Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Death and the Maidens

As I have discussed previously, modern demographic predictions are of eventual under-population, not over-population, and each few years the experts must revise their estimates on population growth downwards. One of the causes of this continual downward adjustment may be quite simple.

Technology.

Specifically, sonograms. You see, up until the 1970s determination of a child’s gender before birth was difficult, expensive, time-consuming, and oft-inaccurate. With sonograms, however, it became something possible in a few minutes and, eventually, for a few dollars. Nowadays unltrasound machines fit easily in vans, allowing them to drive around and check on the health (and gender) of the unborn anywhere roads can go.

The result has been the purposeful aborting of tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of unborn children simply because they are female.

In India brides are expected to pay a dowry for the privilege of marrying. Indeed, a young bride being murdered by her husband and his family for not bringing in a large-enough dowry is common enough that it is a specific crime in India. This economic pressure, combined with the cultural and religious preferences for male children found in India, have resulted in deeply skewed sex ratios; in urban centers in the Punjab, girls make up as little as 33% of the population, depending on the specific generation.

China is similar, with ratios potentially as skewed (although it is harder to get reliable data from the Chinese interior). Although there is no dowry culture in China, the tyrannical one-child policy has resulted in at least as much pressure of female births there. The ‘official’ country-wide number shows that 44% of Chinese are women. Other estimates are that on the age range of 8-years old to 21 years old there are at least 20 million more men than women.

South Korea faces slightly less ominous numbers, with an estimated 45% girls under the age of 17. Young females are serious under-represented (less than 46% of births) in India, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Nepal – as well as other nations.

While the numbers from India and China seem to reflect the effects of both sex-selective abortion and infanticide, the fact remains that some purposeful deaths of girl children may be masked from initial statistical review. In other words – the numbers may very well be worse than they look. Since the cultures that indulge in sex-selective abortion and infanticide place a lower value on the life of girls than of boys, the long-term health and survival statistics on girls are obviously lower, as well. Bluntly, girls don’t get the same access to health care, emergency treatment, and education that boys do. Already fewer by birth, by the time they are of marriageable age, their numbers will have shrunk.

What are the effects? Well, it doesn’t seem to be an increase in choices or freedom for women. In India women are already being ‘purchased’ as brides (or more precisely, as sexual partners/mothers); oddly enough, local brides are still expected to pay a dowry. Since the sex ratio is most imbalanced in wealthier Indian communities, and ‘importing’ a bride is expensive, the contradictory effect is to maintain the demands on local women of providing a dowry while money is sent out of the community for outside brides.

China seems to be a bit more chilling. Human trafficking is on the increase in China with over 42,000 women rescued from kidnappers in a single three-year period; but the problem is much, much larger than that. China’s imbalance of genders seems to have made it the largest market for internal human slavery. While many families, especially in rural areas, simply advertise for a bride for their sons, there is a growing market for kidnapped women who are delivered for a fee. They are then raped and forced into the family.

Similar tales seem to be beginning in other places with an unnaturally high male to female ratio, such as Kyrgyzstan where it has the added ‘respectability’ of being an ancient custom.

Perhaps the strangest of all the effects of the artificial skewing of sex ratios is the response of feminists. Now remember; feminists see abortion as an absolute right; any attempt to limit free access to abortion, or to convince women abortion is wrong or immoral is evil, they claim, and even the motivations for pursuing an abortion are protected as part of the right to privacy and the needs/rights of the mother to have an abortion outweigh any rights of the fetus.

Well, unless you know the fetus is female, that is.

India, China and other nations have laws making it illegal to abort a fetus based on its gender. Actually, the laws are applied in such a way to make it illegal to abort a fetus if you know that it is female. In these nations it is illegal to get an ultrasound that tells you the gender of the child to prevent you from making sex-based abortion decisions – in other words, women are denied access to all of the facts about their pregnancy to limit their abortion options.

Are feminists outraged by this abridgement? Nope, they applaud it and want stronger laws limiting abortions. More to the point, the very few feminists who speak of it are generally supportive of these laws restricting abortion access. But the majority of feminists; including NOW, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL; simply say nothing.

This is an oddly-transparent contradiction in the feminist support of abortion. We are told women must be unhindered by laws restricting abortions; that doctors, even husbands cannot really participate in or understand the decision being made; indeed, the bumper sticker buzz phrase of the pro-abortion movement is “keep your laws off my body” – yet these laws restricting access to the full data needed to make a choice about abortion are met with the deafening silence of the major pro-choice/feminist groups.

There is a simple solution – these groups recognize the inherent contradiction of their pro-abortion stance and the need for laws limiting it. Regardless of your framing, your vocabulary, or your meme choice, the facts on the ground tell us one thing: all over the world, women are using abortion to eliminate their own daughters. From India, China, South Korea, South Africa, and other ‘developing countries’ the ‘right to choose’ is being exercised to choose boy children over girl children. Why aren’t feminists crying out against this?

My theory is they will never utter a phrase that might paint abortion as something other than an absolute right, one that cannot be restricted in any way. They are horrified at the results of sex-selection in India and China, and understand the need for the laws restricting sex-selection there – but remain silent to protect their own overriding interests.

There is some evidence that Western European mothers have a slight preference for girls over boys. I assume that this would never be a topic of concern for feminists, even if it were to become as extreme as the gender imbalance in modern India.

Altogether, though, this may help to explain why demographers needs to adjust their population estimates downward so often. For years the girl deficit was largely hidden, and even now it is largely underestimated. As a result, the Total Fertility Rate estimates are accurate – it just that there are too few women available to have children anyway.

More on this topic at Protein Wisdom. Great minds think alike, I hope.

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