As far back as I can remember, my community only ever celebrated the birth of boys. While my brother's birth was worthy enough to have a party thrown, I and my sister's were not. I recall thinking that many of the congratulation calls for my sister's birth sounded more like those of mourning.

Then I started noticing other things; the women always being responsible for household chores, not being involved in discussions about news, politics and current affairs, given different rules from their male counterparts in regards to dressing and socialising among other things.

Why do Indians prefer having sons?

After that, I began to educate myself more about the role of women in Indian society. Girls have to give dowries - despite them being illegal since 1961 - girls can't look after their family after they're married and move to their marital home are some of the most common reasons for such a perspective towards Indian women.

Other reasons include and only males being allowed to perform several important religious rituals, property and other assets being passed down the male line despite a daughter legally being able to inherit exactly the same.

How are these girls 'missing'?

As a result, female infanticide is common in Indian society. In the past, it was often done by drowning baby girls in bowls of milk as newborns, however, since abortions became legal in india in 1971, it has become arguably easier.

With one hospital delivering only 285 girls for every 1,000 boys (revealed after an investigation in the capital city of Delhi) pre-determining the sex of an unborn child was banned in 1994 to prevent the mass abortion of female foetuses.

Yet the practice remains widespread and thrives illegally with some advertisements encouraging customers to spend some money now on termination rather than on dowries in the long-term.

Improvements in prenatal technology have also made it easier to break this law.

This preference for boys has left 63 million women statistically 'missing' across the country, and more than 21 million girls (aged 0 to 25 years old) unwanted by their families, a recently published Indian government's annual economic survey suggests, with a consequently unbalanced sex ratio of 943 females per 1,000 males.

The finance ministry report - which was given a pink cover as a nod to female empowerment - also noted that while the average Indian family prefers to have two children, there are a significant number of cases whereby families keep having children until they have a son and then funnel greater resources to him than to his sisters.

Many women, including educated, middle-class women say they face intense pressure, most often from mothers-in-law, to have sons. Authors labelled this a "subtler form" of son preference than sex-selective abortions but warned it might lead to fewer resources for girls.

Indeed, this cultural preference for male babies even led to one newspaper publishing "tips" for conceiving boys, including facing west while sleeping and having sex on certain days of the week.

The report also noted that increasing wealth did not stop the preference for males among families. In the Northern farming states of Punjab and Haryana, for example, the sex ratio among infants to 6-year-old is 1,200 men per 1,000 women, even though they are among the wealthiest states.

Contrastingly, the least-affected state was Meghalaya with much of the surrounding cluster of North-East which was called “a model for the rest of the country” although many people there don't consider themselves Indian and are ethnically closer to China and Myanmar.

What other forms of sexism are there in India?

Indian girls also receive less education, have poorer nutrition and get less medical attention than boys, according to numerous studies.

Meanwhile, only 24% of women in India were employed in 2015-16 though two-thirds of Indian women who do reach higher education and qualify with college degrees are without jobs, ranking India low for female labour force participation, according to World Bank data.

Though research also revealed that India had improved on several indicators of gender equality including women’s access to education, employment and power to make decisions in their households, they still do not have control over their earnings and childbirth with almost 47% of Indian women not using any contraception.

While India is set to regain its position as the world's fastest-growing economy, sexism has become embedded in Indian society and “has not proved to be an antidote” to the disproportionate gender ratio, lack of women in the workplace and low contraceptive use, the survey said.

What needs to be done to stop this?

The authors of the report urge Indian society as a whole to reflect on this cultural preference for sons ― especially with the growing evidence that when women acquire greater personal agency and participate equally in the labour force, it can boost the economy of an entire country.

But more needs to be done including boosting women’s earnings, ensuring property rights for women, enhancing maternity leave, creating mandatory creches in workplaces and ending gender stereotyping in Indian mainstream media.

There have been dozens of campaigns run across India recently to raise awareness and change attitudes towards girls and while they are slowly changing, we must do this at a faster rate.

Much like our Chinese neighbours, we may face a demographic excess of males because of our son preference and the domino effects of crime, human trafficking, the overall savings rate and the ability of these excess males to find brides.

It'd also be rather hypocritical for a country which has elected a female Prime Minister before much of the West, has been to space because of the work of the women at The International Space Station and is home to a population where the majority of people worship multiple Goddesses.