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The Confirmation: Female foeticide in India crossed 1 cr in 20 yrs

The first-ever systematic scientific study on female foeticide by an Indo-Canadian team in India presents a shocking picture. Every year, ab...

The first-ever systematic scientific study on female foeticide by an Indo-Canadian team in India presents a shocking picture. Every year, about 500,000 unborn girls—one in 25—are aborted.

The figure adds up to 1 crore over the past two decades — almost equal to the population of Delhi. The researchers attribute this to the rampant misuse of ultrasound technology—the pre-natal sex determination test—which was banned by the Centre in 1994.

The study, carried out by Prabhat Jha, formerly of the World Bank who’s now with the St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, Canada and Rajesh Kumar of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, appears in the latest issue of The Lancet.

The six-member team had looked at data on female fertility from an ongoing Indian government national survey of 6 million people. The information came from over 1.3 lakh births.

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According to Jha, the current imbalance in sex ratio can have a profound demographic impact in the years to come. In effect, it will mean bachelorhood for many men, social strife, and even an explosion of HIV-AIDS.

With a rampant sex-selection due to the stringent one-child norm, China today has 40 million bachelors.

The sex of the previous children affects the sex ratio of the current birth, with fewer females born as second or third children to families who are yet to have a boy, the research found.

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Jha says, ‘‘till now we had only anecdotal information on the numbers, this is the first statistically sound estimation on the number of missing girl children at birth.

Interestingly, the families educated to the level of Class X report double the number of missing girls as compared to illiterate families.

To the researchers’ surprise, the data collected showed that religion is immaterial where female foeticide is concerned. In view of the natural sex ratio from other countries, the team estimated that around 13.6 to 13.8 million girls should have been born in 1997 alone in India. But the actual figure was 13.1 million.

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‘‘Missing females is a growing problem,’’ says Kumar. ‘‘Our study emphasizes the need for routine, reliable and long-term measurement of births and deaths. The ongoing Sample Registration System in India will help track missing female births and also gender differences in mortality’’.

First published on: 09-01-2006 at 01:40:47 am
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