Statistics have now confirmed what empirical evidence has been suggesting for quite some time. A new study conducted by a team of researchers in India and Canada to estimate the mortality rate of children under the age of five in 597 of India’s 640 districts has found that for every 100 boys who died before attaining the age of five in 2012, there were 130 dead girls. This trend is here to stay, for the study also predicts that some of India’s poorer states will fail in the task of reducing the death of children under the age of five by 2015. So more children will continue to die, but girls will disappear faster than boys. The findings of the study lend support to the age-wise data of the population in 2011 released by the census authorities recently: they had shown that among children up to the age of 15, there are fewer girls than boys. So the girl child is perpetually under threat — if her life is not terminated right in the womb, there is every possibility that it will be before she is five years old. Given the figures, it is not surprising that cases of violence against women are on the rise. As more girls are finished off before they arrive at the marriageable age, the remaining lot will be trafficked, sold to prostitution or sexually abused in larger numbers.
So what happened to the various welfare schemes meant for the girl child? Did all of them go the way of the Nirbhaya fund for the protection of women announced in this year’s Union budget that died as soon as the finance minister finished his budget speech? The prime minister, himself a father of daughters, has declared that society must begin to value girls before the skewed sex ratio can be corrected. While this is undoubtedly true, the government cannot avoid its share of blame for the dismal state of affairs. Sex determination tests continue in every corner of the country, as do domestic violence and dowry deaths. When it comes to an analysis of the social mindset behind these incidents, the less said the better. The study has shown that richer states are united with their poorer cousins in devaluing women. Neither economic development nor education can change the age-old preference for the male child, it seems. If this attitude has foolishly remained the same all these years, there is not much hope that it will change any time soon. India can look forward to a barren society, the male heroes of which will have only one another for company.