India: Gender bias kills more than 200,000 girls each year, study finds

Issue 
The study estimated that, on average, 239,000 girls each year, or 2.4 million over the past decade, were killed because of gender-based bias and violence.

As cases of grave sexual violence against women continue to make headlines in India, another grim story has surfaced. A recently published study found that sex discrimination in the South Asian country kills more than 200,000 girls under the year of five-years-old annually.

The study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis estimated that, on average, 239,000 girls each year, or 2.4 million over the past decade, were killed because of gender-based bias and violence. Female child mortality in the country reached 90% in some districts.

The issue is more pronounced in the northern part of India, the research revealed. The research also showed higher rates of female literacy and employment were directly linked to lower levels of excess mortality in females under five.  

Nandita Saikia, one of the paper’s co-authors, said: “As the regional estimates of excess deaths of girls demonstrate, any intervention to reduce the discrimination against girls in food and healthcare allocation should, therefore, target in priority regions of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where poverty, low social development, and patriarchal institutions persist and investments on girls are limited.”

Christophe Guilmoto from the Université Paris-Descartes, France, told The Guardian that there was a need to focus beyond pre-natal 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.

“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.”   

Saikia stated an intervention could be instrumental in reducing discrimination against girls, primarily by targeting priority states in northern India. 

“This reinforces the need to address directly the issue of gender discrimination in addition to encouraging social and economic development for its benefits on Indian women.”

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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