I'm digressing from my theme of mental health here a little bit, but I've come across an article that I find very interesting and of incredible importance.
The article "The Worldwide War on Baby Girls" is published in the March 6-12 issue of The Economist Magazine by an unnamed author. It's their feature story: the cover sports the title "GENDERCIDE- what happened to 100 million baby girls?" with a photograph of pink slippers underneath. The article opens with an anecdote from Xinran Xue- a Chinese writer and author of Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love- who visits a peasant family in Shandong, China, where a woman is about to give birth. Xinran hears the woman moan and a man's voice saying "useless thing." Then she hears a slosh: the newborn girl has been dumped head-first into the waste pail.
This is common practice in both rural and urban areas of China. While in rural areas the means to dispose of baby girls might be somewhat more crude- they are usually strangled with the umbilical cord- couples in urban areas practice selective abortion, made possible by sex-determining ultrasounds. This isn't only practiced in China: according to the article, doctors in India started advertising ultrasounds with slogans like "Pay 5,000 rupees today and save 50,000 rupees tomorrow" (the cost of a dowry).
The article states that because of a slightly higher natural tendency for boys to die in infancy than girls, 103-106 baby boys are born for every 100 baby girls (in countries that record sex at birth). I gather that this is a natural phenomenon. However, because of gender preference, the ratio has grown to more than 120 baby boys for every 100 baby girls in China and Northern India. Why the preference?
In India, the high cost for a dowry has many families wanting a son. And because women will be adopted by their husband's family when they marry, parents will lose support as well as money. In addition to this, I think that there is a preference because boys (in general) make stronger labourers and can help their parents work.
In China, there is a 1 child policy for all urban areas. There may be exceptions to this in rural areas (55% of China's population). Sometimes families are allowed to have another child if they "suffer 'hardship'", or if their first child is a girl. However, there is even more pressure to have a boy if a daughter is born first. The author uses the sex ratios in Guangdong province to illustrate this: in first-borns, the ratio of males to females is 108-100. In second-borns, the ratio is 146-100.
The Chinese call an excess of bachelors guanggun, "bare branches." According to the article's author, "a rising population of frustrated single men spells trouble:" the crime rate in China has almost doubled in 20 years, and the author sees this as correlating to rising sex ratios. Also, because of the skewed ratios, men in China and India will have a harder time finding a bride in a few decades. This happened in South Korea, and resulted in a higher number of mixed marriages.
I find this an interesting phenomenon: because of gendercide, societies that are quite homogenous may have to extend citizenship to outsiders. What could this mean? Would it reduce racism, xenophobia? I support the confrontation of racism and tradition, but the murder of millions of baby girls is a horrible way to do so!
In rural areas of China, suicide is the primary cause of death for women aged 15-39. Xinran Xie, the author I had mentioned before, believes that this is because women can't bear the grief of having to kill a daughter.
There is such a huge discrepancy between my experience and the experience of these women. I have access to birth control, condoms, and supportive clinics. I don't have to worry about having to kill my daughter for shame were I to bear one- I wish I could extend these privileges to all women in the world. This article has reminded me that while I live in quite a liberal country and have many options, a lot of people in the world, a lot of women, don't have the privileges that I do. They bear the responsibility for providing a son by themselves, and as mentioned in the article ("useless thing"), often shoulder all of the shame and accusation when a daughter is born. But it takes two people to make a child, and it should take two to raise one.