The following report investigates the major problems that account for the great 'girl deficit' in India, a situation which has noticeably developed over the last 20 years. UNICEF, the leading advocate for children's rights which is active in 155 countries and territories around the world has looked into the situation discovering that more than 10 million female births have been lost to abortion and sex selection over the last 20 years approximating to a loss of 500,000 girls a year.
In this report I intend to underline the current situation and the key factors that account for India's 'girl deficit', where it is most common and why and what can be done to provide stability in the figures and prevent further decline. Through statistical analysis the situation is clearly shown to be on the increase which stimulates a cause for concern for the future of India's female population if the reasons behind the girl deficit are not addressed immediately. As the second most populous country in the world, India's sex ratio takes a staggering setback relative to this as India itself has the lowest figures of sex ratios in the world.
Both figures help to illustrate the extent of the problem of girl deficit in India. Figure 1 is a map showing the estimated sex ratios for 1999 in the world whereas figure 2 concentrates on the regions in India. Both maps are essential in comparing figures in India in relation to the rest of the world. In figure 1, although India does not categorise under the lowest band in terms of the number of females to every 1000 men, it is still relatively low compared with the proportion of the world with a higher number of females to every 100 men.
Figure 2 shows the ratio of females per 1000 males in the population of India in 1991. it clearly illustrates that there is a substantial decrease in life expectancy for girls as we move from the south to the north. The imbalance in the sex ratio of India is widely due to female foeticides and it is because of the intrusions of cultural habits and medical technologies that it has become impossible to measure the 'natural' balances of the human population. i. e. the comparison of female life expectancies and male life expectancies.
Studies have found that medical technologies such as ultrasound scans now enable parents to practice prenatal selection and selective abortion, a practice that remains common in India and as a consequence, claims up to half a million female lives every year. The use of ultrasound equipment was introduced to India in 1979 and has estimated to have become a $100million business in India primarily through mobile sex selection clinics that can drive into any village or neighbourhood and therefore promote female foeticides.
However in India, there are deviations in cultural traditions with regional variations. In some regions the geography of inequality comes into perspective as there is some evidence that girls receive less food and less care than boys. They are admitted to hospital later than boys and receive fewer medical consultations. It is not specified where exactly in India that this is common. However life expectancy at birth for girls falls dramatically from south to north India. For example the state of Uttar Pradesh in the north has a life expectancy figure which is 20 years lower than Kerala in the south.
The main cultural issue that contributes to the problem of a girl deficit in India is the perception of a daughter as a loss for her parents economically as well as emotionally. The practice of giving a dowry to the grooms' family once the daughter comes of a marital age puts a tremendous financial burden on the parents. As this is perceived as a threat, more and more parents resort to selective abortion. Another problem concerning the dowry payment is the caste in which the daughter has been married into.
Higher castes expect higher payments of dowry and in some regions, such as Bangalore, there have been reports of women being burnt alive by their husbands who expected a higher dowry. Consequently, the cultural practice now stimulates issues of discrimination. Though the Indian government has outlawed the practice of dowry payments, it is still a common and popular practice in India. > Undervaluing of women/status The undervaluing of a child is not just an issue related to women but also to young girls as mentioned before, where girls receive less medical care and food than boys in some regions of India.
Generally, it can be said that the undervaluing of females in India is the root of the entire matter i. e. matters such as a right to an education and a right to employment and autonomy should be taken into consideration. As the status of women is supposedly very low in India, even the number of well educated women that still opt for selective abortion should cause no surprise. They may be victims of discrimination themselves and may not have a say in such an issue, because of low status.