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Economic Survey Series-2: Unwanted Girls, Missing Women and Demographic Bubble

Demographic bubble refers to the sex related distortions in the human society that itself endangers human existence.

Before going into details we must understand some of the terms which help explain this syndrome.

“Meta son preference”: It refers to a condition when the parents, continue to have children until they get a boy.

“Unwanted” girls: It results due to “Meta” son preference. Such girls not desired by parents, get less nourishment and schooling than their brothers. That is why they are called “unwanted” girls. According to Economic Surrey 2018, they number around 21 millions in India.

Where “Meta” son preference & “unwanted” girls are more prevalent?

It does not actually occur in the area that witness female feticide or sex-selective abortion, but in the areas where such activities are not possible, such as Poor states where they can’t afford for such means. As the parents desire for son and so to have a son they continue to have “unwanted” girl children.

Whereas, matriarchal societies like in Meghalaya, do not have “Meta” son preferences and hence no “unwanted girl”. Instead such societies have preference for girl child to maintain their lineage.

Son preference: It means that Indian parents prefer to have a boy child. This is mainly due to

  1. Male child will carry on their business
  2. Properties are inherited in male line as maximum societies have patriarchal lineage or societies. Though legally, male or female now have equal right and can legally inherit properties.

Result of son preference:

  1. If the parents have ‘son’ as 1st or 2nd child or first two children are son, then they do not go for 3rd These tendencies have great impact on sex ratio in favour of male child.
  2. For son preference, parents go for sex- selective abortion of female child resulting into approximately 2 million “missing” women per year.

Missing Women

The term was first used by Noble Laureate Amartya Sen to explain the “demographic deficit” of women in Asia and North Africa.

The term “Missing Women” refers to the shortfall in the number of women in the sex ratio relative to the expected number if there were no sex selective abortions, no female infanticide or similar levels of health care and nutrition.

Comparison between “son preference” and “Meta son preference

Case1: In normal condition, ‘son preference’ may be a natural result or it results in the developed parts of India where “sex-selective abortion” is common as in Punjab and Haryana.

Case2: Whereas, “Meta son preference “is mainly common in underdeveloped parts of the country where the parents can’t go for “sex –selective abortions” and so result in “unwanted girls”.

In either case, worst happens for gird child.

  1. In the Case-1, sex ratio deteriorates against female child or in favour of male child.

This male preference will have long term impact on crime, human trafficking, saving and investment of a country.

However, in India, the cause of this “burst of bubble” will result from the “son preference” of parents for their own cause, in China it will result from “son preference” due to “one child Policy” of Chinese government.

  1. In the Case-2 “meta son preference “results in “unwanted girls” who are under nourished, mentally retarded & less educated. This is mainly due to fewer resources devoted to them as maximum share goes for the male child.

This deprived “part of Indian population that may constitute 30-40% of our population, will have a paralyzing impact on Indian economy. They will be more burden than asset, requiring more social expenditure from the government.

However, in both Case1 and Case2,” missing women” is the common result with different impacts

In Case 1 “missing women” results due sex-selective abortion while in Case2 “missing women” results due to insufficient health care to baby girl.

Indian case vs. Chinese case  

Though in the past both Indian & Chinese society had great regard for women but in recent years the situation has reversed.

In the early years of civilization, Indian concept of Shakti and the Mother Goddesses and Chinese philosophy of “Women hold half of the Sky”, clearly established the upper hand of women in the society.

However, they differ in respect of

  1. Sex ratio deteriorated in China due to “son preference” as well as “One child” policy of government whereas in India it was mainly due to “son preference”.
  2. “Sex selective abortion” is more common and universal in China as compared to India because of lack of “universal affordability” in India.
  3. “Meta son preference”, “Unwanted girls” and consequent lack of health care and nutrition driven deaths are common in India but not in China
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