The United Nations Population Fund’s State of the World Population Report 2020 has estimated that 46 million girls are missing in India due to gender-biased sex selection, which forms a huge chunk of the 142 million girls missing globally.
The report titled, ‘Against my will : defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality’, says that the number of missing women has more than doubled over the last 50 years.
As the pandemic surges, this number could see a surge as women are unable to access family planning and reproductive healthcare, and witness gender-based violence and a sharp rise in child marriage.
It shows that show that gender-biased (pre-natal) sex selection accounts for about 2 out of 3 of the total missing girls in India, and post-birth female mortality accounts for about 1 in 3.
“The bias against the girl child is further perpetuated by fears and financial insecurities pertaining to dowry as well as lack of safety and vulnerability to sexual violence. This further leads to girls being relegated to the status of being 'unwanted’ that causes neglect and apathy towards their education, health and well-being,”said Executive Director of PFI, Poonam Muttreja, reacting to the report.
Two countries – China (50%) and India (40%) – together account for about 90 percent of the estimated 1.2 million missing female births annually worldwide due to gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection.
COVID-19 & Child Marriage
The report also adds that an estimated 13 million additional child marriages are expected during 2020-2030, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic
While globally, one in five girls are married before the age of 18, in India, one in four girls are married before they turn adults.
The report also points out that one extra year at school among girls in India will increase age at marriage by 0.36 years.