This has sparked some questions. Is there any relationship between illiteracy and higher sex ratio. Since other adivasi dominant districts like Balaghat, Mandla and Dindori too have recorded high sex ratios does it mean that adivasi societies are much less patriarchal and so there is an absence of female foeticide. Well with regard to Alirajpur and its Bhil tribals at least it can be safely said that they are highly patriarchal with a distinctly adverse gender division of labour, lack of property rights for women and high levels of gender based violence which are all reflected in a pronounced male preference in giving birth to children. Moreover, the Body Mass Indices and Haemoglobin counts of women are shockingly low while the total fertility rate is comparatively high which are all indirect indicators of patriarchal oppression.
Then how can one explain the higher sex ratio? Normally if there is no intervention like female foeticide the sex ratio will be in favour of women because biologically they are more likely to survive and live longer than men. So it is clear that female foeticide is not taking place in Alirajpur to the extent that it is in other places. The reason for this could be two fold. First pre-natal diagnosis of sex of the foetus has been declared a criminal offence under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques ( Prevention and Regulation) Act 1993 and so getting it done on the sly is quite expensive. Combined with medical termination of pregnancy this can cost Rs 5000 which is beyong the means of the average Bhil couple. Secondly, the Bhil world view traditionally is one in which tinkering with natural processes like those underway in a pregnant woman's womb are looked down upon and socially censured. To the extent that if a girl gets pregnant due to a pre-marital relationship then she goes through with the pregnancy even when her family does not allow her to marry the father of the child and the child is given to the father after it is nursed for further care. Medical termination of pregnancy is very rare.
There is a general belief that adivasi societies are less patriarchal than non-adivasi ones. It is difficult to compare and establish this. However, even if they are less patriarchal the level of patriarchy is still very high. Some people say that since the adivasis have a system of bride price instead of dowry this gives some status to women. However, in Bhil society today the bride price has resulted in the commodification of women rather than any intrinsic value being attached to their existence. Marital disputes invariably result in families or clans fighting over patriarchal honour and material gains rather than over the rights of women.