Monday, 29 October 2007

The case of "missing" women

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 29: Reproductive health experts from more than 40 countries are exploring a strategy to bring down the number of India's "missing daughters".
According to an estimate, there are 50 million "missing women" in India, almost half of the total number of "missing women" all over the world. Missing women are those who are literally not alive due to family neglect, discrimination, foeticide and dowry deaths.
As against the world's average of 990 women for every 1,000 men, India has a sex ratio of 933 women for every 1000 men. This in other words means, for every 1000 male babies born there are 67 "missing girls". And this number goes up if the female infanticide, female foeticide, maternal deaths and dowry deaths are also included. In some regions of India, the sex ratio is even more greatly distorted. In part of the states of Bihar and Rajasthan, the female-male ratio is 600 to 1,000.
Experts attending the fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights here on Monday expressed serious concern over the ever increasing number of "missing women".
"One of the most alarming changes in Asia’s population dynamics in recent decades has been a dramatic increase in the proportion of males within its local populations. Unfortunately, these changes were not identified immediately, due to lack of data. A new phenomenon was underway: sex ratio at birth was – and is – tilting towards boys, in a way that had never before been recorded. Indeed, if the continent’s overall sex ratio was the same as elsewhere in the world, in 2005 Asia’s population would have included almost 163 million more women and girls," says a report, by United Nations Population Fund, presented at the conference.
Experts warn that with income and education not being protective, more girls are likely to go missing with continued modernisation and upward economic growth. With the family sizes falling, Asians have increasingly used ultrasound or amniocentesis to determine the sex of foetuses and aborted unwanted females. The resulting skewed sex ratios at birth have been noticeable in India, with the number of boys per 100 girls going up to 120 in some States.
"In many cases, girls are missing because they are murdered at birth, or never allowed to be born. Between three million and five million female foetuses are aborted in India each year. The country records 10,000 cases of female infanticide every year. More over the risk of dying between ages one and five is 43 per cent higher for girls than for boys," the experts point out.

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