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Times of India
25 May 2011
New Delhi, India

According to Lancet magazine, between 1980–2010, millions of girls were aborted by well–to–do parents wanting boy child
Abortion of Girls on Rise Among Rich, Educated
Between 42 lakh and 1.21 crore female foetuses were selectively aborted in the country in the last three decades and wealthy and educated families are increasingly going for abortion of the second girl child if their first–born too was a girl, claims a new study.

Selective abortions of girls are estimated to be between 4.2 and 12.1 million over the three decades from 1980 to 2010, as per the research findings that are to be published in the upcoming issue of prestigious Lancet magazine. Parents are going for abortion of the second girl child to ensure that at least one child in the family be a boy.

The study claimed selective abortion not only increased in the last few decades but gender imbalance travelled to east and south from the "traditional hot spots" in north India.

"Most of India’s population now live in states where selective abortion is common," lead author Prabhat Jha from University of Toronto told reporters here.

They analysed census data and 2.5 lakh birth histories from national surveys to estimate differences in girl–boy ratio for second births in families where the firstborn child had been a girl. They found that this girl–boy ratio fell from 906 girls per 1,000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005.

"Declines were much greater in mothers with 10 or more years of education than those with no education and in richer households. But if the first child had been a boy, there was no fall in the girl–boy ratio for second child," Jha said.

The article authors said this suggests that selective abortion of female foetuses, usually after a first–born girl, had been more common among rich and educated.

The sex ratio for second order births when the first–born was a girl fell sharply among 20 per cent of the richest households in contrast to poorest 20 per cent, the study said. The estimated number of selective abortions of girls rose from 0–2.0 million in 1980s, to 1.2–4 million in 1990s and 3.1–6.0 million in the 2000s.

The researchers also found that declines in sex ratio over the time, when the first–born was a girl, were slightly greater in urban than in rural areas. Between 2001 and 2011, 72 per cent of India’s 563 districts — for which data was available — showed any decline in the child sex ratio and 49 per cent had decline greater than the national average of 1.4 per cent. Only 28 per cent of districts showed no change or increases.

The 2011 Census revealed about 7.1 million fewer girls than boys aged 0–6 years, a notable increase from the gap of 6.0 million recorded in 2001. The "son preference" has led to an "unusual sex ratio" which is not even common in many African countries, Jha said.

The trend of artificially low sex ratio has also been seen in China, where a one–child norm is in effect, he said. Asked about the figure of 4–12 million selective abortion, which shows a wide range, Jha said the researchers wanted to take a "cautious and conservative approach" though the number appear to be closer to higher side of the range.

The study authors, including Rajesh Kumar from PGIMER Chandigarh and former Delhi Chief Secretary Shailaja Chandra, said better access to ultrasound and other techniques and spending capacity are leading to selective abortions.

The study was carried out by researchers from Centre for Global Health Research, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, Dalla Lana School of Public Health of Toronto University, Post–Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Chandigarh and Mumbai– based International Institute of Population Sciences.

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