by Utkarsh Singh Payal
India and China have emerged as formidable competitors not only in the domains of electronics and automotives but also in an alarming demographic aspect. As per the 2019 UN World Population Division, these two nations, being the most populous in the world, prominently occupy positions on the list of countries with the highest male-skewed sex ratio at birth. (Significantly, in April 2023, India surpassed China as the most populous country for the first time.)
While China stands at 115 males per 100 females, India is close at 110 males. (The 2021 NHFW 5 estimated that India’s sex ratio at birth has improved at 929 females for 1000 males, or approximately 108 males per 100 females).
According to a Pew Reseach Centre study, other countries that have heavily male-biased sex ratio are Eastern European nations like Azerbaijan (115), Armenia (114), Albania (111).
According to a 2020 UN Report, the span of 50 years from 1970 to 2020 witnessed an alarming statistic: a staggering 14.2 Crore girls were reported as "missing" worldwide, primarily due to sex-selective abortions and neglect. To put this into perspective, this number is equivalent to the entire population of Russia in 2021. India accounted for an estimated 32% (or one in three) of these "missing" girls, while China was responsible for approximately half of this grim statistic.
India, in particular, seems to be the epicenter of gender disparity. UNICEF reports that even though one-fifth of all babies are born in India, about 25 million a year, it is the only large country in the world where more baby girls die than baby boys, widening the gender gap further. This leaves room for speculation about girl child neglect and female infanticide.
In the countries that reported the most skewed sex ratio at birth, certain common factors were also observed, including: a widespread desire for sons and/or aversion to daughters; parents seeking to have smaller families; and the availability of prenatal sex detection (typically, ultrasound technology) and abortion services. Poor economic conditions and the expectation of support in old age, which socially are the mainstay of sons, lead many parents in these countries to prefer sons and reject, abort or neglect daughters.
Besides facing many health risks related to abortion, in many cases, the mother is harassed, shamed, assaulted (or faces a worse fate) at the hands of the family for having given birth to daughters. The UNFPA Report quoted earlier tells the story of such a mother, who was persecuted by her family for having identical triplets – all girls.
Not just the family, in this particular case, the mother also recounts the indifference to the sanctity of life displayed by her doctor – someone who would have taken the Hippocratic Oath:
“I was pregnant and during one of the ultrasounds, the doctor told me I was having not one, but three children… three daughters. Now it is banned but, in those days, they would tell you the sex of the child. The doctor offered to conduct an abortion, because she said it would be difficult for me to raise three daughters. She even explained that the procedure would be a straightforward one, similar to a delivery. For a few moments, I was scared, but God gave me strength to refuse, and I said no.”
The mother and her three daughters survived this social and medical ordeal. At the time when this report was published, the girls were healthy 23-year-olds, living with their 58-year-old mother.
But 14.2 crore girls didn’t have the opportunity that, fortunately, these three girls did. They vanished without a trace – became an unfortunate number in a sea of countless faces, their potential quashed, and the difference they could have made to the world voided. Over fourteen crore souls in just the past 50 years!
We must ensure that even as technology progresses, mindsets progress faster. We need to ensure more and more people understand the long-term ramifications of sex-selective abortion, and the adversities society could face economically, socially, culturally and anthropologically, if fewer and fewer girls are allowed to live.
We must understand, and in turn, make others understand that every human being, including each and every girl child, must be given her entitlement to L.I.F.E (Love. Inheritance. Freedom. Equality) so that life could prosper in the country, as it should. #NoMoreVanishing #GiveHerLife
LEGAL AID AND PREGNANCY HELPLINE
ADF India provides free legal assistance through our panel of allied lawyers to women whose unborn girl children face in any way a hindrance to L.I.F.E (Love, Inheritance, Freedom, Equality). To know more, please visit www.adfindia.org/legal-aid.
You may also call the pregnancy helpline at 0444 631 4300 or visit www.pregnancyhelpline.in
An English Literature graduate from the University of Delhi, Utkarsh brings with him over 13 years of experience in creative direction and digital advertising. Besides working with brands such as Apple, Adidas, Nestle and Honda in advertising, Utkarsh has also been on the radiowaves as an RJ for AIR FM Rainbow. He now intends to offer his core competency of communication towards the cause of advocating for human rights, especially sanctity of life.