As cases of grave sexual violence against women continue to make headlines in India, another grim story has surfaced. According to a recently published study, gender discrimination in the South Asian country kills over 200,000 girls under the year of five-years-old annually.
The study, which was done by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, estimated that an average of 239,000 girls per year or 2.4 million over the last decade were killed because of gender-based bias and violence with female child mortality in the country reaching 90 percent in some districts
Twenty-nine of the 35 states in India had overall excess mortality in girls under five, and all states and territories except two had at least one district with excess mortality.
The issue is more pronounced in the northern part of India, the researcher revealed. The research also showed higher rates of female literacy and employment were directly linked to lower levels of excess mortality in females under five.
"As the regional estimates of excess deaths of girls demonstrate, any intervention to reduce the discrimination against girls in food and healthcare allocation should, therefore, target in priority regions of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where poverty, low social development, and patriarchal institutions persist and investments on girls are limited," Nandita Saikia, one of the paper's co-author stated, according to the New Indian Express.
"The sustained fertility decline currently observed in North India is likely to lead to a reduction in postnatal discrimination. Unless son preference diminishes, lower fertility, however, might bring about a rise in gender-biased sex selection as was observed 20 years ago in Western India."
Christophe Guilmoto from the Université Paris-Descartes, France, told the Guardian, that there was a need to focus beyond pre-natal sex selection in such cases.
"Gender-based discrimination towards girls doesn’t simply prevent them from being born, it may also precipitate the death of those who are born," Guilmoto told the Guardian. "Gender equity is not only about rights to education, employment or political representation. It is also about care, vaccination and nutrition of girls, and ultimately survival."
Saikia stated an intervention could be instrumental in reducing discrimination against girls, primarily by targeting priority states in northern India.
"This reinforces the need to address directly the issue of gender discrimination in addition to encouraging social and economic development for its benefits on Indian women."