India has 21 million 'unwanted' girls, government says

India has 21 million'unwanted girls

India has 21 million'unwanted girls

The Economic Survey 2017-18, released on Monday, acknowledges the state does not practise sex-selective abortions, but its indication of "some son preference" should leave a dent on that image. This, the findings stated, has led to skewed sex ratios at birth and beyond, leading to estimates of 63 million "missing" women, in addition to the notional category of "unwanted" girls which is estimated at over 21 million.

Authors called this a "subtler form" of son preference than sex-selective abortions but warned it might lead to fewer resources for girls. "Punjab and Haryana, on the other hand, exhibit extremely high son preference and meta preference - the overall sex ratios are significantly above the biological benchmark, and the sex ratio of the last child is heavily male-skewed, implying parents are unlikely to stop after having a daughter", the survey said.

"We know that the sex ratio in India is highly skewed", the government's chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian said, according the Washington Post. To arrive at this conclusion, the survey looked at an indicator called the sex ratio of the last child (SRLC), using decades of data from the demographic and health survey.

A preference for sons will manifest itself in the SRLC being heavily skewed in favour of boys. This means that at birth, on average, there are 105 males for every 100 females. The two indicators - SRB and SRLC - are close to the ideal benchmark in Meghalaya.

The sex ratio for different states in India worsened even as incomes improved. The panel on the left shows that the sex ratio of the first child in Indian households with more than one child is 1.07, fairly close to the biologically determined natural sex ratio. On the other hand, an SRLC of close to 1.05:1 would imply that parents' decisions to continue having children is uncorrelated with previous birth being a son or a daughter.

Several economic factors such as passing property on to sons, having to pay a dowry for a daughter's wedding and women moving to their husband's house after getting married contribute to the meta-preference, according to the study.

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