In Brief

India’s 63 million ‘missing’ women

Gender inequality and preference for boys has led to millions of ‘unwanted’ girls

More than 20 million girls in India are effectively “unwanted”, with more than 60 million statistically “missing”, a new report into gender inequality by the Indian government has claimed.

The preference for boys and the availability of sex-selective operations, although technically illegal, has resulted in a gender gap of as many as 63 million girls, classified as “missing” by the comprehensive Economic Survey 2017-18. Couples’ tendency to keep trying until a boy is born has also led to the birth of an estimated 21 million girls, who the report terms “notionally unwanted”.

The Guardian says: “The birth of a son is often a cause for celebration and family pride, while the birth of a daughter can be a time of embarrassment and even mourning as parents look towards the immense debts they will need to take on to pay for marriage dowries.”

Combined with an ingrained preference for boys due to the norms governing inheritance, the tradition of "patrilocality" - women joining their husbands’ households - and rituals which need to be performed by male children, the result is that “India has one of the most skewed sex ratios in the world”, says CNN.

India regularly ranks among the worst countries on earth in terms of economic participation and opportunity for females, women’s health and education for girls.

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