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Friday, July 10, 2020

‘Urgent need to stop child marriage, gender-biased sex selection; Covid threatens to reverse gains’

UNFPA State of the World Population Report.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published: June 30, 2020 10:37:25 am
‘Urgent need to stop child marriage, gender-biased sex selection; Covid threatens to reverse gains’ Nine states have sex ratio at birth below 900 — Haryana, Uttarakand, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Bihar.

The United Nations Population Fund’s State of the World Population Report 2020 has estimated that 142 million girls are missing globally and 46 million girls are missing in India due to gender-biased sex selection.

This year’s report is titled, ‘Against my will : defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality’.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates show that gender-biased (pre-natal) sex selection accounts for about 2 out of 3 of the total missing girls in India, and post-birth female mortality accounts for about 1 in 3.

China (50%) and India (40%) together account for about 90 per cent of the estimated 1.2 million missing female births annually worldwide due to gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection, UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem told mediapersons via a virtual conference ahead of the launch of the report on Tuesday.

According to estimates of missing female births due to pre-natal gender biased sex selection, averaged over a five- year period (2013-17), annually, there were 1.2 million missing female births at a global level. India had about 460,000 girls ‘missing’ at birth each year.

India’s Sample Registration System Statistical Report 2018 has registered the sex ratio at birth is 899 for every 1000 boys born during the period 2016-18. Nine states have sex ratio at birth below 900 — Haryana, Uttarakand, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Bihar.

The report focuses on child marriage, son preference and gender biased sex selection, and female genital mutilation, Dr Kanem said.

“Son preference and gender-biased sex selection have resulted in over 142 million girls missing globally and 46 million girls missing in India. This reality is grim and unacceptable and needs to change immediately. Change can only come about by transforming unequal power relations, structures and norms to ensure value for women and girls. We need to move towards a world based on principles of equality, autonomy, and choice,” Argentina Matavel, UNFPA India Representative said.

The report says that while progress has been made in ending some harmful practices worldwide, the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to reverse gains.

A recent analysis revealed that if services and programmes remain shuttered for six months, an additional 13 million girls may be forced into marriage and 2 million more girls may be subjected to female genital mutilation between now and 2030.

“The pandemic both makes our job harder and more urgent as so many more girls are now at risk,” Dr Kanem says. “We will not stop until the rights, choices and bodies of all girls are fully their own.

 

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