63m women, girls miss­ing due to In­dia’s pref­er­ence for boys


NEW DELHI: A deeply felt pref­er­ence for boys has left more than 63 mil­lion women statistically “miss­ing” across In­dia, and more than 21 mil­lion girls un­wanted by their fam­i­lies, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials say.

The skewed ra­tio of men to women is largely the re­sult of sexs­e­lec­tive abor­tions, bet­ter nu­tri­tion and med­i­cal care for boys, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment’s an­nual eco­nomic sur­vey, which was re­leased on Mon­day. In ad­di­tion, the sur­vey found that “fam­i­lies where a son is born are more likely to stop hav­ing chil­dren than fam­i­lies where a girl is born.”

Sex-se­lec­tive abor­tions are il­le­gal in In­dia — and doc­tors are for­bid­den from even re­veal­ing the gen­der of a fe­tus — but it is easy to find ra­di­ol­o­gists will­ing to break the rules. The com­bi­na­tion of long-held cul­tural be­liefs and fi­nan­cial re­al­i­ties mean that mil­lions of In­dian fam­i­lies dread hav­ing daugh­ters.

The birth of a son is of­ten a cause for cel­e­bra­tion and fam­ily pride, while the birth of a daugh­ter can be a time of em­bar­rass­ment and even mourn­ing as par­ents look to­ward the im­mense debts they will need to take on to pay for mar­riage dowries. Stud­ies have long shown that In­dian girls are less ed­u­cated than boys, have poorer nu­tri­tion and get less med­i­cal at­ten­tion. Many women — in­clud­ing ed­u­cated, wealthy women — say they face in­tense pres­sure, most of­ten from moth­ers-in-law, to have sons.

By an­a­lyz­ing birth rates and the gen­der of last-born chil­dren, the re­port also es­ti­mated that more than 21 mil­lion In­dian girls are not wanted by their fam­i­lies.

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