India's Preference for Sons Has Resulted in 21 Million 'Unwanted Girls'

01 February, 2018, 00:46 | Author: Bridget Leonard
  • Indian society should reflect upon its preference for sons report authors said. COURTESY

The survey, presented with a pink cover, included a chapter on women's issues for the first time - with the slogan #MeToo in recognition of the global campaign against sexual harassment.

A sex ratio of 943 females per 1,000 males has led to the identification of some 63 million "missing" women, it said.

Illegal abortions of female foetuses, neglect of young girls within their families, poor nutrition and shoddy education have left a shortfall in India's population of 1.3 billion, according to the government's annual economic survey.

"The challenge of gender is long-standing, probably going back millennia, so all stakeholders are collectively responsible for its resolution", the report's authors write.

The sex ratio of last birth (females per 100 births) has merely changed from 39.5% to 39% between 2005-06 and 2015-16.

"Families that have sons are more likely to stop having children than families where a girl is born".

While families openly celebrate the birth of a son, the birth of a daughter is not always greeted in the same manner.


And in many parts of India legislation states property must pass to sons, not daughters.

The huge number of "unwanted girls" is a direct result of the "son meta preference" where parents continue to have children until they have the desired number of sons. This number around 1990 (report by Nobel winning economist Amartya Sen) was almost 40 million in India of the nearly 100 million women who were missing in the world. The region which includes ethnic communities closer to China and Myanmar represented a "model for the rest of the country".

While India is set to regain its position as the world's fastest growing major economy, development "has not proved to be an antidote" for its skewed sex ratio, lack of women in the workplace and low contraceptive use, the survey said.

Broadly under these three parameters, roughly 17 indicators have been charted to gauge how deep-seated the problem of inequality is in India.

The historic preference of Indian society for male Children has led to a powerful demographic imbalance. According to study, some affluent areas of capital, new Delhi, trend, far from being reversed, has worsened.

While active sex selection via foetal abortions is widely prevalent in India, son preference can also manifest itself in a subtler form.

On the supply side, increased incomes of men allows Indian women to withdraw from the labour force, thereby avoiding the stigma of working; higher education levels of women also allow them to pursue leisure and other non-work activities all of which reduce female labour force participation, it said.

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