Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

The Alarming "Gender Gap"

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

The Alarming "Gender Gap"

Article excerpt

Editor -- While we were pondering over the widening gap between the numbers of girls and boys in our newborn unit, we came across the thought-provoking article of R. Hussain et al. (1).

The "gender gap" is gradually increasing in many developing countries, and India is no exception. In India, over the last fifty years, the number of females per thousand males has gone down from 1053 to 972 (2); in our newborn unit it is presently 918. The UN report launched on World Population Day, 11 July 2000, also draws attention to imbalance in the sex ratio in India.

Preference for a son and its influence on reproductive behaviour, as described by Hussain and colleagues, is common in many Asian countries including India and Nepal. The epics of Sanskrit literature depict the birth of a son as the sole purpose of marriage. There are a number of factors that contribute to the widening gap between boys and girls: neglect of the girl child, female feticide, etc. Even though antenatal sex determination has been made legally punishable in India, it may be one of the contributory factors, if not a major one.

In a vast country like India, with over 1000 million inhabitants, population control campaigns are incentive-led. In addition to a sizeable benefit to the couple, financial incentives are offered to health professionals who fulfil targets for terminal methods of contraception. …

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