Sex ratio at birth in India: Recent Trends and Patterns

The sex ratio at birth (SRB) in India has become more masculine in the recent decades. The imbalance in sex ratios stems from strong son preference combined with declining fertility, and the availability of and access to sonographic scanning during pregnancy. The practice of gender biased sex selection continues even though India has enacted laws banning the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex detection. The instances of gender biased sex selection are obviously not recorded but the numbers of cases can be estimated indirectly based on the deviation of the observed SRB from the natural level. The sex ratio at birth, the number of females per 1000 males in India, is low, but not as much as some of the estimates indicate. It is estimated that close to 400 thousand female births are missed in India annually as a result of gender biased sex selection, amounting to about three percent of female births. The degree (number of female births missed as percent of female births occurred) is high in most states in the northern and western regions, moderate in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and low or negligible in most states in the eastern and southern regions.