Study: Gender discrimination kills 239,000 girls under 5 each year

Gender discrimination in India kills 239,000 girls under the age of five each year, according to a study released Monday.

A woman walks with her face covered to avoid a dust storm in New Delhi on May 2. Gender discrimination in India kills 240,000 girls under the age of five each year, mostly due to neglect, a study has found. Photo by Rajat Gupta/EPA-EFE
A woman walks with her face covered to avoid a dust storm in New Delhi on May 2. Gender discrimination in India kills 240,000 girls under the age of five each year, mostly due to neglect, a study has found. Photo by Rajat Gupta/EPA-EFE

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis said the causes of death were mainly due to unwanted child bearing and neglect. Over the past decade, an estimated 2.4 million girls under 5 lost their lives. That number doesn’t include abortions of female fetuses, which has contributed to a gender gap of 63 million more boys than girls in India.

“Gender-based discrimination towards girls doesn’t simply prevent them from being born, it may also precipitate the death of those who are born,” wrote the study’s co-researcher Christophe Guilmoto in the Lancet medical journal, according to CNN. “Gender equity is not only about rights to education, employment or political representation. It is also about care, vaccination, and nutrition of girls, and ultimately survival.”

Nandita Saikia, the IIASA postdoctoral research scholar, said the worst affected parts of India are rural, agricultural areas with low education levels, high population densities, low socioeconomic development and high levels of fertility.

“As the regional estimates of excess deaths of girls demonstrate, any intervention to reduce the discrimination against girls in food and health care allocation should therefore target in priority regions of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where poverty, low social development, and patriarchal institutions persist and investments on girls are limited,” Saikia said.

By Ray Downs