India's population will overtake China's as the world's largest in 30 years, according to data released yesterday, despite the continued assault on the female population in a society in which bearing male offspring is still paramount.
However, the sex ratio for children up to six years has slipped from 945 females per 1,000 males in 1991 to just 927 females 10 years later, indicating that despite government measures, such as a ban on sex determination tests, female foeticide is still widely prevalent. Many girls are also killed in infancy.
According to recent research, 90% of the estimated 3.5m abortions in India each year are to eliminate girls.
"It's like Prohibition - after the ban, the whole business of tests and abortions has gone underground," said a population activist, Prabeen Singh. "Families are now also resorting to traditional methods to get rid of girl children, such as herbal poisons."
Until now, it was believed that the bias against girls was especially acute in the countryside, where the high child mortality rate, combined with the prestige gained from having a male child, the need for wage earners and the prohibitive cost of marrying a daughter heavily tilted the scales in favour of sons.
But the census has come up with a startling statistic - the sex ratio in the national capital region of Delhi has plummetted to just 865 girls to 1,000 boys, well below the national average. In one district in Delhi, it has dropped below 800.... (more)
Female infanticide, and too many people
Population of India to overtake China's within 30 years