Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

what would the world be like if there were 100 million more women?

Posted by Chris on September 7, 2007

I do not ask this sarcastically, but seriously in a hushed voice…

One of my favorite assignments in college was a research paper for my Anthropology and Human Rights class (I was an anthropology minor). The class was not just learning about human rights issues, but specifically discussing and identifying the role that human rights dialogues (a list like the Bill of Rights, for ex) play. Often, human rights dialogues are full of inherent contradictions when applied to certain issues. I chose to write about what is called the problem of “Missing Women” in China and India. I focused on India and its laws and the larger realm of human rights declarations by the United Nations.

Who are these missing women? Females that are not alive because of infanticide and/or abortion, but primarily abortion. More specifically, females who were aborted because of their gender in a culture that places more value on male offspring (regular girls that are aborted? They’re not missing, or missed, apparently). What made this human rights issue relevant to my course is that abortion is legal in India (although not as liberal as US abortion law) and that the United Nations calls for the universal reproductive rights of women, yet, “female feticide” is against Indian law and the United Nations is strongly against the practice. One must admit that female feticide is but one of myriad implementations of abortion, so how did the laws come into being and how do they play out in India?

It’s easy to find news articles and statistics on female feticide, and I will relay some next, but I wanted to make clear the human rights dialogue dilemma. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that there are more than 60 million missing women in the world. I believe that world renowned economist Amartya Sen has put that figure at 100 million plus. In India, there are several reasons female feticide is practiced. At the base of the problem is that males are valued more than females, both intrinsically and for specific reasons. In a poor area, sons are seen as able caretakers of parents in their old age; daughters are seen as a burden (they would not be expected to make money). Furthermore, societies like India that still have a dowry system (payment by family to marry off its daughter) make sons much more attractive economically. One popular advertising slogan for abortion doctors is “Better 500 Rupees Now than 5000 Rupees Later,” referring to the price for a gender determination test versus the price of a dowry.

This is very relevant to our lives for two reasons. First, even though it’s “over there”, this is a human rights catastrophe of historical proportions. We’re talking about 25 Darfurs, 10 – 20 Holocausts. Second, it’s not so different from the questions our own society faces. Darfur wouldn’t happen in America, but, depending on who is right and wrong about abortion, something very bad might be happening in America already—to the tune of 3000 times a day. Furthermore, human rights and women’s health organizations in America are embroiled in this controversy, whether they like it or not. I spent a lot of time on the Planned Parenthood web site after I wrote this paper, to find its reaction or a statement on female feticide. I didn’t find anything. Its mission is abortion on demand for women. I have no doubt that missing women is not what they intend, but, is it a by-product of their philosophy? Something for you to think about.

Here is a link to my bibliography if you’d like to read more.

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