The percentage of death among girls under 14 is higher compared to boys in central India including Madhya Pradesh, a report has shown, which experts attribute to discrimination in a state where the gender divide is very prominent.
The report ‘Causes of Death in India’ -- for the period 2004-2006 and released this week by the Registrar General of India -- shows that of all deaths reported in the country, about 22.7% occur before the age of 14 years.
The report was compiled under the sample registration system (SRS), a proven tool for analysing large sets of data.
However, the death share for boys in this age group is 20.8% while that for girls is higher at 23%.
After the age of 14, males show higher death percentage compared to females, a trend that gets reversed again after age of 70, the report shows.
As for the central Indian states inclusive of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the percentage share of deaths of children is significantly higher at 38.9%.
The gender divide is also sharper as death percentage of boys is 36.1% compared to 42.3% for girls.
The report, however, did not give statewise data.
The report further shows that the percentage of girls succumbing to various childhood diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoeal diseases and other infections is much higher compared to boys, though the initial deaths due to premature birth and low birth weight is lower amongst girls.
Experts said the data indicates clear discrimination against girl children for nutrition and disease management access, especially because girl children are considered genetically stronger and have better survival rates.
Prominent paediatrician Sheela Bhambal said that though the data is from an earlier duration and scenario has improved significantly as far as overall deaths rates among children is concerned, the male-female divide trend unfortunately continues even now.
"Genetically stronger, we can attribute higher death rates for them to delay of management and treatment of diseases at various levels including at homes," she said.
Right-to-food activist Sachin Jain said discrimination was evident at the level of food security and access to medical care.
“People simply do not treat girls equally in such matters. Also, once adolescent stage is reached, girls become more vulnerable to infections including that related to menstrual issues,” he said.
Principal secretary of women and child development department JN Kansotia said that the trend was well known and said there were social factors at play.
Beyond the numbers
After the age of 14, males show higher death percentage compared to females, a trend that gets reversed again after age of 70
As for the central Indian states inclusive of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the percentage share of deaths of children is significantly higher at 38.9%
Cardiovascular diseases emerged as the biggest overall killer – with almost 20% of all deaths attributed to this cause
Among the populace in age group of 15-29, suicide has emerged as a big cause of death with 15.8% youth dying of own volition
The suicide death percentage in females is higher (19.7%) compared to males (12.8%) and in rural parts of country, more deaths happen due to suicide (16.5%) compared to urban parts (13.4)