Public Release: 

Infant girls in India twice as likely to die as boys

Community based retrospective study of sex in infant mortality in India BMJ Volume 327, pp 126-8

BMJ

In India, infant girls are twice as likely to die as boys because girls are regarded and treated less favourably. There are also a large number of unexplained female deaths, which may be considered as deaths under suspicious circumstances, argue researchers in this week's BMJ.

Deaths among infants aged less than 1 year in urban India were examined over five years. Deaths reported as sudden and without any preceding illness were categorised as "unexplained deaths."

The sex ratio at birth was 869 females per 1000 males. Deaths were 1.3 times higher in females than in males, and most sudden unexplained deaths with no preceding history of illness were in girls. Twice as many girls died from diarrhoea, despite it being an easily treatable condition.

Could such deaths be an extension into the early neonatal period of female feticide? ask the authors.

Though the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act 1994 attempted to alter the adverse sex ratio by banning sex determination tests, this cannot change the attitudes of people towards female infants, add the authors. Improved access to healthcare and education of health professionals to pay attention to girls would be beneficial, they conclude.

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