutritional neglect and deprivation of girls from duration of breastfeeding as infants, to receiving smaller portions and poor quality food, as reasons for adverse sex ratio in the 0-6 age group. It states that misuse of technologies like amniocentesis tests for determining the sex of the foetus is leading to female foeticide (Department of Women and Child Development, 2003). However, there is there is no mention of ultrasound or other techniques in sex selective abortions. The policy states “female infanticide is primarily the result of heavy burden of dowry expected from the bride’s parents.” Thus, its analysis is superficial, it looks only at socio-cultural norms and customs, like dowry without getting into a more in-depth analysis of the existing structures within Indian society, which are strongly patriarchal. As a result of which women have subordinate status in the family, are discriminated against in property rights, have low or unpaid jobs, are discriminated against even in the allocation of food.

We need to develop advocacy and awareness programmes to have consistency on gender issues in various police of the government.

5. Some observations which need further research:
Some serious sociological impacts of decline in sex ratio can be observed by activists during the course of work needs further probing. • Increasing cases of Domestic violence for pressurising women to undergo sex selective abortions. The observation was shred by several organisations in Baroda who undertake counselling centre for women. • Emergence of agents who arrange selling of girls from lower castes for marriage in upper caste families where the sex ratio is more adverse. • Increase in cases of Satta marriages ( to get a daughter in law for their sons, family have to offer a daughter from the immediate or extended family) in certain castes.

Strategies, Dilemmas, challenges : • Need for Area specific Awareness Strategies • Work with PNDT Committees • Work with cross section of Society: • Youth, Other Movements, Citizen’s Groups, Developmental Organisations • Dilemmas: work with religious leaders or not ? • Challenges from Rightwing groups • Lack of Audio Visual Material

Some Recommendations

• Strict implementation of the amended PNDT act by creating a structure which is specifically looking in to the implementation of the PNDT Act instead of giving additional responsibility to officers and personnel who are already over burdened with other responsibility. • Widespread and continuous awareness programmes regarding the Act as well as rights of the girl child. • Taking effective measures to curb violence against women so that daughters are not consider as burden on family. Particularly effective property rights for women are necessary to end dowry system. • Immediate withdrawal of programmes like “Mangal Sutra” and “Kuwarbai nu Mameru” which support the ideology of daughters as family burden and give “gifts” at time of marriage. Instead give resources to girls (irrespective of their marital status) when they become major so that they can build up their life. • Create enough supportive structures like counseling centers, legal help and short stay homes to support women so that they can take decisions regarding their own life and children. • Create opportunities to earn livelihoods with dignity. Women are becoming more and more marginalized with increasing speed of globalization, liberalization and privatization of natural resources in tribal and rural areas. This is creating a situation of declining sex ratio in those areas where it was much better earlier, like the tribal districts.

References

Bose Ashis (2001), Census of India 2001 and After, Economic and Political Weekly, May 19, pp.1685-1687.
Department of Women and Child Development. (2003, January). Gujarat State Gender Equity Policy: Formulation Process. Gandhinagar: Government of Gujarat, Department of Women and Child Development.

Hirway, I. and Mahadevia, D. (1999). Gujarat Human Development Report 1999. Ahmedabad: Gandhi Labour Institute (mimeo).
Mehta, B., Vaswani, T., and Desai, H. (2000, May). Programmes and Policies for Women in Gujarat. In Profile of Women in Gujarat. Baroda: Women’s Studies Research Centre, M. S. University.
Office of the Registrar General of India. (2001). Census of India – Provisional Population Totals. New Delhi: Office of the Registrar General of India.

Premi, M. K. (2001). The Missing Girl Child. Economic and Political Weekly, May 26, pp.1875-1880.

Parimal, J. (2001). ‘Dropping sex ratio will disturb social equilibrium’, Times of India, 18 July.

Patel, V. (n.d.). Low sex ratios not just a population deficit but also a cultural deficit. Retrieved from: www.indiatogether.org/august2003.htm.
Retherford, R. D., and Roy, T. K. (2003). Factors affecting sex selective abortion in India and 17 major states. National Family Health Survey Subject Report, Number 21, January. Hawaii: International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai and East West Centre Program on Population.

Sen, A. K. (1992). Missing women. British Medical Journal, 304, pp. 586-587.

Shah, T., Ghelani, S., and Choksi, R. (2002). Garbh Jaati Parikshan na pariname thata putrid Garbna Garbhpaat, stree purush praman man thayee rahel ghatadu: samaj, sarkar ane daktari vayavsai ni bhumika (Sex determination, sex selective abortions, and declining sex ratio: role of society, government and medical professionals). Baroda: Sahiyar (Stree Sanghathan) and Women’s Studies Research Centre.

Sidhanta, S., Nandy, D., and Agnihotri, S. B. (2003). Sex ratios and ‘prosperity effect’: What do NSSO data reveal? Economic and Political Weekly, October 11, p. 4388

Socio-Economic Review, Gujarat State, 2002-03, retrieved on 22 March, 2004, from: http://www.gujaratindia.com/Useful-Info/Socio%20Economic%20Review/ser03/serp2-6.pdf
UNFPA. (2003). Mapping adverse child sex ratio in India. New Delhi: UNFPA

Visaria, L. (2003). The missing girls. Seminar 532, December, Special issue on abortion, pp. 24-30.

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