A new study published in the Lancet journal (pdf) has found that sex discrimination in India led to an average of 239,000 excess deaths of girls aged between zero and four per year between 2000 and 2005. This number is based on the excess female under-five mortality rate (U5MR), which is the difference between the observed female U5MR in India and the expected rate, calculated using the relationship between male and female U5MRs from 46 countries that don’t perform sex selection, including Denmark, Germany, and Finland.
While previous studies have shown that parental bias in India often denies young girls access to nutrition and health care, the researchers say this paper is the first to quantify the consequences, and at a district-level.
Using data from India’s 2011 national census, they derived the district-level U5MR for boys and girls, and found that 22% of the overall mortality burden of young girls in India is attributable to gender bias. This, they say, translates to an average of 2.4 million excess deaths of young girls per decade. In this, there’s a very clear regional divide, with the northern state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) topping the list for excess female childhood mortality.
“The highest rates of excess female mortality in childhood were in northern India,” the researchers wrote in the paper, pointing out “clusters” of post-natal discrimination in almost adjacent districts in UP, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar. “By contrast, almost no excess female mortality was reported in most of southern India and in several inland regions with a strong tribal population.”