The Economic Survey has mentioned that the desire for a male child has created 21 million “unwanted” girls in India between 0 and 25 years.
The Survey has taken note of the behavioural pattern of Indian parents who prefer to have children “until the desired number of sons are born.” Calling this the “son meta-preference,” the Survey has found that while an average Indian family prefers to have two children, there are instances where families have more than five children if the last child is not a male.
The preference for boys and the availability of sex-selective operations, although illegal in India, means there’s a gender gap of as many as 63 million girls, classified in the report as “missing.”
As a result, India has one of the most skewed sex ratios in the world. For every 107 males born in India, there are 100 females. According to the World Health Organization the natural sex ratio at birth is 105 males for every 100 females.
Some cultural reasons for son preference were listed, including:
Property passing on to sons, not daughters
Families of girls having to pay dowries to see their daughters married
Women moving to their husband’s house after getting married.
The male child preference is highest in Punjab and Haryana and lowest in Meghalaya. More than 2 million women go missing across age groups every year either due to sex-selective abortion, disease, neglect, or inadequate nutrition, according to the National Family and Health Survey.
The Survey recommended that the nation must confront the societal preference for male offspring. Noting that schemes such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samridhi Yojana, enhanced maternity leave and mandatory creches in workplaces are steps in the right direction, the Survey called for a stronger commitment on the gender front similar to the government’s push for Ease of Doing Business.