45.8 million ‘missing females’ are from India, says UN report

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In a shocking development, a report from United Nations said on Tuesday, 45.8 million of the world’s 142.6 million “missing females” are from India.

The State of World Population 2020 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the world organisation’s sexual and reproductive health agency, said that the number of “missing women” has doubled over the last 50 years from 61 million in 1970 to a cumulative 142.6 million in 2020. India accounted for 45.8 million missing females as of 2020 and China accounted for 72.3 million.

The report stated, “Missing females” are women missing from the population at given dates due to the cumulative effect of postnatal and prenatal sex selection in the past. “Between 2013 and 2017, about 460,000 girls in India were ‘missing’ at birth each year. According to one analysis, gender-biased sex selection accounts for about two-thirds of the total missing girls, and post-birth female mortality accounts for about one-third”.

Citing data by experts, it said that China and India together account for about 90-95 per cent of the estimated 1.2 million to 1.5 million missing female births annually worldwide due to gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection.

According to their analysis, India has the highest rate of excess female deaths, 13.5 per 1,000 female births, which suggests that an estimated one in nine deaths of females below the age of 5 may be attributed to postnatal sex selection.

The report notes that governments have also taken action to address the root causes of sex selection. India and Vietnam have included campaigns that target gender stereotypes to change attitudes and open the door to new norms and behaviours.

“They spotlight the importance of daughters and highlight how girls and women have changed society for the better. Campaigns that celebrate women’s progress and achievements may resonate more where daughter-only families can be shown to be prospering,” it said.

The report said that successful education-related interventions include the provision of cash transfers conditional on school attendance; or support to cover the costs of school fees, books, uniforms and supplies, taking note of successful cash-transfer initiatives such as ‘Apni Beti Apna Dhan’ in India.

It said that preference for a male child manifested in sex selection has led to dramatic, long-term shifts in the proportions of women and men in the populations of some countries.

This demographic imbalance will have an inevitable impact on marriage systems. In countries where marriage is nearly universal, many men may need to delay or forego marriage because they will be unable to find a spouse, the report said.

This so-called “marriage squeeze”, where prospective grooms outnumber prospective brides, has already been observed in some countries and affects mostly young men from lower economic strata.”At the same time, the marriage squeeze could result in more child marriages,” the report said citing experts.

Some studies suggest that the marriage squeeze will peak in India in 2055. The proportion of men who are still single at the age of 50 is forecast to rise after 2050 in India to 10 per cent, it said.

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