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.