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|Subject: 10m Indian girl births lost in 20 years Sun May 24, 2009 4:24 pm
About ten million female births in India may have been lost to abortion and sex selection over the past 20 years because of a traditional preference for boys.
These are the shock findings of a report, published in the British Medical Journal, Lancet.
The study lays the blame squarely on the use of ultrasound screening which can tell families whether their child will be a boy or a girl.
The research, based on a national survey of more than one million households, found an unusual gender imbalance in the country.
The gender imbalance in India has been known about for some time. It has caused a marriage crisis in rural areas where thousands of young men are failing to find brides.
The latest research was carried out by Prabhat Jha of St Michael's Hospital at the University of Toronto, Canada, and Rajesh Kumar of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Research in Chandigarh, India.
In their study published in the Lancet journal (Jan 2006), they said prenatal selection and selective abortion was causing the loss of 500,000 girls a year.
Their research was based on a national survey of 1.1m households in 1998.
The researchers claimed the "girl deficit" was more common among educated women but did not vary according to religion.
They found that there was an increasing tendency to select boys when previous children had been girls.
Prabhat Jha said conservative estimates in the research suggested half a million girls were being lost each year.
"If this practice has been common for most of the past two decades since access to ultrasound became widespread, then a figure of 10m missing female births would not be unreasonable."
In most countries, women slightly outnumber men. But separate research for the year 2001 showed that for every 1,000 male babies born in India, there were only 933 girls.
Traditionally female children have been regarded as inferior and a liability in India. This is said to be a throw back to the time when India was primarily an agrarian society where boys were considered more useful for farm work.