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Missing Females

  • IASbaba
  • July 4, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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WOMEN/ GOVERNANCE / SOCIETY

Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Women Empowerment
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Missing Females

Context: Recently, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has released the State of the World Population 2020 report, titled ‘Against my will: defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality’.

What do you mean by Missing females?

  • The term “missing women” indicates a shortfall in the number of women relative to the expected number of women in a region or country
  • It is generally caused by sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, and inadequate healthcare and nutrition for female children. 
  • It is argued that technologies that enable prenatal sex selection, which have been commercially available since the 1970s, are a large impetus for missing female children
  • The phenomenon was first noted by the Indian Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen

State of World Population 2020 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 

  • The number of “missing women” has more than doubled over the past 50 years – from 61 million in 1970 to a cumulative 142.6 million in 2020.
  • India accounted for 45.8 million missing females as of 2020 
  • According to one analysis, gender-biased sex selection accounts for about two-thirds of the total missing girls, and post-birth female mortality accounts for about one-third
  • India has the highest rate of excess female deaths, 13.5 per 1,000 female births, which suggests that an estimated one in nine deaths of females below the age of 5 may be attributed to postnatal sex selection.
  • In India, around 460,000 girls went missing at birth, which means they were not born due to sex-selection biases, each year between 2013 and 2017.
  • India (40%) along with China (50%) account for around 90% of the estimated 1.2 million girls lost annually to female foeticide.
  • Preference to boy child often leads to “marriage squeeze”, where prospective grooms outnumber prospective brides > Will lead to child marriages
  • Harmful practices against girls cause profound and lasting trauma – female genital mutilation, child marriage, and extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons.

Covid-19 Induced Challenges:

  • The economic disruptions and income-loss because of the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to increase violence against girls and women due to intensified unwantedness of daughters and gender discrimination.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic threatens to reverse the progress made in ending some harmful practices worldwide.
  • In India, Covid-19 has reduced access to contraception and abortion services, which is likely to lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

Way Ahead

  • The problem should be tackled by eliminating the root causes, especially gender-biased norms.
  • Focus on keeping girls in school longer and teach them life skills and to engage men and boys in social change.
  • Provision of cash transfers conditional on school attendance; or support to cover the costs of school fees, books, uniforms and supplies.
  • Successful cash-transfer initiatives such as ‘Apni Beti Apna Dhan’ should be widened in its reach & capacity
  • Campaigns that celebrate women’s progress and achievements may resonate more where daughter-only families can be shown to be prospering
  • Countries that have ratified international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, have a duty to end the harm, whether it’s inflicted on girls by family members, religious communities or by States themselves

Value Addition – About United Nations Population Fund

  • It is a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly and works as a sexual and reproductive health agency.
  • The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) establishes its mandate.
  • It was established as a trust fund in 1967 and began operations in 1969.
  • In 1987, it was officially renamed the United Nations Population Fund but the original abbreviation, ‘UNFPA’ for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities was retained.
  • UNFPA is not supported by the UN budget, instead, it is entirely supported by voluntary contributions of donor governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, foundations and individuals.
  • UNFPA works directly to tackle Sustainable Development Goal on health(SDG3), Education (SDG4) and gender equality (SDG5)

Connecting the dots:

  • Sustainable development Goals
  • PCPNDT Act, 1994

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