Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Missing Women

"It is often said that women make up a majority of the world’s population. They do not. This mistaken belief is based on generalizing from the contemporary situation in Europe and North America, where the ratio of women to men is typically around 1.05 or 1.06, or higher."
Amartya Sen

The concept of "missing women" was developed by Indian economist, philosopher and Nobel Laureate for Economics Amartya Sen in the early 1990s and refers to the phenomenon that in some parts of the world, such as India and China, "the ratio of women to men is suspiciously low" (Anderson & Ray, 2012).

"To get an idea of the numbers of people involved in the different ratios of women to men, we can estimate the number of “missing women” in a country, say, China or India, by calculating the number of extra women who would have been in China or India if these countries had the same ratio of women to men as obtain in areas of the world in which they receive similar care. If we could expect equal populations of the two sexes, the low ratio of 0.94 women to men in South Asia, West Asia, and China would indicate a 6 percent deficit of women; but since, in countries where men and women receive similar care, the ratio is about 1.05, the real shortfall is about 11 percent. In China alone this amounts to 50 million “missing women,” taking 1.05 as the benchmark ratio. When that number is added to those in South Asia, West Asia, and North Africa, a great many more than 100 million women are “missing.” These numbers tell us, quietly, a terrible story of inequality and neglect leading to the excess mortality of women."
Amartya Sen

"Violence against women must be recognised as a key issue in its own right, as one of the significant causes of death on our planet – comparable in importance only to war, hunger and disease." Winkler (2005)
According to United Nations' estimations, around 200 million women and girls are, euphemistically speaking, missing - a euphemism that "hides one of the most shocking crimes against humanity" (Winkler, 2005).

Gendercide in figures:

- Between 1.5 and 3 million girls and women are killed through gender related violence each year (Winkler, 2005).
- As of 2005, several million foetuses had been aborted in India within the last two decades for the only reason that they had been female (via). In India, there are at least 400.000 sex selective abortions per year (via). Almost half of the 100 million women who were not born because of their gender would have been Indian (43 million of the estimated 100 million) (via).
- Of those girls who are born in India, thousands are abandoned each year (Jha et al., 2011).
- For every 1.000 boys, there are at least about 60 to 70 girls under the age of six years who were killed before or within 6 years after birth (via).
- Indian girls under five years have a 40% higher mortality rate than boys the same age. "Negligent homicide" refers to the practice of letting girls die of malnutrition or starvation, or not taking them to hospital when they fall sick (via).
- Indian girls between one month and five years die of pneumonia or diarrhea at a rate four to five times higher than boys that age. Pneumonia is often induced by wrapping the girl in a wet towel soon after she is born to make sure infanticide is not detected in a police investigation (via).
- In India, girls of one year and younger are 50% more likely to die because of violence than boys at that age. Girls are 21% more likely than boys to die because of violence before their fifth birthday (via).
- According to the United Nations Population fund, around 5.000 women are killed every year in so-called honour crimes. It is estimated that at least three Pakistani women are murdered in "honour killings" every day. In Egypt, 47% of women who had been raped were "honour" killed by a relative afterwards (via).
- About 15.000 widows live and die on the streets of the holy city of Vrindavan, widows who had mostly been sent away by their own families after losing their husbands (via).

- Anderson, S. & Ray, D. (2012). The Age Distribution of Missing Women in India. Economic & Political Weekly, XLVII(47&48), 87-95.
- Jha, P., Kesler, M. A., Kumar, R., Ram, F., Ram, U., Aleksandrowicz, L., Bassani, D. G., Chandra, S. & Banthia, J. K. (2011) Trends in selective abortions of girls in India: analysis of nationally representative birth histories from 1990 to 2005 and census data from 1991 to 2011. The Lancet, 377(9781), 1921-1928
- Winkler, T. H. (2005). Slaughtering Eve. The Hidden Gendercide, 1-3. In: vlachova, M. & Biason, L. (eds.) Women in an Insecure World  via

- all photographs by Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015), "Hippopotamus and Performer. Great Rayman Circus Madras India" (1989) via, "Mira, Shefali and Pushpa of the Great Famous Circus", Calcutta via, Shavannaas Begum with her three years old daughter Par Veen, Great Gemini Circus via, Indian Circus via and via and via and via and via


  1. Replies
    1. The figures are extremely shocking... Many thanks for commenting, Derek.

  2. Replies
    1. It is horror and there seems to be little awareness, unfortunately. Thank you so much for your comment, Karen.

  3. ...lost for words

    1. The numbers are depressing... Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Macy.