The Indian constitution grants women equal rights to men, but strong patriarchal traditions persist in many different societal parts, with women’s lives shaped by customs that are centuries old. Hence, in these strata daughters are often regarded as a liability, and conditioned to believe that they are inferior and subordinate to men, whereas sons might be idolized and celebrated.
It should be noted that in a vast country like India – spanning 3.29 million sq. km, where cultural backgrounds, religions and traditions vary widely – the extend of discrimination against women also varies from one societal stratum to another and from state to state – some areas in India being historically more inclined to gender bias than others. There are even communities in India, such as the Nairs of Kerala, certain Maratha clans, and Bengali families, which exhibit matriarchal tendencies, with the head of the family being the oldest woman rather than the oldest man. However, many Indian women face discrimination throughout all stages of their life, beginning at (or even before) birth, continuing as an infant, child, adolescent and adult.
As a child, girls are often treated differently from male children in terms of nutrition and health care; where limited food or financial resources are available, the insufficient means are prone to be allocated unevenly in favour of the male offspring.
This imbalance results in insufficient care afforded to girls and women, and is the first major reason for the high levels of child malnutrition.