Olympian Sakshi important for ‘gender-critical’ Rohtak

Former cricketer Virender Sehwag’s tweet after wrestler Sakshi Malik became the first Indian to win a medal at the Rio Olympics is relevant because Malik’s home district of Rohtak in Haryana is one of 262 Indian districts and cities listed as “gender critical” areas where the sex ratio is below 900 females for every 1,000 males.

One of 17 Haryana districts classified as gender-critical, Rohtak has 867 females for every 1,000 males. This is an improvement over 847 in 2001. The sex ratio should ideally be between 940 and 980, according to various estimations.

Child sex ratio — the proportion of female to male children under six years — has also improved to 820 per 1,000 from 798. One reason could be the much-publicised rise of Haryana’s female wrestlers as role models, although both ratios continue to be critical.

Sehwag’s tweet set off a debate on the relevance of Malik’s medal to female foeticide.

About 2,000 girls die — aborted or starved, poisoned or otherwise killed after birth — every day in India, according to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, who provided this data in 2015, as IndiaSpend reported. The estimates of women missing range from 2m to 25m.

Not only do missing women take a toll in terms of fewer brides and increased trafficking of women, India loses workforce talent and diversity. For instance, economists have struggled to explain the fall in women in India’s workforce — contrary to global trends — over the 2000s, despite a rise in industrialisation and prosperity.

Indeed, prosperity appears to worsen the sex ratio. Some of India’s most prosperous areas in its richest cities, including Mumbai and Delhi, have the country’s lowest sex ratios. Female foeticide increases with easy access to medical facilities, ability to pay doctors and the availability of good roads, which cut down travel time, according to demographer Ashish Bose in his book Sex-Selective Abortion in India, based on fieldwork in someof the states.

A wealth of laws and programmes instituted to protect girls are failing them in India’s two most economically-developed states, Maharashtra and Gujarat, IndiaSpend reported in June 2015.

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