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State of the World Population 2020: UNFPA

  • 01 Jul 2020
  • 8 min read

Why in News

Recently, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has released the State of the World Population 2020 report, titled ‘Against my will: defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality’.

Key Points

  • Global Data:
    • The number of missing women has more than doubled over the past 50 years, who were at 61 million in 1970.
      • Missing females/women: These are women missing from the population at given dates due to the cumulative effect of postnatal and prenatal sex selection in the past. The phrase was coined by Amartya Sen.
    • In Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan excess female mortality of girls below 5 years of age was under 3%.
      • Excess female mortality: It is the difference between observed and expected mortality of the girl child or avoidable death of girls during childhood.
    • According to estimates averaged over a five year period (2013-17), annually, there were 1.2 million missing female births, at a global level.
  • India Specific Data:
    • One in three girls missing globally due to sex selection, both pre- and post-natal, is from India, i.e. 46 million out of the total 142 million.
    • India has the highest rate of excess female deaths at 13.5 per 1,000 female births or one in nine deaths of females below the age of 5 due to postnatal sex selection.
    • In India, around 460,000 girls went missing at birth, which means they were not born due to sex-selection biases, each year between 2013 and 2017.
    • India (40%) along with China (50%) account for around 90% of the estimated 1.2 million girls lost annually to female foeticide.
  • Female Genital Mutilation:
    • It involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
    • The practise has no health benefits for girls and women and can cause severe bleeding, problems in urinating, cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
    • An estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation in 2020.
  • Extreme Bias against Daughters, in favour of sons:
    • An extreme and continuing preference for sons over daughters in some countries has fuelled gender-biased sex selection or extreme neglect which leads to girls’ death as children, resulting in missing females.
      • The report examines the issue of missing women by studying sex ratio imbalances at birth as a result of gender-biased sex selection as well as excess female mortality.
    • The advent of technology and increased access to ultrasound imaging allow parents to terminate a foetus after knowing its gender.
      • Due to this, the number of girls missing due to female foeticide exceed those that are missing because of postnatal sex selection.
    • These skewed numbers change the population proportions and result in ‘marriage squeeze’.
      • Marriage squeeze: It happens when prospective grooms far outnumber prospective brides, which further results in human trafficking for marriage as well as child marriages.
    • These violations result in fewer choices for females and putting them under the sexual, economic and legal control of men, curbing their human rights.
  • Child Marriage:
    • Every day, around 33,000 girls under age 18 are forced into marriage, usually to much older men.
    • In India, child marriage is directly linked to poverty, poor education and geographic location and the rural and urban divide.
  • Covid-19 Induced Challenges:
    • The economic disruptions and income-loss because of the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to increase violence against girls and women due to intensified unwantedness of daughters and gender discrimination.
    • The Covid-19 pandemic threatens to reverse the progress made in ending some harmful practices worldwide.
    • In India, Covid-19 has reduced access to contraception and abortion services, which is likely to lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions.
  • Initiatives Appreciated:
    • The report pointed out that successful education-related interventions include the provision of cash transfers conditional on school attendance or support to cover the costs of school fees, books, uniforms and supplies.
    • The report took note of the successful cash-transfer initiative such as ‘Apni Beti Apna Dhan’ in India.

United Nations Population Fund

  • It is a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly and works as a sexual and reproductive health agency.
  • It was established as a trust fund in 1967 and began operations in 1969.
  • In 1987, it was officially renamed the United Nations Population Fund but the original abbreviation, ‘UNFPA’ for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities was retained.
  • The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) establishes its mandate.
  • UNFPA is not supported by the UN budget, instead, it is entirely supported by voluntary contributions of donor governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, foundations and individuals.
  • UNFPA works directly to tackle Sustainable Development Goals on health (SDG3), education (SDG4) and gender equality (SDG5).

Way Forward

  • The problem should be tackled by eliminating the root causes, especially gender-biased norms.
  • People must foster respect for women and girls, by changing attitudes and practices that commoditize them.
  • People must protect women and girls by enforcing laws against practices like child marriage and female mutilation and also by changing attitudes and norms.
  • Governments must fulfil their obligations under human rights treaties that require the elimination of these practices and rituals.
    • Countries that have ratified international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, have a duty to end the harm, whether it’s inflicted on girls by family members, religious communities, health-care providers, commercial enterprises or State institutions themselves.

Source: TH

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