A new UN study reveals that a girl aged 1-5 is 75% more likely to die than a boy in India, marking the world’s most extreme gender disparity concerning child mortality. Infant and child mortality has been on the decline in recent years, with a large portion of the world seeing young girls with higher rates of survival than young boys. This can be attributable to the biological advantages that promote female survival in early infancy. India and China, however, stand as the sole countries where female infant mortality surpasses male mortality, as substantiated by the new study, “Sex Differentials in Childhood Mortality,” from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. This discrepancy is actually worse in China, with 76 boy infant deaths for every 100 girl infant deaths, yet India possesses the worst child mortality gender differential by far.
The United Nations report frames cultural priorities as the chief explanatory factor for this extreme divergence, urging their findings to be understood as “a powerful warning that differential treatment or access to resources is putting girls at a disadvantage.” Dr. Perianayagam Arokiasamy, an expert on gender disparities in the survival of Indian children at Mumbai’s International Institute for Population Studies tells the Times of India, “Higher female mortality from age 1 onwards clearly indicate[s] sustained discrimination. Such neglect and discrimination can be in three areas: food and nutrition, healthcare and emotional wellbeing. Of these, neglect of the healthcare of the girl child is the most direct determinant of mortality.”
While Plan India, the Red Cross, and many other organizations have mounted campaigns against female foeticide, new evidence suggests that post-natal discrimination must be addressed in order to protect Indian girls and correct the gross child mortality sex ratio.
– By Judith Fitzpatrick
Photo: Ekta Parishad (Ekta Parishad) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons