What Happened to the Girls?

RV-AD231_GIRLS1_DV_20110617002707 In a new book, Mara Hvistendahl writes about the sex-selection in China, India, and several other countries. (Thanks to Jeremy S. for the linkeroo.)

Because there are so many cultural pressures to produce male heirs, families are finding out the gender of their fetus and aborting the girls in mass numbers.

In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. However, "in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China's and India's populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120."

Societies without women are very bad places. Lots of violence and abuse of the remaining women. 

Over the weekend, Steve and I were talking about lead poisoning in China. Steve said, "that's all we need. The world's most populated country, full of young men who now are mentally unbalanced because of lead poisoning. It's a science fiction novel." 

One thought on “What Happened to the Girls?

  1. I know in China, the sex ratio imbalance is a major concern of the government, who does not fancy a countryside full of lonely and frustrated young men. Recently (i.e. in the past 10-15 years), China’s government has introduced the “Respect Girls” campaign, which in rural areas allows people to have a second child if their first child is a girl, and if both children are girls, it promises free education plus extra money from the government to cover all expenses. This is kind of working, in that now in rural areas people often want a girl first, but the ratio on second children is even more crazy (I want to say something like 2:1 boys vs. girls). In large cities like Beijing, there’s very little pressure one way or the other, and Beijing, Shanghai, etc. actually skew slightly female. Some urban parents prefer daughters because they think daughters will study harder and then be more attentive to parents in their old age. Also, in marriage the son’s parents must provide a house for the new couple, which in rural areas just means the couple moves in with the parents, but in cities it often means buying your son and daughter-in-law a condo, which is really expensive. There are also less savory practices, like wife-kidnapping and wife-sharing, and also importation of women from SE Asia.
    Interestingly enough, some have argued gender imbalance was one possible reason the CCP did so well in the first place, in that early 20th century China already had a skewed gender ratio because of female infanticide (I don’t know to what extent), but this was made worse by concubinage, as one wealthy man might have 20 “wives” leaving poorer men without marriage options. The abolition of concubinage, elimination of dowry and bride price, and support for one husband with one wife were hugely popular with rural men who had nothing to lose and saw a Communist revolution as providing an option to start a family. Gender ratios evened out under Mao, but now with a loosening of opposition towards traditional practices, people are beginning to demand bride prices and dowries, and even concubinage is starting to come back (er nai phenomenon).

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