In a report published by the United Nations, it is estimated that India has registered 45.8 million “missing females” over the past 50 years, accounting a total of 32.11% of the world’s total missing females.
The report ‘State of World Population 2020’ released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said that the number of world’s “missing females” has doubled since 1970 with an increase of 56.8%, accounting to the world total of 142.6 million. According to the report, “missing females” are those whose numbers are reflected in sex ratio imbalances at birth as a result of gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection, combined with excess female mortality stemming from postnatal sex selection.
Although sex selection at birth is prohibited by law in India, the report said that from the year 2013 to 2017, 4.6 lakh girls were “missing at birth” as a result of sex selection and son preference.
“From a human rights perspective, gender-biased sex selection is a harmful practice because it translates a preference for boys over girls into deliberate prevention of female births. Unambiguously linked to discriminatory norms and behaviours, it is a malignant outcome of gender inequality,” the report stated.
The report also states that India has the highest rate of excess female deaths, 13.5 per 1,000 female births, which suggests that an estimated one in nine deaths of females below the age of 5 may be attributed to postnatal sex selection. This analysis comes after Alkema and others used an array of sources to develop estimates of “excess female mortality”, even for countries that lacked regular censuses and reliable birth registration figures.
Moreover, the report stated that India accounts for 5.9 lakh “missing female birth” annually from the world’s total of 15 lakh. It is also mentioned that India and China together account for a total of 13.2 lakh missing female birth, which is female birth prevented by gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection.
“Child marriage is a fundamental violation of human rights that robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects.”
In India, one-third of women who had married before the age of 18 had experienced physical violence at the hands of their husbands. Whereas, 17% of women married after 18 experience the same violence. The report has cited a large-scale survey of more than 8,000 women conducted across Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Rajasthan where child marriage is prevalent.
“Child marriages are almost universally banned, yet they happen 33,000 times a day, every day, all around the world. An estimated 650 million girls and women alive today were married as children, and by 2030, another 150 million girls under the age of 18 will be married.”
Child marriage arises out of various issues such as poverty, limited access to education and work, said the report. According to the study, child marriage is best seen as the option for girls, or as a means to reduce the economic and social burden on the family.
Girls with only primary education are twice as likely to be married than those with secondary or higher education. Girls with no education are three times more likely to be married before 18 than those with secondary or higher education, said the report. “In India, 51% of young women with no education and 47% of those with only primary education had married by the age of 18.” However, given various kind of pilot projects to prevent child marriage and awareness programmes, the number of child marriage in India is likely to drop by the end of 2030, the report concludes.