Magazine 2015
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Khevana Desai  
The development of the nation if not engendered is considered to be endangered. An adverse sex ratio  
of a nation reveals a lopsided social development and violation of human rights. The sex ratio in India,  
especially the child sex ratio (0-6 years) which is continuously declining has reached to devastating 914  
as per census of 2011. This trend which was earlier seen in historically female deficit states of northern  
India has now spread in developed states of Maharashtra and Gujarat too. Mumbai is one such city,  
which boasts of being the financial capital and city of opportunities has become the hub for misuse of  
reproductive technology and gender bias resulting in the lowest sex ratio(of 874 in 2011) in the state of  
Maharashtra. The hitherto studies on declining sex ratio locates the root cause in abuse of NRTs (New  
reproductive technology), son preference and daughter aversion. The research paper proposes to  
cover the crisis of declining sex ratio in Mumbai city and an overall attitude towards the girl child in  
Mumbai based on the data collected from a sample of 150 couples (300 individuals) across different  
socio-economic background in the city. It tries to explore the causes of gender bias, the awareness  
about the PCPNDT act and the actions taken by the state machinery to deal with the problem.  
Key Words : child sex ratio, attitude towards girls, Mumbai, NRT and PCPNDT.  
Introduction and Background :  
The progress of the nation is a manifestation of a balanced socio-economic-political and demographic  
development. The development of the nation which is not engendered is considered to be endangered.  
Sex ratio of any country is not just a demographic variable but an important indicator of country’s  
gender development index. And an adverse sex ratio reveals a lopsided social development and  
violation of human rights.  
As per the 2011 census, India’s population has reached up to 1.21 billion, which is the second highest  
in the world after China. Looking at the trend since the first census, she has experienced a rapid  
explosion in terms of its population. However, the rise has not seen a balanced trend in terms of the  
male–female ratio. Sex ratio of the population; the number of women per 1,000 of men, has seen a  
declining trend since the turn of the century. The sex ratio, which was 972 per 1000 of men in 1901,  
has declined to 933 in 2001. Similarly the child sex ratio calculated for number of surviving girls in the  
age group of 0-6years had declined from 976 in 1961 to 927 in 2001 and as per the census report for  
011 it has further declined to a devastating 914. (Census of India, 2011)  
This trend, which was earlier seen in historically female deficit states of northern India, has now spread  
in developed states of Maharashtra and Gujarat too. Several studies (Rutherford and Roy, 2003; Bhargava  
and Hiremath, 2005; Ravindra, R., 2007) have proved that contrary to the popular belief that literacy  
and affluence strengthens the women’s chances of survival in a given state, they have actually weakened  
it. Gender bias and son preference, which are the main reasons for the declining sex ratio in the  
country have extended its reach to developed cities and states of the country. Mumbai is one such city,  
which boasts of being the financial capital and city of opportunities has become the hub for misuse of  
reproductive technology and gender bias resulting in the lowest sex ratio in the state of Maharashtra.(see  
table -1a).  
Hitherto studies based on demographic data, comprehends the problem with numerical variables  
often ignoring the socio-cultural factor determining the sex ratio. More than the demographic variables  
it is the socio-cultural norms of son preference, aversion to daughters and attitudes towards the girl  
child that determine the chances of survival of the girl child in a given area. (Karkal, 1991; Phillip and  
Kathakali, 1995; Visaria, L, 2007; Das, 2004). With the advent of NRTs in India, it has enabled the  
parents to have the desired size and sex composition of the family in cities like Mumbai. The combination  
of these two has turned out be deadly for the daughters of Mumbai.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
The research paper proposes to cover the crisis of declining sex ratio in Mumbai city and an overall  
attitude towards the girl child in Mumbai. Broadly divided in to two sections, the first section of the  
paper deals with the problem of and trends in declining sex ratio in India in general and in Mumbai in  
particular, the causes and effects of gender bias in Indian society and the legal battle for PCPNDT in  
Mumbai. The second section aims to present the analysis of the study conducted with 150 couples  
300 individuals) across different socio-economic backgrounds to understand attitudes towards the  
girl child in Mumbai by the Department of Sociology, Mithibai college of Arts, Mumbai.  
Gender bias and normative construction of girl child in India  
The purpose of affirming a sex/gender distinction was to argue that the actual physical or mental  
effects of biological differences had been exaggerated to maintain a patriarchal system of power and  
to create a consciousness among women that they were naturally suited for domestic roles” (Pilcher  
and Whelehan, 2004: 56). Simone de Beauvoir had explored this distinction in her book “The Second  
Sex” way back in late 1940’s when she stated “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”.  
Gender bias is widely defined as “Preference or inclination that inhibits impartiality or prejudice” (Pilcher  
and Whelehan, 2004). Gender bias is set in the backdrop of unequal and hierarchical relations and the  
socially constructed roles or stereotypes assigned to women as that of a housewife and mother are  
considered as ‘norms’ to be followed invariably across class, caste, race and culture. The bias often  
leads to son preference at the time of birth, denial of equal educational and occupational opportunities,  
absence of political and civil rights, violence or crime against women and many other forms of injustice.  
The violence of her basic human rights often takes place in various ways. It may take a form of sex  
determination and sex selective abortion, neglect of infant and girl child in the areas of nutrition  
healthcare, illiteracy and drop outs, under estimation of household work, inequality and harassment at  
the work place, dowry and related harassments including bride burning, sexual assault, rape, religious  
rituals, cultural practices, misrepresentation in media and many others.  
The violence against women is also carried out much before the female foetus sees the light of the day.  
The misuse and abuse of pre natal reproductive technologies often result in sex determination and sex  
selective abortion. Just as cities are first to adopt the developmental changes and advancement in  
technology they are also the first ones to exploit its potential to serve their self-seeking purpose.  
Sex ratio in Mumbai  
The myths that often goes with declining sex ratio is that Sex Determination (SD) and Sex selective  
abortion (SSA) are practiced in rural illiterate and orthodox families, where poverty and illiteracy are  
seen as important causes. And the practice is confined to certain linguistic or ethnic communities in  
India. Whereas the fact is Mumbai is an urban area with a literacy rate of almost 80%. Being the financial  
capital with high Per Capita Income (PCI), modern in outlook and crammed with cosmopolitan  
population, the declining trend of sex ratio in Mumbai breaks all pre-existing myths.  
The trend in over all sex ratio is not an indicative of whether the ratio is female deficit or not as it is  
influenced by many factors like occupational migration, matrimonial migration, mortality in general  
and maternal mortality in particular. The overall sex ratio of Mumbai even if showing a decline can be  
owed it to its high level of urbanization and migration of population particularly male in search of  
livelihood. Hence, the Census of India brings out the child sex ratio (CSR) of children below the age of  
years i.e.0-6 years of age. And there Mumbai has seen a sharp decline in this child sex ratio clearly  
exhibiting an intervention in the medical process of pregnancy in the form of sex determination and sex  
selective abortion. Mumbai is not among the historically female deficit centers in India in fact it is only  
in last couple of decades that it started showing signs of decline in child sex ratio. There is a sharp  
decline in Maharashtra with only 4 districts out of 35 have child sex ratio above 940.  
The CSR of Mumbai in 1991 was 942 which was more or less at par with the national average of 945.  
However with an overall decline of the nation to 927 in 2001 Mumbai’s child sex ratio also declined to  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
22. Further in the latest sex ratio (2011) where the CSR of the country has declined marginally at 914  
Mumbai has further seen a devastating decline and reached its lowest to 874, making it the region with  
lowest CSR amongst the districts in Maharashtra.  
Table- 1a  
Child sex ratio of Mumbai, Maharashtra- 2001-2011  
Child Sex ratio  
Child Sex ratio  
(0-6yrs) (2001)  
Mumbai (Greater)  
Mumbai (Suburban)  
Mumbai (overall)  
Table -1b  
Comparision of Sex ratio and child sex ratio of Mumbai, Maharashtra and India  
Overall sex ratio  
Child sex ratio 0-6  
Mumbai suburban  
PCPNDT in Mumbai- a Historical Background :  
Since its introduction in 1976, the New Reproductive Technologies (NRT) in general and Amniocentesis  
in particular has been a boom in several states of India. Mumbai since then has been a Hub for sex  
determination (SD) and sex pre-selection (SP) test. According to one of the records retrieved and  
preserved by Avabai Wadia archives (AWA) at RCWS “In 1985, Sir Harkisondas hospital in Mumbai  
alone recorded 2767 cases of sex determination. In 1982 there were just 10 centers in Mumbai where  
SD was performed. In 1988 this number raised up to 1000. By then it had already become a profit  
making industry. (Bhatt, 1988: 9-10). A similar record revealed by a leading newspaper states that out  
of total abortion carried out in state government hospitals in Maharashtra were 8000 out of which 7999  
were of that of female foetuses. (TOI, 1988).  
In response to this massacre, The Forum Against Sex Determination and Sex-Pre-selection (FASDSP)  
was formed in 1986. However the campaign against female foeticide had started way back in 1982.  
The media, scientists, the medical professionals, government officials, women’s group and academics  
have campaigned either for or against their use for selective elimination of female foetuses or embryos.”  
Patel, 2007: 290). Of course there were stakeholders in this act who were for the tests and successive  
abortion for its profit making in the pretext of population control. But FASDSP successfully campaigned  
against the heinous practice and succeeded in passing the pioneers act in this area in the state of  
Maharashtra. The bill was passed in 1986 in the assembly which was called ‘The Maharashtra Prohibition  
of Amniocentesis and Other Sex Determination Medical Tests Act, 1986’. (Indian express, 1986) It was  
subsequently passed in Legislative council after two years of struggle by women’s group and others  
as ‘Maharashtra Regulation of Use of Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Bill, 1988’. (TOI, 1988).  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
It has been almost 25 years since the bill has been passed in Maharashtra. With every new census a  
sharp decline has been witnessed which awakens the state machinery to take stringent action under  
the act, but subsides immediately after its preliminary efforts. Recently after the shocking results of  
2011 census reports, Maharashtra state machinery and legal machinery has become active and initiated  
certain policies and programmes along with implementation of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal  
Diagnostic Techniques( Prohibition of sex selection) act 2003. But SD and SSA has been a business  
worth 1500 crores which makes it difficult to curb the hand in glove practice between medical fraternity  
and society at large.  
Since 2005, state has come heavily on the medical fraternity. There are 35 sting operations conducted.  
Licenses of more than 44 clinics have been cancelled in Mumbai and Thane. (Mumbai Samachar,  
011). 35 sonography machines have been sealed/confiscated in a week in July 2011. 250 sonography  
machines have been sealed by August 2011(Mumbai Mirror, 2011). 139 doctors have been convicted  
under the act during June to September 2011. (Mumbai Samachar, 2012). On the other hand there are  
also civil society organizations and activists who are struggling to create awareness and sensitize the  
society towards the problem at the same time strive for stringent enforcement of the law. To mention  
Advocate Varsha Deshapande is been active in the campaign with Lek Ladkki Abhiyan, a Satara based  
NGO since 2005. For her “our health care infrastructure is in tatters, there is a crisis of potable water,  
yet sonography clinics are mushrooming everywhere. There are more than 3000 sonography machines  
in Mumbai and Thane alone.” (Shelar, 2011) Hence in spite of efforts, the culprits are strong enough to  
get scot free and re-start their lucrative business. Out of the total numbers convicted only a marginal is  
punished severely which gives freedom to continue for others. The loopholes in the enforcement of the  
law further enable the practice to continue.  
Methodology :  
The research design for the study would be causal in nature since; it tries to explore the causal relation  
between attitudes towards the girl child and declining child sex ratio, It also tries to explore the cause-  
effect relation between variables like socio-cultural background, economic conditions, educational  
qualification and its impact on the sex ratio of an area.  
The data was collected through primary sources in the form of personal interviews with the help of  
close ended questionnaires. A sample of 150 couples i.e. 300 individuals were selected through non  
probability sampling in the age group of 20-40. In order to draw an all-inclusive data the sample has  
been selected from across religion, linguistic community, caste, educational, financial background  
and geographical location. Taking in to consideration the short comings of open ended questions,  
where in the questions can be misunderstood and can have a varied nature of answers; close ended  
questions were formulated to enable coding. The secondary source includes the census reports,  
newspaper articles, books and reports pertaining to the subject. The interviews were conducted mainly  
in the western suburbs of Mumbai from Churchgate to Vasai.  
As the nature of the study itself raises ethical questions, interviewing on the same was difficult.  
Respondents tend to give morally laden answers. However several pointed and probing questions  
ensures the validity of their response. A special effort was made to translate the questions and responses  
for the respondents belonging to different linguistic groups. Analysis of the responses is done with the  
help of coding the responses and then presenting the data with the help of tabulation and graphical  
Data Analysis :  
Demographic profile of the respondents  
The research was conducted across different religion, linguistic community, caste, educational and  
economic strata from different suburbs of Mumbai.  
0% the respondents were from the western suburbs of Bandra to Borivali followed by 11% from  
suburbs between Borivali to Vasai. A small number of 9% was residents of south Mumbai, from Mahim  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
to Churchgate. The purpose was to cover a wide range of couples across the areas with a varied  
variety of culture imbibed from areas one resides in which in turn influence their ideas of gender and  
socialization. The respondents fall between the age group of 20-40 years. Which generally is the  
reproductive age group making decisions regarding sex composition and the size of their families.  
Taking into consideration the popular myth about certain religions being gender biased, the research  
has tried to cover major religious communities in evaluating their attitudes towards the girl child.  
Table 1c  
Respondents by Religion  
Respondents (in %)  
Mumbai being a cosmopolitan city, it celebrates the linguistic diversity of the population. Reflecting  
the same spirit the research conducted collected the data from Gujarati (30%), Marathi (18%), Hindi  
8%), Urdu (4%), Punjabi (6.6%), and a small percentage of Bengali, Tamil and Kannada speaking  
population as well. The nature and the type of the family also influence the decision making and in this  
research 59% of the respondents were belonging to the Nuclear family system.  
Literacy level of a nation replicates its progress and development. Being major criteria of Human  
development Index, higher literacy corresponds to high level of socio-economic development which  
further implicates a balanced and just growth. In pretext of this theory, the research tried to establish a  
relation between education and gender sensitization for equal opportunities and rights. More than 60  
of the respondents were graduates and around 20% were post graduates and professionally qualified.  
Around ¾ of them were employed and the average family income of the respondents was between 2-  
lakhs. Which suggests that majority of them were from middle or higher middle class. A tiny but vital  
number also came from an income group of 10-15 lakhs belonging to elite, rich class of the society.  
Attitudes towards the girl child  
Taking into consideration the tendency to give an ideal answer or varied nature of answers, in case of  
attitudinal questions, close ended question (pre-tested) were formulated where in a question was  
generally followed by a probe question to cross check and examine the objectivity of the answers and  
Mumbai with its highly cosmopolitan and modern outlook is perceived to be free from the hegemonic  
caste structure. However, exogamy in terms of marriage is still far from acceptance. A little more than  
half of the respondents firmly believed in marrying ones daughter in one’s own caste. Girls are the  
gateways to maintain the ‘purity’ of the community intact and hence, endogamy is reinforced to maintain  
this very notion of caste purity even in Mumbai. Marriages in India are seen as a major responsibility  
for the parents and more so for a girl child. Her physical attributes are a major symbol of her likability  
in the market of being a prospective bride in demand. More than 55 % of our respondents agree to the  
statement that fairness and figure of a girl are vital characteristics of her beauty.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Dowry is regarded as a major reason for discrimination against girl child. In spite of several campaigns  
and legislations a small but considerable group of respondents (40%) still think of dowry as a major  
and unavoidable ritual for bride’s parents. It is the major cause for daughter aversion in several  
communities where dowry is prevalent. Consumerism has further increased the burden on the daughter’s  
parents with drastically increasing marriage.  
Education and employment as strong tools for emancipation of women are widely accepted and adopted  
in urban middle class families. However there are 40% of the respondents who see high education as  
an obstacle to find suitable grooms for their daughters. A working woman often carries a double  
burden of household as well as professional responsibilities. Mumbaites are no exception there. 3/4  
of the respondents agreed that working women cannot escape from the domestic responsibilities and  
daily chores are seen as an ultimate duty of hers. In such cases sharing of responsibility by the male  
members is not acceptable in most families. Where majority of them (males) wants their son to share  
household responsibility, only a marginal of themselves share it with their female counterparts.  
Son–preference is a major cause for declining sex ration in the country. There are social, cultural,  
religious, and more importantly economic reason to have at least one son in the family and with small  
family norms in urban educated families, the survival of the girl child is at a risk. Going by the popular  
beliefs of why son is required the respondents were asked to give their reasons for son-preference.  
Broadly categorized as for family lineage (social), economic security in the old age (economic), taking  
over family business (economic) and performing the last rite (religious). As per the data shown in the  
figure below, more than half of the respondents agreed to the socio-economic and religious significance  
of a son. Except for performing the last rites for the deceased parents inevitability of the son in the  
family persists across caste, class, religions and educational backgrounds. Son preference with a  
small family norm (especially the one child norm), leads to aversion to daughters in urban areas like  
Causes for son preference (respondents in %)  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Legal awareness  
After almost three decades of introducing new reproductive technology in India, it was obvious that  
majority of the respondents (almost 80%) were aware of the use and misuse of them for detecting the  
sex of the child. They were also aware of the PCPNDT act, as for them SD (sex determination) and SSA  
sex selective abortion) were illegal. However law has not succeeded in changing their mindset to a  
great extent. Because there is still a small number who looks at the couples with only female children  
as unfortunate and agrees that they should be allowed to abort a female foetus. Though a section of  
society who adheres to this philosophy is small but can’t be neglected for its precarious repercussion  
it can have on the sex ratio of the city. The awareness regarding the law has not made them sensitize  
towards the issue in any case.  
The onus of SD followed by SSA, for the respondents still fall upon the rural, orthodox, uneducated  
and underprivileged section of society. Ignorance or an intentional secrecy on the knowledge of stake  
holders involved in the heinous act cannot be excused. i.e. being aware of the problem and yet trying  
to pretend to be ignorant about the stake holders in the problem is definitely not a genuine one.  
Medical fraternity or government in spite of being a major stake holders are not held responsible in the  
process by them. In some cases woman herself is being blamed for this heinous act.  
In spite of the efforts of the state machinery in implementing the law through sting operations, cancelling  
the licenses of laboratories or medical practitioners, or sealing the sonography machines, the complete  
absence of action programme to change the attitude of the people has resulted in partial success in  
achieving the desired results. The study reveals that education and economic affluence is inversely  
related to female foeticide that is more educated or elite ones family is more chances of following a  
small family or one-child norm with a strong son preference. It puts the survival of a girl child at stake.  
Hence the parameters of development and progress have been proved in efficient in understanding or  
analyzing the issue of gender discrimination with reference to SD or SSA. What needs to be done is a  
complete revolutionary change in the attitude towards the girl child aiming for an egalitarian and just  
society. The son-preference in the larger structure of patriarchy needs rethinking. Universality of marriage  
and objectifying, stereotypical role of women in the institution of marriage unless eradicated or revised,  
daughters of Mumbai will have to continue their struggle for survival.  
Bhargava, P. and Hiremath, G. 2005. “Proximate Determinants Of Sex Ratio And Its Regional Variation  
In India.” Paper presented at the Seminar on Female Deficit in Asia: Trends and Perspectives, Singapore,  
-7 December 2005.  
Bhatt, Sheela, “Babo Ke Bebi” cover story, Abhiyaan, 15 February 1988.  
Census of India, 2011. Provisional Population Totals, Government of India. India.  
Census of India, 2001. Chapter-6 , Sex Composition of the Population. Census of India 2001 Series 1,  
Das, N.P. 2004. “Intensified Masculinity Of The Child Sex Ratio In India: A Phenomenon Of Sex Selective  
Abortion.” Population Research Centre, M.S.University, Vadodara.  
Medieval Legacies”, in Indian Express, 8 August 1986.  
Karkal, M. 2002. “Has The Sex Ratio Really Improved?” Manushi no.124  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Mumbai Mirror, “State rope in retired ACB, CID officers to fight female foeticide”, 26 December, 2011.  
Jati Parikshan Karanaar Par Najar Raakhshe Vishes Char Group’ (A Special Four Member Team Will  
Keep A Watch On Sex Determination). Mumbai Samachar 13 January 2012.  
Mumbai-Thanema Saat Sonography Kendrona Machine Japt: 44 Parvaana Rad” (7 Sonography  
Machines sealed and 44 Licenses Cancelled In Mumbai And Thane) Mumbai Samachar 13 July 2011.  
Patel, Vibhuti, (2007) “The Political Economy of Missing Girls in India”, in Patel, Tulsi, (ed), Sex Selective  
Abortion in India: Gender, Society and New Reproductive Technologies, Sage Publication, New Delhi.  
Phillip, M., and Kathakali, B. 1995. “The Endangered Half,” Upalabdhi. New Delhi.  
Pilcher, J and Whelehan I. 2004. ‘50 Key Concepts in Gender Studies’, Sage publication, London.  
Ravindra, R. 2007. “BiMaru to Beti Maru: A Shift in the Discourse on Sex Ratio,” paper presented at  
National seminar on ‘Gender equality and the Indian republic’, organised by Women Development  
Cell, University of Mumbai, Vidyanagari, Mumbai.  
Retherford, R. and Roy, T. 2003. “Factors Affecting Sex Selective Abortion in India.” National Family  
Health Survey Bulletin, 17, January. Mumbai and Hawaii: IIPS and East West Center.  
Shelar, J. “Barbie for Girl, 16 for Boy”, Mumbai Mirror, 13 July 2011.  
Bill on pre-natal test passed”, Times of India, 14 April 1988.  
Visaria, L. 2007. “Deficit of Girls in India: can it be attributed to female selective Abortion?” In Patel,  
Tulsi, (ed), Sex Selective Abortion in India: Gender, Society and New Reproductive Technologies, Sage  
Publication, New Delhi.  
Ms. Khevana Desai, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Mithibai College of Arts,  
Looking up and out, how can we not respect this ever-vigilant cognizance that  
distinguishes us: the capability to envision, to dream, and to invent? the ability to  
ponder ourselves? and be aware of our existence on the outer arm of a spiral  
galaxy in an immeasurable ocean of stars? Cognizance is our crest.  
Vanna Bonta