India finds itself among countries with skewed sex ratios in favour of boys. Some 7,000 fewer girls are born in India daily, mainly due to female foeticide, a UNICEF State of the World's Children report says.
Compared to 1991 when only two districts - Salem (Tamil Nadu) and Bhind (Madhya Pradesh) - had adverse female sex ratio, as many as 51 districts in India now have more male babies born compared to female child, UNICEF says in the report released in New Delhi on Tuesday.
As against the global sex ratio of 954 girls to 1,000 boys, there are only 882 girls per 1,000 boys in India.
"In 80 per cent of districts in India, the situation is getting worse," says the report, which marks the 60th anniversary of the UN body.
In 14 districts of Haryana and Punjab there are fewer than 800 girls per 1,000 boys.
Surprisingly, these are some of the most affluent areas in India, with a higher access to advanced pre-natal diagnostic techniques, leading to the widespread termination of female foetus, according to the report.
UNICEF notes that while the pre-natal diagnostic testing legislation has been passed in India in 1994, the enforcement is lagging with only one conviction to date.
A doctor in Haryana was in 2006 sentenced to two years in jail and fined Rs 5,000 for foetal sex determination tests under the Pre-natal Diagnostic (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act 1994.
The discrimination does not end with the selective abortion of female foetus. In most cases it carries on past the birth: the child mortality data indicates that a larger number of female children do not cross five years of age.
India and China are among the countries where boys far outnumber girls at five years of age, the report points out.
The report highlights that despite the progress made due to government-run programmes in India, the girl child continues to lack adequate nutrition, healthcare, education and maternal care.
UNICEF has warned that "the alarming decline in the child sex ratio is likely to result in more girls being married at a younger age, more girls dropping out of education, increased mortality as a result of early child bearing and an associated increase in acts of violence against girls and women such as rape, abduction, trafficking and forced polyandry."
It says that around 45 per cent of Indian women were still being married off before the legal age of 18.
In states like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the average age a woman gives birth for the first time is before she reaches 19.
In 2000, India alone accounted for one-fourth of maternal deaths worldwide. Today one woman dies every seven minutes from pregnancy related causes, which is an improvement over the status five years back.