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46 million girls missing in India: UN Report

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The United Nations Population Fund has published the State of the World  Population report titled – ‘Against my will: defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality’. The focus of this report was on the issues of child marriage, Female genital mutilation (FGM), and son preference. The report also tells that the number of missing girls has more than doubled in the last 59 years.

The stance of India was on this report is considerably perturbed as it shows that approximately 46 million girls are missing in India because of gender-biased sex selection which is nearly one – third of the globally missing 140 million girls.

The Report shows that gender-biased (pre-natal) sex selection accounts for about 2 out of 3 of the total missing girls in India, and post-birth female mortality accounts for about 1 in 3.

The report predicts the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will see a surge in female abuse as women are unable to access family planning and reproductive healthcare, and witness gender-based violence and a sharp rise in child marriage.

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The report added that 90% of the estimated 1.2 million missing female births annually worldwide because of gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection accounts to just two countries China (50%) and India (40%).

The report also adds that an estimated 13 million additional child marriages are expected during 2020-2030, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

While globally, one in five girls are married before the age of 18, in India, one in four girls is married before they turn adults.

The report also points out that one extra year at school among girls in India will increase the age of marriage by 0.36 years.

“The bias against the girl child is further perpetuated by fears and financial insecurities pertaining to dowry as well as lack of safety and vulnerability to sexual violence. This further leads to girls being relegated to the status of being ‘unwanted’ that causes neglect and apathy towards their education, health, and well-being,” said Executive Director of PFI, Poonam Muttreja, reacting to the report.

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The finding of the UNFPA annual report is corroborating with the finding of a UNICEF report published last month. This is a cause of grave concern for the future sustainable development goals and if immediate are actions are not taken the pandemic will strike a severe blow undermining the decades of progress made to eradicate these social evil practices.

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