Question 1

How many women and girls are missing globally because of parents preferring to have sons?

  • 130 million
  • 13 million
  • 1.3 million
Maternal Health 2

ANSWER: 130 Million


Whilst there is a natural unequal sex ratio at birth – all countries have a male bias with roughly 105 boys born per 100 girls – patriarchy in many countries actively increases this imbalance through the preference for boys over girls (Our World in Data – 2019).

When many more boys are born than girls, it is a sign that sex selection is taking place. In India, approximately 108 boys are born for every 100 girls (2020), ranking India fifth in the world’s most skewed sex ratio at birth after China, Azerbaijan, Vietnam and Armenia (UN World Population Prospects 2019).

According to Chandran (2018) for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, parental desires for sons leads parents to keep having children until they give birth to a son, which has created approximately 21 million unwanted daughters.


In India, as in many contexts, there is a longstanding socio-cultural, patriarchal belief that girls are of less value than boys. For example, sons predominantly inherit property, so they alone are expected to care for ageing parents, conduct funeral rites and carry on the family name.

Daughters may be considered a financial burden if an expensive dowry is required for their marriage. Moreover, so called modernisation and rising incomes have made it easier and more desirable to select the sex of your children, despite this practice being illegal in Indian law.


Baby girls – if they do survive – often experience neglect (such as through access to food or health care) and a huge pressure remains on mothers to bear sons. If they ‘fail’, some women face abandonment or violence.


How does Action Village India work on this issue?

All Action Village India partners work to contribute to a just, equal and inclusive rural India, which includes supporting women and girls to access their rights and addressing the attitudes and behaviours of men and boys. There are still huge challenges to achieve gender equality in India and many obstacles stand in the way of women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment.

Partners and the communities they work with have shared their experiences of working to address these challenges, amongst each other and with Action Village India, including during Partners’ Forums. These Partners’ – Action Village India Forums have been held as ‘face to face’ meetings across India. Over the last two years they have necessarily taken place online, including as part of the Madras Café Unlocked event, enabling rich and inclusive sharing, with translation from English into Tamil and Hindi. The discussions have included exploring ways of strengthening efforts to better understand the priorities and concerns of rural women and girls and to make women’s and girls’ rights lived realities.

Partners' Forum 2021 - Gender and Access to Justice Session Madras Cafe Unlocked 2020 - Online Panel Discussion: Engaging young women and men towards a gender just society

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