India has progressed handsomely since its economic liberalization back in early 90’s. India’s economy has quadrupled from that time and currently stands $8 trillion, which third biggest in the world after the United States and China in PPP terms. However, the economic progress did not presage social sector progress. The gender equality is still a major problem in India, particularly in Northern India and the Hindi heartland.
One of the most troubling gender issues is the “missing” women. The normal female to male births are disrupted by the unlawful practice of sex-selective abortions, without which, there would have been 63 million more women in India! Apart from sex-selective abortions, the postnatal neglect is another worrisome aspect of nutrition and healthcare.
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The driving force behind the missing women is a strong cultural and economic preference for male children. The practice of sex-selective abortion, although being banned in India from 1994, has not stopped in practice. The normal ratio at birth is roughly 952 girls to 1,000 boys, which – because boys have a slightly lower survival rate – leads to a ratio of 1:1 in adulthood. However, this ratio in India is lower with 909 girls born for every 1,000 boys in 2001 which decreased further to 899 to 1,000 in 2011.
The preference for a male child can also be seen in when families stop having children. The families that do not pursue sex-selective abortions, keep on producing children until their desired number of sons are born. In the process, the daughters that are born in between are being subject to “unwanted girls”. The estimated number of these unwanted girls in India is 21 million.
Although the economic progress has freed Indian women from the subjugation of their male partners to a large extent, it is still far from being desirable. It is widely believed when a country reaches a per capita income of about $8,000-1000, the difference starts surfacing in terms of women’s freedom, education, and profession. India is still short of this economic milestone and thus, does not qualify to presage a major difference in women liberalization. However, this rule of thumb is not a linear phenomenon and many factors including culture play a role in it. India cannot boast itself to be an emerging country if it languishes so pitifully in the social development. Our PM Modi should have addressed the social issues in Davos and not just doing chest thumping on economic achievements as economy alone cannot guarantee a healthy society in any place, time, and situation.