This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Plight of Girls in an Ever-More Populous India

At the moment, China and India have nearly similar population totals. The new UN Population Division projections show China increasing from its current 1.34 billion to about 1.38 billion in 2035 and then declining in population size after that, dipping below a billion by the end of the century. By contrast, they project that India could increase from its current 1.22 billion to 1.72 billion in 2060 and then slowly drop after that, to 1.55 billion by century's end. Wrapped up in this stupendous population momentum is the continuing low status of females in India, as reported by the Associated Press in a story triggered by the latest census data in India that reveal a sex ratio at the young ages that is heavily skewed toward males. 

They point to a painful reality revealed in India's most recent census: Despite a booming economy and big cities full of luxury cars and glittering malls, the country is failing its girls.
Early results show India has 914 girls under age 6 for every 1,000 boys. A decade ago, many were horrified when the ratio was 927 to 1,000.
The discrimination happens through abortions of female fetuses and sheer neglect of young girls, despite years of high-profile campaigns to address the issue. So serious is the problem that it's illegal for medical personnel to reveal the gender of an unborn fetus, although evidence suggests the ban is widely circumvented.
"If a woman has a boy, for a month she will be looked after. If she has a girl, she'll be back in the fields in three days," says Sudha Misra, a local social worker.
An exhausted mother who faces neglect, poor nutrition and blame for producing a daughter is likely to pass on that neglect, social workers say. For an infant, that can mean the difference between life and death.
"A malnourished child will get sick and the chances of death are very high," Bandil says.
Males get first priority. "First the husband is seated and fed, then the brothers and then whatever is left is fed to the girls," says Bandil. "If there are two mangoes in the house, first the boy will get to eat."
For the very poor, the pressures to bear sons result in mistreatment of both the baby girl and mother. And rich women are not immune to this mistreatment if they fail to bear male children.

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