An estimated 6.8 million fewer female births will be recorded across India by 2030 due to sex-selective abortions, according to a study that projects the highest deficits in the birth of girls will occur in Uttar Pradesh.
Researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, and Universite de Paris, France, noted that there has been a reported imbalance in India in the sex ratio at birth (SRB) since the 1970s due to the emergence of prenatal sex selection and the cultural preference for male babies.
Unlike other countries affected by such imbalances, India is unique in its regional diversity of sex ratio imbalance, they said.
Previous projections of sex ratio at birth in India have been constructed at the national level or were based primarily on expert opinion rather than reproducible modelling.
In the latest study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers projected the SRB in the largest 29 Indian States and Union Territories (UTs), which covered 98.4 per cent of the total population of India as of the year 2011.
Among the 21 Indian States or UTs with high quality birth data, 17 showed a positive effective of son preference on the SRB, with the highest SRBs concentrated in the most northwestern States or UTs, the researchers said.
The team found that, in particular, the effect of son preference is statistically significant in nine States or UTs. “We project that the highest deficits in female births will occur in Uttar Pradesh, with a cumulative number of missing female births of 2 million from 2017 to 2030,” the researchers said.
“For the whole of India, summing up the 29 state-level projections, the cumulative number of missing female births during 2017 to 2030 is projected to be 6.8,” they wrote in the study.
The average annual number of missing female births between 2017 and 2025 is projected to be 469,000 per year and is projected to increase to 519,000 per year for the time period 2026 to 2030, according to the researchers.
The projects represent an essential input for population projection models in India, especially at the sub-national level, they added. In India, sex-selective abortions and prenatal sex discernment tests were banned in 1994 under the Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act.