United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) data for 150 countries over 40 years showed that India and China are the only two countries in the world where female infant mortality is higher than male infant mortality in the 2000s.
India was found to be the most dangerous place in the world to be a baby girl. The data revealed that an Indian girl child aged 1-5 years is 75% more likely to die than an Indian boy, making this the worst gender differential in child mortality for any country in the world.
Infant (0-1 years) and child (1-5 years) mortality were noticed to be declining in India and across the world. It was observed that most of the world was experiencing a faster fall in female infant and child mortality than in male, on account of well established biological factors which make girls better survivors of early infancy given equal access to resources. India and China were exceptions in this regard.
As per the report there are 76 male infant deaths for every 100 female infant deaths in China compared with 122 male infant deaths for every 100 female infant deaths in the developing world as a whole.
India was observed to have a better infant mortality sex ratio than China, with 97 male infant deaths for every 100 female. However the figure was still not in tune with the global trend, or with its neighbours Sri Lanka (125) or Pakistan (120).
India is the worst performer when it comes to child mortality sex ratio. In the 2000s, there were 56 male child deaths for every 100 female, compared with 111 in the developing world. This ratio got progressively worse since the 1970s in India, even as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Iraq improved.
The UN report
The report explained high girl child mortality by socio-cultural values. According to the report, so strong is the biological advantage for girls in early childhood that higher mortality among girls ought to be seen as powerful warning that differential treatment or access to resources is putting girls at a disadvantage.
Higher female mortality from age 1 onwards indicated sustained discrimination. Neglect and discrimination was found to be in three areas: food and nutrition, healthcare and emotional wellbeing. Of these, neglect of the healthcare of the girl child wasobserved to be the most direct determinant of mortality.
Earlier studies had shown that health-related neglect may involve waiting longer before taking a sick girl to a doctor than a sick boy, and is also reflected in lower rates of immunization for girls than boys.
the UN data on child mortality indicated that a campaign against female foeticide alone is not a complete solution. The report highlighted that pre-natal and post-natal discrimination were complementarily contributing to gender imbalance. As per the UN study, while pre-natal discrimination in the form of sexselective abortions is more common among better educated upper income households, post-natal discrimination or neglect is more common among poorer, less educated rural households.