The deadliest place to be a girl? That would be India. A new UN report reveals the country to be the most dangerous place in the world to be a girl between the ages of 1 and 5 years old. From the Times of India:
"...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."
To be clear, infant and child mortality is declining in India as it is all over the world. However, for India and China, the number of girls dying in infancy is higher than the number of males. For every 56 male Indian children that die, 100 girls die.
Why is this important to note? Because, for the rest of the world, female infant and child mortality is falling faster than for male children "on acount of well established biological factors which makes girls better survivors of early infancy given equal access to resources." In fact, newborn girls seem to weather birth trauma and other pregnancy related conditions better than male infants.
That is not the case, however, as girls move into childhood.
The report, "Sex Differentials in Child Mortality", notes that in light of the fact that child mortality has been reduced worldwide -- as laid out by one of the Millennium Development Goals -- it's important to uncover if girls are not benefiting from this goal as much as boys are.
In India, this is exactly what's happening. The report calls it "girls survival disadvantage." But what it means is that girls are not surviving past infancy at comparable rates to boys in the country. Why?
The report warns that it has to do with socio-cultural values; in other words the "differential treatment" for girls, often as it relates to health care access. The Times of India notes:
"Higher female mortality from age 1 onwards clearly indicated sustained discrimination," says P Arokiasamy, professor of development studies at Mumbai's International Institute for Population Studies, who has studied gender differentials in child mortality in India. "Such neglect and discrimination can be in three areas: food and nutrition, healthcare and emotional wellbeing. Of these, neglect of the healthcare of the girl child is the most direct determinant of mortality," says Arokisamy.
So, what can be done? The report says that shining a "global spotlight" on the problem is critical. And, with the world's focus on a set of goals to reach to reduce child mortality by 2015, we can all speak up about making sure that discrimination does not play a role in health care access for girls, no matter where they live.