By Anindita Sinha
Amidst growing concerns over the persistent deterioration of juvenile sex ratios in India, the possible proliferation of the ‘culture’ of discrimination in societies hitherto known for egalitarian gender relations within the subcontinent, has been a matter of further uneasiness and disquiet among researchers. This issue, for some reasons, has not been investigated fully for a significant chunk of the population of India, occupying eight states in the North-eastern region of the country. The present research is an attempt towards filling in that void by addressing the issue of gender bias among children, in this ethnically and culturally distinct part of India. Using district level data from large-scale sample surveys and the recent censuses of 2001 and 2011 for India, the present study forays into the primary factors shaping gender bias in child survival in North-east India. Analysis of panel data models reveal that factors generally considered associated with higher female autonomy/status, i.e. female education and female work participation, may not be sufficient for obliterating gender bias in child survival and in fact, may work towards increasing it. Results also suggest that economic deprivation could be a significant factor in increasing relative mortality disadvantage of females. However, cultural features of tribes do provide added protection to females against discrimination in child survival. The study points to the urgency of gender sensitive and gender specific policy, which incorporates economic and social vulnerabilities of women in transitional societies such as North-east India.