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

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Signs of Change?

Sex Ratio Imbalance and Shifting Social Practices in Northern India

Attempting to ascertain whether the skewed sex ratio in three northern districts of India has led to a change in sex-selective behaviour and related practices, this study finds that a shortage of brides is associated with willingness to compromise on rules of clan exogamy, and with a reduced demand for dowry. There is also a shift in inheritance patterns and increased societal acceptance of husbands living with their wives' parents in uxorilocal residence. In addition, more women are likely to be aware of their legal entitlement to a share of their parents' property, and to give less importance to the cultural construct of a son preference. It has to be seen whether all this will bring about a long-term change in patriarchal social structures.

The research presented in this paper is part of a study fi nanced by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The paper has benefi ted from important contributions from Aswini Kumar Nanda, Rajesh Kumar Aggarwal, Sunil Bansal, and Madan Mohan Singh at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, Chandigarh. We thank the persons who assisted us during fieldwork, and are grateful to Doug Wolfe, Saraswati Raju, and Surjit Bhalla for valuable comments.

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