By Subir Ghosh
Plans are afoot to celebrate the birth of a girl on October 31 as the world’s 7 billionth child near Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh. Plan International is using the occasion to draw world attention to India’s growing gender gap. The world’s emerging economic superpower, estimated to overtake China to become the most populous nation by 2030, has 7 million girls ‘missing’ from its population.
Hundreds of thousands of female foetuses are terminated in India every year even though sex-selective abortions and use of ultrasound technology for foetal sex-determination are illegal in the country.
Girls drawing in class at an Early Childhood Care & Development Centre (ECCD) in Badarpur, on the outskirts of Delhi. Photo: Plan / Davinder Kumar
According to India’s 2011 Census, the ratio of girls to boys has dropped to an all-time low since records began. Today, the national figure has fallen to an alarming 914 girls for every 1,000 boys between 0 and 6 years. In some states like Punjab that ratio is as low as 846 girls to 1,000 boys.
Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director of Plan India, said: “We are the world’s most rapidly growing nation, yet among the most challenging for girls. Plan has been working in India for the last three decades and survival rights of girls have been a key focus of our community development work. With ‘Let Girls be Born’ we hope to reach out to people to make them realise the consequences of the declining sex ratio, and encourage them to be active in celebrating girls.”
The organisation has chosen Uttar Pradesh to mark the birth of Baby 7 Billion as the state accounts not only for the highest number of births but also the highest number of ‘missing girls’. With a population bigger than that of Brazil, it has just 899 girls for every 1,000 boys. The situation is similar in other states such as Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and the country’s capital Delhi.
On October 31, Plan will celebrate the birth of ‘Baby 7 Billion’ at a public function near Lucknow. The newborn will be issued with a birth certificate by state authorities. The organisation has made registration of birth an integral part of its girls’ rights campaigns.
Nadya Kassam, Plan’s Global Head of Advocacy said: “A birth certificate is recognition of a valued life and is a passport to citizenship and many rights. In places like India particularly, it gives live data on the gender gap and serves as a vital indicator to track where girls are being lost.”
In India, Plan works in 10 states and has directly impacted lives of over a million children and their families. As a response to India’s worst child sex ratio since records began, Plan India has launched ‘Let Girls Be Born’ (LGBB) campaign and its main objective is to realise a gender balance in society by eliminating female foeticide/ infanticide and ensuring the right to identity, name and citizenship for girls.
According to provisional Census totals, India’s population at 1210.2 million is almost equal to the combined populations of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan.
World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development says globally, “missing” girls at birth and excess female mortality after birth account for an estimated 3.9 million women each year in low-and middle-income countries. Almost one million of these deaths are in India.