As world celebrates Int’l Women’s Day, female feticide remains a cause of concern in India

As world celebrates Int’l Women’s Day, female feticide remains a cause of concern in India (Photo for representation) /IANS

Quaid Najmi

Mumbai, March 8 (IANS) Despite stringent measures by the health authorities, over 6.30 crore (63 million) girls are “missing” from the Indian population since Census 2011 owing to female feticide and infanticides, sparking concerns on the occasion of the International Women’s Day being celebrated on Friday.

The startling figures were revealed in the Economic Survey of India (2017-2018) tabled in the Parliament – the last such document — after which there is no official data available, according to experts.

Pune-based activist-medico, Dr. Ganesh Rakh who launched the trendsetter ‘Save Girl Child’ campaign in 2012 which has now spread to other countries globally, said an analysis of the birth rates and gender of the last-born child has estimated that more than 2.10 crore (21 million).

“It’s a serious predicament. The obsession for sons among Indian couples and families is not only preventing girls from being born but also resulting in higher mortality of the females who are born, a double-loss to the country,” said Dr. Rakh.

After the Economic Survey, the Lancet Global Health-2018 report came out with even more glaring details.

It said that nearly 2,39,000 girls aged under five die each year in India because of their gender, partly owing to unwanted child-bearing and partly due to sheer neglect of the female child.

Strict laws notwithstanding, selective abortion of female fetuses continues, resulting in fewer girls being born in the country.

The scourge of female feticide, coupled with the premature death of very minor girls (up to 5 years of age) due to neglect or abandonment, have led to an estimated 6.30 crore girls ‘missing’ from the country’s population, he added.

While most research studies have highlighted gender bias in India with a focus on pre-natal mortality, a recent study by the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA) has drawn attention to the high female mortality at the under-five years of age at the district level.

‘Excess mortality’ is defined as the difference between the observed and expected mortality rates in both genders, with the female mortality rate found to be higher than the male mortality rate, said Dr. Rakh.

“Unfortunately, barring the Economic Survey and the Lancet study, which are now nearly eight years old, there is no authentic contemporary data available on these serious social issues with severe future implications,” Dr. Rakh pointed out.

This is because Census 2021 was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and there is no certainty on when the next Census will be conducted, he said, while adding that conclusions of certain other national-level surveys have been questioned.

However, in recent times, experts have observed that gradually, gender discrimination for girls after birth is reducing due to many social awareness programmes, plus the literacy rate in primary and secondary education is increasing.

Yet, girls are facing more instances of domestic violence owing to a perceived social imbalance as a result of a skewed sex ratio of girls for many decades. Besides, the marriage expenses have shot up drastically, not only among the affluent or billionaires but also farmers and lower middle-class families, and in most cases, the load is borne by the girl’s side.

“In our crusades all over India, we have come across ordinary families or even landless farmers or labourers who blew off Rs 15-20 lakh on the wedding expenditure for their daughters. They take loans, and then struggle for the rest of their life to repay but the groom’s side has no such liabilities,” Dr. Rakh added.

He feels that the short-term solution to the problem is increased awareness levels and campaigns among the people to ‘Save Girl Child’, and empower the girls at every stage in their lives, education and jobs, along with reservations, if necessary, and other similar national policy initiatives, to strengthen the country’s social-political-economic fabric.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at:

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