Gender inequality created 21 million "unwanted" girls in India: Economic Survey

Gender inequality created 21 million

The survey, presented with a pink cover, included a chapter on women's issues for the first time - with the slogan #MeToo in recognition of the global campaign against sexual harassment.

More than 2 million women go missing across age groups every year either due to sex-selective abortion, disease, neglect, or inadequate nutrition, according to the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS).

The report urged the nation to confront its "societal preference for boys" but conceded that the phenomenon dated back thousands of years and may be irreversible. This is regardless of birth order and whether or not the child is the last to be born.

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According to the report, more than 21 million girls are not wanted by their own families.

While families openly celebrate the birth of a son, the birth of a daughter is not always greeted in the same manner. The survey shows that obligation for wife to leave family home after marriage - and resulting loss of a salary - along with property inheritance laws or marital dowry are some of social factors that determine Male preference.

"Indian parents often continue to have children till they have the desired number of sons", it said. "On seven of them, the improvement is such that in the most recent period India's performance is better than or at par with that of other countries, accounting for the level of development", the report stated. The region which includes ethnic communities closer to China and Myanmar represented a "model for the rest of the country". However, while some lives of the women improve once they're born, "society still appears to want fewer of them to be born", the survey states.

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Broadly under these three parameters, roughly 17 indicators have been charted to gauge how deep-seated the problem of inequality is in India.

There has been a notable increase in the agency women have in decision-making regarding, household purchases and visiting family and relatives.

"They are also not doing enough to stop violence against women, which is seriously limiting women's labor participation", she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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The male child preference is highest in Punjab and Haryana and lowest in Meghalaya. States like Kerala do not seem to practice sex selective abortions (since their sex ratios at birth are close to the biological benchmark) but indicate some son "meta" preference (skewed SRLC), the study says. 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.

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