Mapping the Child Sex Ratio

Declining child sex ratios and sex selection

The first module is an exercise on mapping child sex ratios so as to understand the spatial dimensions of spread and intensity of changes over time. The second module looks at challenges to reverse the declining CSR particularly implementation of PCPNDT Act.
Note: The impact of sex selection (female foeticide) is visible in the attached maps. Maps with fixed cut offs are displayed (Maps 1-12).
Further, suggestions are given on how to prepare maps with various cut offs to better visualize the patterns (on internet using; Map 13-16).


Census data on child sex ratios are used in this paper to show the patterns of “missing girls” in India. Census 2001 and Census 2011 maps reveal the latest time trends in the country. The situation may be analyzed at the national, state, district and subdistrict levels. Census is most suitable to examine these patterns as it is the only data source available in India which counts every living Indian from every habitation. Most other sources of data such as SRS, NFHS are sample surveys and therefore have limitations in that they can be used only at larger levels (often at the state and national levels). Birth registration is incomplete in several large states and therefore inadequate to capture state and national trends.
The Census of 2001 brought the alarming situation of the Indian girl children to global level. The following statements by the Registrar General & Census Commissioner indicate the grave concern.
“One thing is clear- the imbalance that has set at the early age group is difficult to be removed and would remain to haunt the population for a long time to come.”
“To say the least, demographically the sex ratio of 927 girls per 1000 boys in the age group 0-6 years does not augur well for the future of the country.”

Excerpts from Census Publication:- “Provisional Population Totals, Paper 1 of 2001" India level Maps Though the CSR in 1991 had also declined and Punjab and Haryana had less than 900 CSR (875 and 879 respectively), there was widespread disbelief in the demographic community about the emergence of sex selection when Census 1991 data was released.
Thus the 2001 Census outcomes shocked the country as CSR dropped in several states and Punjab had reported the lowest CSR of 798! A CSR of 798 means more than 15% of girls do not survive upto 6 years of age. And the change over 1991-2001 (875 to 798) is essentially due to increased elimination of girls before birth.
The first map reveals the situation in various States in 2001. Overall the national CSR fell from 945 in 1991 to 927 (girls per thousand boys). There were only 3 States/UTs which were below 900 in 1991 but in 2001 it has gone up to 6 states. There has been a dramatic drop in child sex ratios (0 to 6 year olds) in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, Delhi, Gujarat, Chandigarh and Maharashtra as compared to the 1991 Census. Punjab had an alarming ratio of 798 in 2001 Census. These were the States where private foetal sex determination clinics were first established and the practice of selective abortion of female foetuses became popular in the late seventies and early eighties. The Southern states such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra also have shown decline in child sex ratios. The drops in the ratios here are less than the Northern states because the sex determination clinics emerged in the South only a decade after they became popular in the North.
The second map compares the 2001 and 2011 Censuses. This reveals the improvements in Punjab & Haryana while declines in other states such as Jammu & Kashmir, UP, Maharastra etc.
Regrettably, the better off Eastern, Southern and North Eastern India have also shown declines in 2011 (Andhra, Orissa, Jharkhand, Manipur, Nagaland). The third map illustrates the context at the District level comparing 2001 and 2011. This map illustrates the improvements in Districts South Gujarat and Central Tamil Nadu, while declines in Districts of Rajasthan, MP, Orissa, Uttarakhand, Eastern UP etc.
The fourth map indicates the states selected from different regions of the country specifically UP, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. These states are examined to look at District and sub-District patterns. These states also reveal that standard all India cut offs will not reveal the worsening trends in better off parts of India such as West Bengal or Eastern TamilNadu.
Note for UP and West Bengal the cut offs are chosen so that the extremes of good and worst are demonstrated. While for Maharashtra and TamilNadu, the cut offs have been chosen to highlight the impact on better off areas over the inter censal decade. Note the exercise on variable cutoffs supplements the understanding obtained from fixed cut offs.


1. Uttar Pradesh
The comparison of 2001 and 2011 maps is disturbing (see fifth map). UP being the most populous state, changes in UP have the greatest impact at the national level. More than one in five girls today is born in UP. Therefore, detailed analysis of changes in UP is undertaken. 2001 Census data reveals that Western UP is the worst region while Eastern UP looks generally the best region (excepting the developed Districts of Allahabad and Varanasi).
Note in 1991, the Western UP districts adjacent to Punjab, Haryana and Delhi showed declines. The latter region is among the first parts of India where sex determination clinics emerged.
Thus the susceptibility of adjacent districts to be affected is high from an epicentre where foetal sex determination is extensive. And in subsequent Censuses of 2001 and 2011; the declines continued due to intensification of the practice of sex determination. For the first time in 2011, Western UP had districts which dropped to below 850 (Baghpat-841 & Gautam Buddhnagar-843). Thus UP illustrates the spread of sex selection vividly. In 2011, the declining CSR districts spread towards central UP from western UP. The spread in Eastern UP is more spectacular over 2001 to 2011. Almost all South Eastern districts showed declines in 2011. Of course the developed region of Allahabad to Varanasi in 2011 remains the worst affected. Both Allahabad and Varanasi fell below 900 (893 and 885 respectively). Finally, in 2011 there is not a single District which had CSR above 950 while 6 Terai Districts in North Eastern UP and Sonbhadra in South Eastern UP were above 950 in 2001.
Therefore declines appear to be almost everywhere in UP of 2011 even with regard to the best off Districts of 2001.
The ninth Map, illustrates UP at the sub district level. Because each District covers a large area, examining sub Districts of UP reveals greater heterogeneity within Districts also both in 2001 and 2011. For instance, in 2001 many more sub-Districts outside Western UP which had less than 890. And similarly there were many sub Districts all over Eastern UP which had excellent ratios above 950. That only 3 sub-Districts are left in 2011 over 950 indicates the sweeping changes in UP which have taken place against girls even among the most girl friendly sub districts of UP. The emergence of less than 890 levels all over UP even in Districts which are above 890 suggests the extraordinary risk of further declines in these Districts in case no effective preventive actions against sex selection is taken over the coming years.
Thus these maps show the dramatic changes which have taken place in UP over 2001 to 2011. At the state level UP dropped from 916 to 902. But both at the district and sub district level the alarming increase in elimination of girls before birth is regrettably evident.

2. West Bengal
Is one of the best states in India in terms of overall CSR. Overall CSR in 2011 is 956 as compared to 960 in 2001. Generally urban CSR is worse than rural CSR due to the concentration of medical facilities and greater utilization of modern medicine. But even in 2011, Bengal urban CSR is respectable 947, even by all India levels (urban India CSR=905). Further, in many parts of North and Western India fertility decline has been accompanied by intensification of son preference. Fortunately in Bengal we have so far not witnessed such rapid intensification for sons.
Nevertheless, even Bengal which pioneered education and social reform as early as in 18th century has shown some indications of relatively small declines at District levels. The number of good Districts where CSR is greater than 960 has come down over 2001-2011 (see sixth map). Kolkata has the lowest levels in the State of 933 as in 2001 also (927).
The persistence of a few wards in Kolkata below 900 in both 2001 and 2011 is of concern, which suggests that a section of Kolkata residents do practice sex selection; which is otherwise relatively less in the State. The emergence of sub District foci over the past decade in Districts such as Bankura, Bardhhaman, Koch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjiling etc (see tenth map) is early warning indication of what possibly can expand to adjacent areas in the next Census. Note though we are only talking about 1-2 % of missing girls in these sub-districts, nevertheless the observed patterns do not appear to be random manifestation but deliberate.

That this is evident from the foothills of Himalayas to way down to Kolkata is indeed worrisome. Therefore, declines in several Districts across the state can be anticipated based on the above trends and if no corrective action to maintain the girl friendly status of Bengal is taken in the coming years.

3. Maharashtra
This was the first state to enact a law against foetal sex determination (PNDT Act) in 1988 as the Clinics started by late 1970s. By historical trends, Maharashtra was unlike Northern India and had good CSR, for instance 1981 (0-6 years) Census was 956; largely the pre-sex selection era. However, this progressive state did not implement the law and thus experienced consistent declines from 1991. Over 2001-2011, the State declined sharply from 913 to 894. Note following the initiation of sex selection, the first declines were observed in the prosperous sugarcane-milk belt in
Central Maharashtra starting from Jalgaon, 925, in the North to way down to Kolhapur, 931, and Sangli 924, in the South in 1991. These practices further intensified by the next two Censuses of 2001 and 2011 (see Map seven) resulting in the sharp drops mentioned above. Note the worst off Districts in 2001 Kolhapur and Sangli showed marginal improvements in 2011 but still their levels were not good by even State levels (839 & 851 in 2001 to 863 & 867 in 2011 respectively). The massive expansion of sub 900 Districts from the Central belt in 2001 westwards and eastwards in 2011 shows how pervasive was foetal sexing in most parts of the State. The sub district maps (Map 11) of the State reveals that even the better region of Vidarbha (Eastern Maharashtra) in 2001 had suffered serious impact of the declines in 2011.

4. TamilNadu
Generally the Southern States had good ratios and TamilNadu in 1981 had CSR of 967. But in the following decades this good state showed declines unlike its neighbors in Southern India. The State experienced rapid declines in fertility rates but regrettably in a few of the Districts, such as Salem, Dharmapuri, Madurai, Theni etc was accompanied by spread of female infanticide from the eighties. In fact Salem District ended up with the worst CSR in 1991 Census (830). The practice of sex selection started in late 1980s in the State but in a few Districts the contribution of
sex selection was likely to be less than that of female infanticide till about 2001. The unexpected declines in the Eastern TamilNadu (see Map eight) in Census 2011 (such as Ariyalur, Cuddalore etc) which hitherto had good ratios is due to the emergence of female foeticide in the inter-censal decade.
However, the worst affected Districts by female infanticide, above mentioned, appear to have improved in 2011; eg Dharmapuri improved from 826 to 913. Note: this magnitude of improvement has not been seen in South India in the recent past;
if this is sustained in the coming years, is indeed an exceptional record particularly in an area where female infanticide was relatively rampant in the 1980s-2000s. The sub-District level map (Map 12) suggests declining CSR in 2011 have spread towards Northern and Eastern Districts which were relatively better off. Thus the 2011 Census results for this state appear mixed. The coming Census will indicate if TamilNadu sets a positive example. It is imperative to mention that TamilNadu set the lead in declining fertility rates and severe child malnutrition levels even compared to its large neighbors of Karnataka or Andhra in the 1980s. School feeding programmes, high immunization coverages, functioning primary health centres are areas where TamilNadu set standards for India from 1980s-1990s. Routine cervical cancer screening for older women was pioneered in TamilNadu a few years ago.

India had shown regional heterogeneity in child sex ratios even in the 1960s. Northern India was relatively worse off while Southern and Eastern India had shown good levels. Scholars for several decades made an effort to explain this difference in terms of cultural and demographic factors. The spatial spread of discrimination against girl child before birth over the past fourty+ years has resulted in these regional differences becoming less marked. The declining trends are seen almost everywhere though the absolute levels would be different. For instance, in West Bengal it is evident that even in better off Districts declining trends are visible at sub-District levels from about 950. While in Western UP the declines will be from about 870 levels. The dispersion of the worst ten Districts of India in the recent Censuses revealed that even the extremes show different patterns.
For instance, in 2001 all the 10 worst Districts were in the historically worst off areas of North West India, specifically Punjab and Haryana. But in 2011 among the 10 worst; new foci of extreme anti-girl behaviour emerged in Districts of Uttarakhand (Pithoragarh), Jammu & Kashmir, (Jammu & Samba) and in the backward Marathwada region of Maharashtra (Bhid).
This alarming development is the nature of the new form of discrimination against girls, ie. sex selection. That is, even the best performing states are at risk of declines. For eg. Kerala which for 100 years had among the best child sex ratios showed for the first time in 2011 declines at the sub-District level; as low as 930. CSR of 930 in Kerala is as alarming as CSR of 800s in Punjab given historical patterns.
Historically, the emergence and spread of sex selection is a shameful phenomenon which occurred over the last 40+ years in India. During this period, the country showed good improvements in girl child malnutrition levels, in girl child and infant mortality rates, maternal mortality rates and women’s literacy rates.
Women in recent decades have started living longer than men (life expectancy at birth). Thus by several indicators women are doing better than ever before. It is therefore imperative to deal with this ongoing genocide of sex selection, where tens of millions of women were not even allowed to be born, largely over last 25 years. The next module deals with what needs to be done to stop this genocide. And if effective actions are taken than for the first time in recent decades we can hope to see a turn around in child sex ratios. Already it’s more than 5 years since the 2011 Census and most children born in 2015 and children born in 2016 so far will be counted in Feb 2021. And if we start making effort these girls will be born from 2017 onwards. Thus there is little time left to achieve a turnaround.
Finally, it is important to emphasize how dramatic changes have been in child sex ratios scholarship even post 2011. After 1991 and 2001 Censuses scholars have tried to understand the unprecedented changes. Certainly in 1991 there were many unaffected Districts and even after 2001 there were some.
Agnihotri used the term epicenter to highlight the worst foci from where it spreads to other adjacent areas. Guilomoto used the terms cold spots and hot spots to identify the extremes. The hypothesis that these spots can influence foetal sex determination in their adjacent areas. Note the presumption was that just like the worst areas (hot spots) can spread, the cold spots also can spread. Quantitative geo spatial analysis undertaken after 2011 Census (using all the three decennial Censuses) conclude that hot spots do indeed spread but cold spots are disappearing at a fast rate (Rajani et al, )! Cold spots have no positive impact on their neighboring areas. In fact there is a shrinking of high CSR area around cold spots epicenters. Thus there is a general trend of increasing masculinization of child sex ratios across all regions of the country.

Exercises on preparing maps with variable cutoffs.

The GIS maps are available on the website Note this mapping programme is sophisticated and can generate multiple cut offs with different colors. For simplicity choose only one cutoff per map and stick with default colors.

First exercise: To compare CSR of wards of Kolkata over 2001 and 2011.
Choose West Bengal State. Select for Kolkata in the search box. Open 2001 & 2011.
Once the 2001 & 2011 maps are seen. Then in Query box choose Category as child sex ratio. And in box below data range choose < and type 900 and click on GO. To see desired map. See Map 13. Repeat the above exercise with cutoff < 850.

Second exercise: To compare CSR of urban UP over 2001 and 2011
Choose UP state. Open 2001 & 2011 maps. Once the 2001 & 2011 maps are seen. Then in Query box choose Category as child sex ratio. Choose Indicator as Child sex ratio (Urban). And in box below data range choose < and type 920 and click on GO. To see desired map. See Map 14.

Third exercise: To compare CSR of Uttarakhand at sub-District level over 2001 and 2011
Choose Uttarakhand State. Open 2001 & 2011 maps. Once the 2001 & 2011 maps are seen. In the Layers box choose sub district also. Choose Indicator as Child sex ratio. And in box below data range choose < and type 920 and click on GO. To see desired map. See Map 15.

Fourth exercise: To compare CSR of sub-District level of Mahbubnagar (AP) over 2001 and 2011

Choose AP State. This presently comprises of Telengana and Andhra states. Select for Mahbubnagar in the search box. Open 2001 & 2011. Once the 2001 & 2011 maps are seen. Then in Query box choose Category as child sex ratio. And in box below data range choose < and type 925 and click on GO. To see desired map. See Map 16.


Suggested Readings

1. Global Perspective on Sex Selection.
Note the lead author is from Population Council. This was the organization which introduced sex selection in 1970 to save India from over population. Sex selection ultimately led to a genocide against girls! The desire to save India from population explosion led to the most anti-women programme in the country’s history. Too often, global solutions in population control were introduced into the country without understanding the local context and grossly indifferent to well being of Indian women. The consequences of sex selection would extend for a few generations.
How Many More Missing Women? Excess Female Mortality and Prenatal Sex Selection, 1970–2050. John Bongaarts and Christophe Z. Guilmoto; Population and Development Review: Volume 41, Issue 2, pages 241–269, June 2015.
2. Estimate on missing number of Indian girls. Note the data for this estimate is SRS. Published by UNFPA:
How many girls are missing at birth in India? Trends in Sex Ratio at Birth (2001-12).
3. This detailed publication by Census of India and UNFPA has detailed maps of all States of India (at District level) and compares with 2001/11. Note these maps are prepared with the same cut off for all the States. So useful for inter state comparisons. However, in states where sex selection has emerged recently such as West Bengal; these cutoffs are not appropriate for proper visualisation of the declining sex ratios. Further, diversity of subDistricts cannot be seen in this booklet as the lowest level of mapping is Districts.


Did You Know

Satyameva Jayate
Female foeticide was the first episode of the First season (2012). This incredibly well received talk show by Aamir Khan reached out to about 9 million people of age 4+. Over a billion impressions were garnered on the net in the first season. The fact that Aamir chose sex selection (female foeticide) as the first episode, of the various sensitive issues chosen for the first season, is the outcome of meticulous preparation which started more than a year before the telecast. That this was not a one time tear jerker is evident from the follow up undertaken after the telecast on May 6. Aamir met the Chief Minister of Rajasthan on May 10, 2012 and special courts were set up to try the cases which were pending following Shripal Shaktawat and Meena Sharma’s powerful expose of over 100 Doctors on Sahara TV, Rajasthan in 2006. The web site ( has links to several initiatives of other organisations. For instance, Action Aid’s “Beti Zindabad” campaign. The original telecast of 2012 can be viewed in Hindi or English (subtitles) or Marathi or Bengali.

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