By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 29: The steady tilting of sex ratio towards boys in India will lead to a severe catastrophic effect on the reproductive health of the nation including acute shortage of potential brides.
The United Nations Population Fund, which presented its study on the projected demographic position in India for 2050, at fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights here on Monday, pointed out that the ramifications of such an imbalance would not only continue for decades, but would affect an enormous proportion of the Indian population.
"While men of marriageable age will suddenly find a dramatic shortage of potential brides, it is girls and women of all ages who will truly feel the brunt," it said forecasting increases in gender-based violence, trafficking, discrimination and general vulnerability of women and girls.
The study attributed the shortfall in women to a "deeply rooted preference for sons, which leads parents across cultures and geographic locations to decide against allowing a girl to live, even before her birth, and the increasing availability of technology that enables them to do so with ease".
According to the study, the proportion of boys in India’s child population has been on the rise for the past twenty years, in a way that parallels the experience of other Asian countries, such as China or South Korea. For the most part, this development has been caused by the increasing practice of sex selection, which has led to unusually high values of the sex ratio at birth.
"India’s system of gender discrimination has moved from a regime characterised by high fertility, female infanticide and excess child mortality among girls, to a modern regime based on prenatal sex selection. At the same time, the significant variations in sex ratio at birth point to the interplay of social, cultural and economic factors in gender preferences," it said.
Presenting the study, UNFPA deputy executive director Purnima Mane said it was crucial to examine the underlying factors behind the recent reduction in the proportion of female children, distinguishing between the supply-and demand-side factors.
She said sex selection was most prevalent in urban areas amongst higher economic quintiles, and even for these groups the practice continued to be fuelled by a patriarchal structure that believed in, values and promoted son preference.
The report warned that while sex selection is particularly prevalent in Northwest India, the ideologies and social structures that give rise to this practice could easily spread to other areas, as is already taking place.
It suggested a fight against gender discrimination, investment in addressing socio-economic constraints that limit the ability of girls to lead a life of equal opportunity; publicity on future hardships for families and communities based on imbalance sex ratio; making eliminating sex selection an immediate priority for government and civil society.
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