- POSTED: 14 Sep 2013 11:39
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The Delhi gang-rape case, along with other incidents that followed, have highlighted the problem of violence against women in India. It has also prompted many to ask why women are treated with so little respect in the country.
INDIA: Women in India are discriminated against, even before they are born -- female foeticide is still widely practiced, resulting in a skewed gender ratio among babies.
For infants under a year old, there are almost one million more baby boys than there are baby girls.
Vani Subramaniam, a feminist activist, said: "Any fertility clinic -- you just go and I will say you don't even need to talk to the doctor. Just look at their board of photographs, look at the number of male children as opposed to the number of female children... Isn't it obvious what the trend is?"
The gender ratio gets worse when older children are included. Up to the age of 6 years old, boys outnumber girls by 7 million. The number rises further between the ages of 7 and 15, with 11 million more boys than girls.
These statistics point to a fatal discrimination -- one where girls suffer neglect while sons enjoy preferential treatment.
Efforts by the government and civil society to reverse the trend have not yielded much results, and experts are warning of the consequences of an imbalanced gender ratio.
Dr Ash Narain Roy, a sociologist, said: "In terms of productivity, because the experience of other developed countries has been that the pool positive sex ratio has contributed better to the economic growth as well as productivity. Obviously, if we are lagging behind it will show in terms of our productivity."
Measures taken by the Indian government have not been effective.
Although there is a ban on selective sex abortion, female infanticide is still a common practice, especially in small towns and villages. The only small consolation, perhaps, is that women -- although fewer in number than men -- fare better in certain areas.
Dr Roy added: "There has been an increase in female literacy by the tune of something like 11 per cent among females. But that percentage in the case of males is at a little less than 6 per cent. So that is a positive sign that more and more girls are becoming literate. "
Men and women are equal under the constitution but traditionally, sons are preferred as they carry the family lineage forward. The only way to change this, is to change traditional mindsets.
But until that happens, women will not be treated with respect and India's skewed sex ratio will have a detrimental impact on society and the country's future.