A study published in The Lancet has revealed that every year about 2.39 lakh girls below the age of five die due to neglect which is linked to gender-based discrimination.
This study recognised that most of these avoidable deaths of women occur during childhood in China and India.
The research compiled by the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) does not include prenatal mortality rates. It examined specific geographic patterns of avoidable female mortality across India’s 640 districts.
Avoidable or excess mortality is a population-based method of counting untimely and unnecessary deaths from diseases for which effective public health and medical interventions are available. An excess of deaths due to preventable causes should suggest shortcomings in the healthcare system that warrant further attention.
While most of the efforts in the past have been concentrated on curbing the problem of female infanticide/foeticide, this study focused also on the discrimination on the girl child after birth.
The report said that “22% of the overall mortality burden of young girls in India is attributable to gender bias.”
The study revealed that Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh accounted for more than 70% of avoidable deaths in the country.
It stated, “In more than 10% of northern Indian districts, excess under-5 mortality exceeded 30 per 1000 live births, showing that geography is a key factor in infant and child death among girls.”
Co-researcher Christophe Guilmoto from the Université Paris-Descartes, France, said that for too long the focus had been on prenatal sex selection.
“Gender-based discrimination towards girls doesn’t simply prevent them from being born, it may also precipitate the death of those who are born,” said Guilmoto, adding that, “Gender equity is not only about rights to education, employment or political representation. It is also about care, vaccination and nutrition of girls, and ultimately survival.”
Co-researcher Nandita Saikia noted that if there were no excess female deaths in India, the country could have achieved its Millennium Development Goal target on child mortality, of 42 deaths per 1,000 births, very easily.
India has one of the most skewed sex ratios in the world which is deteriorating every year. In 2011, there were 914 females against 1000 male as opposed to 927 females in 2001 in the 0-6 age group. The reason for this is attributed to the preference of a male child over a female child.
The Logical Indian take
Time and again India finds itself at the top spot when it comes to biased sex ratio and gender-based discrimination. Even after declaring pre-natal sex-determination illegal and a punishable offence and with the announcement of various governmental policies like “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” in place, conditions remain the same. It is the inherent flaw of our society where a male child is given preference over a female child. Girls are often denied the right to education, proper health facilities and other opportunities.
At a time when India is trying to establish its identity as an emerging superpower, it is ironic that the women and girls of the country are regarded as second-class citizens.
The Logical Indian believes that all governmental policies would fall flat on face until the society collectively dismisses this regressive thought.