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Beyond rape trial, a bigger question about women's status in India

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India's birth sex ratio has continued to drop, falling from 927 female babies per 1,000 male ones in 2001 to 914 in 2011. The trend is attributed to an increase in sex-selective abortions.

One 2011 study estimated that the skewed ratio would result in India having 20 percent more men than women in the next two decades. Imbalanced sex ratios may be associated with an increase in violence, which some worry is already happening.

At the very least, "inequalities may keep getting reinforced," says Priya Nanda, director of the social and economic development group for the International Center for Research on Women in New Delhi. She points to Haryana, a northern state with the worst gender imbalance, which is seeing "marriage trafficking" because of a shortage of women.

Recorded crimes against women have risen in recent decades. Rapes have doubled since 1991, with police registering 24,206 cases in 2011. Dowry-related deaths (women killed for bringing inadequate dowries to their husbands' families) and molestation have also increased, with almost 43,000 cases of molestation registered in 2011.

The increase may be due to improved documentation, Ms. Nanda says, but sexual crimes are also vastly underreported in India. (The United States recorded 80,000 rapes in 2008.)

Studies by University of British Columbia professor Siwan Anderson on the Asian "missing women" phenomenon first identified by Amartya Sen in 1990 – women who, if they had had the same care as men should still be alive – found that most "missing women" in India had died as adults, not as infants or in utero as previously thought. Cardiovascular disease was a common reason for early death. Another was the vague designation "injuries."

Separate surveys have found high proportions of domestic violence across India. At Ravi Das Camp, women insisted that the local men, including the accused, were respectful – but none denied facing violence at home.

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