Economic Survey 2018: 'Son preference' finds mention in Survey in pink

Cheryl Sanders
January 30, 2018

More than two million women across all age groups go "missing" every year in India, due to abortion of female fetuses, disease, neglect, or inadequate nutrition, an official report has revealed.

The "meta-preference" for a son in Indian families has led to the loss of 21 million "unwanted" girls from the population, which involves parents adopting fertility "stopping rules" where they do not have children until the desired number of sons are born. This has led to an estimated 21 million "unwanted" girls in India, who often get less nourishment and schooling than their brothers. Numerous gender outcomes are manifestations of a deeper societal preference, even meta-preference for boys, leading to many "missing" women and "unwanted" girls.

According to World Health Organization, the natural "sex ratio at birth" is 1.05. For every 107 males born in India, there are 100 females.

"Parents may choose to keep having children until they get the desired number of sons".

India's finance ministry has found that many couples are continuing to have children until a son is born, the BBC reported.

The survey finds that in the Northeastern state of Meghalaya, the sex ratio at birth and the SRLC were both close to the benchmark. And this has remained stagnant in the last decade. The survey also highlights that there has been a decline in the experience of physical and sexual violence.

And development hasn't proven to be an "antidote", it noted.

Given these observations, the states and all stakeholders have an important role to play in increasing opportunities available for women in education and employment, it said.

Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, a former India representative at the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, said: "the Indian society has been aware of this issue for some time".

Quoting an International Monetary Fund research at Davos recently, International Monetary Fund chief Christian Lagarde said that women's participation in the workforce to the level of men can boost the Indian economy by 27 percent.

The Survey pointed out several reasons behind preferring a male child such as compulsion of a woman to move to her husband's house post-marriage, inheritance of property, rituals performed by sons, and dowry, among others.

This, interacted with safety concerns and social norms about household work and caring for children and elders, militates against women's mobility and participation in paid work, the survey added.

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