The number of girls born in the Parsi community in Mumbai dipped from 104 in 2010 to 87 in 2011, according to data released by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The average annual births within the Parsi community over the last five years was 113 boys and 101 girls. “The figures reflect a strong preference for the male child among Parsis, akin to the rest of society,” said Jehangir Patel, editor, Parsiana, a monthly community magazine that published the birth data. Patel pointed out that the skewed birth figures suggested that 10% of males born in the last six years will either have to marry outside the community or remain single.
However, demographers said a single year’s birth figures cannot establish a trend. “The birth numbers of one year are insignificant to suggest a trend since the community is a small sample and a few births in a year can make a big difference,” said Zubin Shroff, doctoral candidate, Harvard University, who published a research article last year on inter-caste marriages in the city’s Parsi community.
Doctors ruled out sex selective abortions as a reason for the decline. “The Parsi community does not resort to sex selective abortion,” said Dr Anahita Pandole, a gynaecologist who runs Bombay Parsi Panchayet’s (BPP) infertility programme at Jaslok Hospital, Peddar Road. “Many families want only one child irrespective of gender, which could be the reason behind the decline,” she added.
“Sex selective abortion has never been a cause of concern in the community, given that the social structure is favourable for women,” said Shroff. “Late marriages and low fertility could be a reason, but the data is insufficient to depict a trend,” he added.
“We are a declining community, but the number of births has usually been stable,” said Dinshaw Mehta, chairman, BPP.