Among the 142 million women “missing” globally, over 46 million are in India, a UN health agency said. According to the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA), the “missing females” are women cumulatively missing from the population due to postnatal and prenatal sex selection.
The State of World Population 2020 report of UNFPA said India has the highest rate of excess female deaths (13.5 per 1,000 female births), suggesting that an estimated one in nine deaths of females below five may be attributed to postnatal sex selection.
“China and India together account for about 90 to 95% of the estimated 1.2 million to 1.5 million missing female births annually worldwide due to gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection,” the report said. It added that globally, the number of missing women has more than doubled over the past 50 years.
Between 2013 and 2017, about 460,000 girls in India were “missing” at birth each year. According to one analysis, gender-biased sex selection accounts for about two-thirds of the total missing girls, and post-birth female mortality accounts for about one-third, the report said.
Preference for a male child manifested in sex selection has led to dramatic, long-term shifts in the proportions of women and men in the populations of some countries. This demographic imbalance will have an inevitable impact on marriage systems. In countries where marriage is nearly universal, many men may need to delay or forgo marriage because they will be unable to find a spouse, the report said.
The report said that in India, 51% of young women with no education and 47% of those with only a primary education were married by the age of 18, while only “29% of young women with a secondary education and 4% with post-secondary education were married before 18″.
The report pointed out that successful education-related interventions include the provision of cash transfers conditional on school attendance; or support to cover the costs of school fees, books, uniforms and supplies, taking note of successful cash-transfer initiatives such as Apni Beti Apna Dhan in India.
Globally, this year, an estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation.