Over 100 million missing women – that’s the number Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen came up with in 1990, referring to the number of females aborted, killed or neglected to death in China, South Asia, West Asia and North Africa. That was then, and this is now. Most of us know that China and northern India have unnaturally large numbers of boys. But you may not realize how bad the problem is, or that it is getting worse.
In China the imbalance between the sexes was 108 boys to 100 girls in the late 1980s; now more than 120 boys are being born for every 100 girls. (Statistics reveal that slightly more boys than girls are born naturally, but nothing like this.) And although the situation is most extreme in China, it has spread far and wide. According to the Economist in their March 6 leader, “Other East Asian countries, including Taiwan and Singapore, former communist states in the western Balkans and the Caucasus, and even sections of America’s population: all these have distorted sex ratios….. it is no exaggeration to call this gendercide.”
Why this destruction? The Economist cites three main reasons: the ancient preference for sons; the modern wish for smaller families; ultrasound technologies that identify the sex of a fetus, leading to the common procedure of gender selection abortions.
As a result of these policies, there is a huge gender imbalance: In terms of China, possibly the worst offender, more than 24 million Chinese men of marrying age could find themselves without spouses by 2020, according to a study issued in January by the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.The gender imbalance among newborns is the most serious demographic problem for the country’s population of 1.3 billion, says the academy.
There are other side effects:
* The growing gender imbalance means that bride abduction, forced prostitution and human trafficking have become “rampant” in some parts of the country, according to the researchers.
* The World Health Organization reports that female suicide rates in China are among the highest in the world.
All this is horrible news for women and women’s rights. A policy that dictates the aborting of female fetuses seems unthinkable in the 21st century; yet not only is the practice in place, it is actually growing.
One country has been able to halt this female infanticide. In the 1990s, South Korea had a sex ratio similar to China’s. Thanks to female education, anti-discrimination lawsuits and equal-rights rulings, this has changed and their statistics reveal an almost-normal gender ratio today.
All countries need to raise the value of girls, and do whatever it takes to slow down and stop this horrifying female infanticide.
Tammra McCauley - Creative Commons