46 million girls lost to gender bias: Report
In India, around 460,000 girls went missing -- which means they were not born due to sex-selection biases -- each year between 2013 and 2017, said the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report.Updated: Jun 30, 2020 19:58 IST
Preference for sons and gender-biased sex selection have led to over 142 million girls missing globally and 46 million girls missing in India, according to a UN flagship report that focuses on gender bias and violence against girls and women, released on Tuesday.
In India, around 460,000 girls went missing -- which means they were not born due to sex-selection biases -- each year between 2013 and 2017, said the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, The State of the World Population 2020.
China (50%) and India (40%) together account for around 90% of the estimated 1.2 million girls lost annually to female foeticide.
The report said the economic disruptions and income loss because of the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to increase violence against girls and women. “Covid-19 will exacerbate the unwantedness of daughters and gender discrimination and will have an impact on all harmful practices as families lose income. It is imperative that we take care not to reverse gains of last few decades,” said Argentina Matavel, UNFPA India Representative.
The sex ratio at birth in India is 899 girls for every 1,000 boys born during the period 2016 – 18, according to the Sample Registration System Statistical Report 2018, released on Friday. Nine states in the country have sex ratio at birth below 900 [Haryana, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Bihar].
Globally, one in five girls is married by age 18 and millions of others are subjected to practices that harm them physically, mentally and emotionally, with the knowledge and consent of their families, said the report, titled ‘Against my will: defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality’.
The three-most prevalent harmful practices are child marriage, son preference and gender-biased sex selection, and female genital mutilation, according to the report, which lists at least 19 harmful human rights violations against women, ranging from dowry related violence to “honour”. “In India, child marriage is directly linked to poverty, poor education and geographic location, rural versus urban. On the other hand, gender-based sex selection as emerged as a problem among affluent families has today spread across the board,” said Matavel.
Investments of $3.4 billion a year through 2030 would help end the suffering of an estimated 84 million girls, the report said.
Ending child marriage is possible within the next decade by scaling up efforts to keep girls in school longer and to engage men and boys in social change.
The Covid-19 pandemic, however, threatens to reverse progress made in ending these practices.
In India, Covid-19 has reduced access to contraception and abortion services, which is likely to lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions. “The first four months of Covid-19, we estimate that access to 1.85 million abortions was compromised. This is around 47% of the estimated 3.9 million abortions...,” said Vinoj Manning, chief executive officer, Ipas Development Foundation, a non-profit that promotes safe abortion services in India.