State of the World Population Report 2020 

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

Findings of the report  

  • One in three girls missing globally due to sex selection, both pre- and post-natal, is from India — 46 million out of the total 142 million. The figure shows that the number of missing women has more than doubled over the past 50 years, who were at 61 million in 1970. 
  • 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 due to deliberate neglect of girls because of a culture of son preference. Excess female mortality is the difference between observed and expected mortality of the girl child or avoidable death of girls during childhood. 
  • Globally, roughly one in five (21%) of women are subjected to child marriage, the State of World Population Report said. The report said that the drivers of child marriage are poverty, insecurity and limited access to quality education and work opportunities. These factors mean that child marriage is often seen as the best option for girls, or as a means to reduce the economic burden on the family. 
  • 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 had about 4,60,000 girls ‘missing’ at birth each year. These skewed numbers translate into long-term shifts in the proportions of women and men in the population of some countries, the report points out. 
  • In many countries, this results in a “marriage squeeze” as prospective grooms far outnumber prospective brides, which further results in human trafficking for marriage as well as child marriages. 

India specific findings  

  • The State of World Population Report added that 32% of Indian women who had been married before the age of 18 had experienced physical abuse from their husbands, compared to 17% for those who married as adults. This is based on a survey of more than 8,000 women in five states where child marriage is most prevalent – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkand, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. 
  • However, there is a silver lining. According to the report, advances in India have contributed to a 50% decline in child marriages in South Asia. The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 data had said that child marriage in India fell from 47% in 2005-’06 to 26.8% in 2015-’16. 
  • The report cites a 2014 study to state that 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. The same study shows that in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan excess female mortality of girls below 5 years of age was under 3%. 
  • However, the advent of technology and increased access to ultrasound imaging ensured that parents didn’t have to wait for the birth of their girl child to kill her but could terminate a foetus upon knowing its gender. This resulted in the number of girls missing due to female foeticide exceeding those that were missing because of postnatal sex selection. 

About United Nations Population Fund  

  • UNFPA (formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities) is formally named the United Nations Population Fund. The organisation was created in 1969, the same year the United Nations General Assembly declared “parents have the exclusive right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.” 
  • Their work involves the improvement of reproductive health; including creation of national strategies and protocols, and birth control by providing supplies and services. The organisation has recently been known for its worldwide campaign against child marriage, obstetric fistula and female genital mutilation. 
  • 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 organisations, the private sector, foundations and individuals. 
  • UNFPA works directly to tackle Sustainable Development Goals on health (SDG3), education (SDG4) and gender equality (SDG5). 
  • The agency began operations in 1969 as the United Nations Fund for Population Activities under the administration of the United Nations Development Fund.In 1971 it was placed under the authority of the United Nations General Assembly.Its name was changed into United Nations Population Fund in 1987. 
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