During the past two decades, considerable debate has taken place, particularly in India, on the imbalance in sex ratio and the question of 'missing women'. However, the recent discourses in India have changed the focus from 'missing women' to 'missing girls', highlighting the precarious situation of female children before birth, at birth and during childhood. The girls have been aborted on a massive scale in recent decades simply because they are girls. This raises many questions: Why are girl children still at risk despite progress in female literacy and growing participation of women in economic and political activities? Is there a significant shift from perceived 'son preference' to deliberate 'daughter discrimination' at household level? Are the advances in reproductive technologies helping the couples to achieve the preferred family size and the desired sex composition of children? Is there a growing realization that daughters are rarely able to 'substitute' the sons resulting in an intensification of gender bias even among the better-off sections of the society?
In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to understand the nexus of economic, social and cultural factors that underlie daughter discrimination. The essays contributed by sociologists, demographers, economists and gender specialists, based on extensive field research, provide a multidisciplinary perspective to the varied facets of increasing gender bias in contemporary India. Though the contributing scholars vary considerably in their views on the causes and implications of female deficit, they all emphasize the need for a change in the attitudes of the society towards girl children as a lasting solution to this social epidemic.