NEW DELHI: A New UN report highlights how “son preference” and gender-biased sex selection (GBSS) has resulted in an estimated 460,000 girls, ‘missing’ at birth in India each year between 2013-17. Globally it is estimated that the number of girls missing due to GBSS has more than doubled over the past 50 years to touch 142 million in 2020.
The UNFPA’s State of the World Population Report 2020 focuses on the problem of child marriage, son preference and gender biased sex selection (GBSS), and female genital mutilation (FGM).
“According to estimates of missing female births due to pre-natal GBSS, averaged over a five – year period (2013-17), annually, there were 1.2 million missing female births, at a global level due to GBSS. It is highlighted that two countries – China (50%) and India (40%), together account for about 90% of the estimated 1.2 million girls missing at birth,” it is explained in the report. “Together, the forces of son preference, access to technology and trends towards smaller family size have driven GBSS,” the report said.
The report also cautions that the son preference and GBSS will as per some studies lead to a rise in “marriage squeeze” (where prospective grooms outnumber the bride) which is estimated will peak in India by 2055. The proportion of single men at the age of 50 could be as high as 10% by 2050 in India. Pointing that there is already an increase in the number of “involuntary single men” this “marriage squeeze” could result in more child marriages.
Citing many data sources and studies, the global report said the prevalence of (GBSS) has been measured through a country’s data on “sex ratio at birth”. The “natural” or normal, sex ratio at birth in most parts of the world is between 105 and 106 male births for every 100 female births (or between 943 to 952 female births per 1,000 male births as per the measurement in India). Any deviation from this natural sex ratio at birth therefore reflects some degree of gender-biased sex selection. The UN report takes into account various data sources, studies on pre-natal and post – natal sex selection, infant mortality rates and SRS data up to 2017 to arrive at this analysis in case of India.
Meanwhile, The UN report also warns that COVID-19 could potentially disrupt efforts to end some harmful practices such as child marriages, resulting in an additional 13 million child marriages between 2020 and 2030 globally. It is cited that India has seen a significant decline in child marriage over a decade from 47% in 2005-06 to 27% in 2015-16.