ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Son Preference and Daughter Aversion in Two Villages of Jammu

A contemporary exploration of two spatially contiguous villages of Jammu reveals persisting intra-household gender discrimination. While in both the villages, sons continue to be preferred over daughters, it is the local political economy and culture that dictates whether a preference for sons would mean the elimination of daughters before birth, their relative deprivation post birth, marrying them off early as a mobility strategy, or simply differential allocation of resources within the household.

Since 2001, when evidence of sharp declines in sex ratios was captured by the census, multiple efforts have been made by state and central governments to stem the tide of sex-selective abortion of female foetuses. Ten years later, the census of 2011 noted that Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) recorded the sharpest decline of 8.4% in the child sex ratio (CSR) across all states of India. Recent Sample Registration System (SRS) data shows that, in most states, the sex ratio at birth (SRB) has declined between the base year (2012–14) and reference year (2013–15), except for Bihar, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh, where improvements in the SRB were noted, and J&K where it stagnated (NITI Aayog 2018). While we wait for the 2021 Census to confirm trends and trajectories of juvenile sex ratios across the country, this field report from two villages in Jammu district of J&K points to a continuing trend of daughter aversion.1

J&K has been ranked as one of the highest achievers in overall incremental performance on various health indicators, ranging from fertility rates and immunisation coverage, to public health facilities and better healthcare service delivery (NITI Aayog 2018). Yet, the SRB has stagnated over the past few years at 899 females per thousand males, which is much lower than the biological norm of 950. This resonates well with the Economic Survey (2017–2018), which observed that development had failed to act as an antidote to gender inequalities and that preference for sons seems to be inoculated from development (MoF 2018). This article makes use of data from two villages in Jammu to understand the factors at work in sustaining son preference despite many changes in people’s lives.

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Updated On : 5th Apr, 2019
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