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50 Million Missing: The Story of Indian Women

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By Alam Bains:

50 million women missing in India? How could that be possible? Where did these women go? Its a fact that is hard to swallow, isn’t it? Well, the word missing here stands for “ELIMINATED”. The term “missing” was first used by Nobel Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen in the year 1986 to draw attention to the vast divergence in India’s gender ratio whereby, according to the census data, India was missing about 37 million women, who should have been in the population but could not be accounted for. In the year 2005, the International Herald Tribune reported that 50 million women were “missing” from India’s population. According to the United Nations, this figure has reached 62 million in the year 2008.

So now the question is, how could 50 million women be eliminated? The methods are female foeticide, female infanticide, dowry related murders, starvation of girls under the age of 5, maternal mortality, honour killings and witch hunts. It still sounds like 50 million is an exaggeration. Right? There is huge skepticism surrounding the veracity of this claim, after all 50 million is almost the populations of Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and Portugal put together. So lets take a look at some statistics to support the claim.

An estimated 1 million female foetuses are selectively eliminated in India each year and the number is expected to reach 2.5 million in the next few years. Although, sex-selective abortion is illegal, it is a multi-million dollar industry. There is no national average for female infanticide because it is difficult to track, but studies show that thousands of girls are drowned, strangled, poisoned or buried alive and it costs less than $2 to pay a mid-wife to kill the girl child. Every 20 minutes, one young woman is murdered for dowry and most of these cases go uninvestigated or are written off as accidents or suicides.

According to CRY, one in every six girls dies before the age of 15 years and as per the findings of UNICEF, the mortality rate for girls is 40% higher than that of boys under the age of 5 years. This is because of starvation and deliberate medical neglect. In the year 2007, India accounted for the highest maternal mortality rate in the world with 1 woman dying every 5 minutes due to pregnancy related causes. This is because women are forced to undergo repeated abortions to get rid of the girl child or conceive in quick succession in order to have a male child.

India has laws to tackle almost all these issues yet the scenario seems to be getting worse and worse. Why? Its because of our attitude towards these issues. We look at them as something that happens and we could not do anything about it.

50 Million Missing is a campaign to stop India’s female genocide which was founded by writer and gender activist Rita Banerji. It works steadfastly on boosting public awareness on issues concerning India’s female genocide and spearheading action for change. Please sign the petition started by 50 million women in order to add to the global momentum demanding government action in order to do your bit in making India a better palce for women to live at and read about the campaign at

I would like to conclude with a few words by Rita Banerji, “The change begins with us. Each one of us. It begins with how we respond to this issue. The first thing we need to do is to abnormalise what our history has normalised for us. We must refuse to allow this normalcy. So the next time you hear a case of female infanticide or foeticide or a dowry murder- please speak up. Speak loud. Rant, rave, protest, resist but do not say – ‘this happens’ and look away.”


You must be to comment.
  1. Rita Banerji

    Thank you Alam! Thank you for being so pro-active. The change does begin with each of us. When people hear members among friends, family and relatives discussing dowry, money or things given in weddings, the gender of a baby, please comment right then and there. Even if they don’t listen. It is important to have the voice of dissent out loud. If each of us puts out the spark in our own homes, only then can we put out the fire that is consuming our nation. So speak up please!

  2. Alam Bains

    All thanks to you Ma’am for initiating the campaign and trying to raise awareness about such an important issue, which is so crucial to the development of our country.

  3. Sumit

    Thanks Alam Bains and Rita Banerji for an informative piece and describing a precarious situation .We as a society are ignorant towards these larger issues while forgetting these all can have an irreversible impact on our society if not addressed now. Apart from expecting strong laws from administrators for punishing the culprits, we all have to play an important role to prevent these social evils as we are the primitives of these evils . So rightly said, be aware, make people aware,be courageous to report these issues when you observe in your vicinity.

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