Imagine a world with no women. There as no wives, no sisters, no daughters, and no mothers. Unfortunately this world is on the brink of becoming a scary reality for Asian countries such as China and India. Due to attempts to control population and the low value associated with females in these societies historically and culturally, both China and India are now facing a serious gender imbalance. Female infanticide and sex-selective abortion are responsible for this gender imbalance.
The two atrocious practices have led to problems such as elevated rates in female kidnapping and slave trade, as well as forced marriages. This paper will focus on the roots of female infanticide and sex-selective abortions as well as the problems these practices have presented. According to current statistics, there are approximately 1,338,299,512 people living in China (Cao et al. 2012). For every 120 males, there are only 100 females. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that China has approximately 32 million more males than females under the age of 20 (Cao et al. 012). In a 1999 Chinese census report, the imbalance between the sexes revealed that the imbalance is now so distorted that there are 111 million males in China – more than three times the population of Canada – who will be unable to find a wife (Hvistendahl 2008). As a result of this gender imbalance, the rate of female kidnapping and slave trading has increased. There are 8,000 women on average per year who are rescued by authorities from “forced” marriages (Cao et al. 1012). A major factor responsible for the distortion of this gender imbalance in China is the one child policy.
In 1979, the Chinese Government implemented a new act under the family planning policy. This new act officially restricts married, urban couples to having only one child, while allowing exemptions for several cases such as rural couples, ethnic minorities, and parents without siblings (Hesketh et al. 2011). Ideally, the act was implemented to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems arising from the over-population issues in China. The one child policy offers couples that delay childbearing a longer maternity leave as well as other social benefits.
Couples that have a second child without a permit are at risk of being fined thousands of dollars, and may also be penalized by suffering wage cuts and reduced access to social services (Hvistendahl 2008). Approximately 35. 9% of China’s population is subject to the “one child policy. ” The policy is said to have prevented some 400 million births from 1979 to 2011 (Hesketh et al. 2011). The one child policy has been the source of conflict for a variety of reasons. The main focus has been the increased rate of female infanticide.
Female infanticide is the intentional killing of baby girls due to the preference for male babies and is attributed to the low value associated with the birth of females (Weijing 2010). Poverty, famine, and population control are inter-related factors. Where safe and effective birth control is unavailable, infanticide is used to selectively limit the growth of a community. Infanticide allows for selection of the fittest or most desirable offspring, with sick, deformed, female, or multiple births targeted for disposal (Hvistendahl 2008).
Males are viewed as more valuable to have as children in the Chinese society because they can work for higher wages and provide for their families. Females are viewed as a burden to the family because unless they live in a major city, they are expected to stay home with the family instead of pursuing an education or working (Hesketh et al. 2011). From the moment they are born, women are considered inferior to men. Women are viewed as submissive and weak whereas males were dominant and strong. Chinese women are taught from a very young age to look after the men in their households.
They continue to live the rest of their lives as subservient to males (Reed 2011). There is a principle of three obediences by which women are expected to live, obedience to their father while living under his roof, obedience to their husband and his family once married, and obedience to the eldest son once widowed (Caldwell and Bruce 2005). In the countryside, less than half a million out of a total rural population of eight hundred million were receiving pensions in 1981. Individuals and families who live in rural areas rely on their off spring to be part of their working staff.
If such families are only allowed to have one child, they much prefer to have males because they believe they are of more use for jobs that require physical labor. (Hong, 1987) If a Chinese family who is not secure financially does indeed have a daughter than she will most likely not marry, Hong explains. “For economic reasons, families with daughters are unlikely to let them go to grooms villages to live because they will be needed not only for the parents old age security but also to boost the life- long earning potential of the household. (Hong 1987 pg. 320) In Chinese culture, it is said, “a woman’s greatest duty is to have a son. ” If a woman does not give birth to a son, her husband will often take another wife in hopes of another woman carrying his heir (Hvistendahl 2008). Women are viewed as so inferior, that often, poor families would sell their daughters as servants to rich families. Despite the egalitarian nature of Chinese society, many parents believe that having a son is a vital element of providing for their old age.
When a daughter is married off, she is no longer available to take care of her parents in their old age, as she is now responsible for her husband and his family (Hesketh et al. 2011). Historically, the way that women were viewed in Chinese society made it clear that with the one-child policy in place, couples would prefer to have a son rather than a daughter. It is for this reason that rates of female infanticide increased in China. Female infanticide is not a problem that is new to Chinese culture. Studies have shown that evidence of female infanticide in China dates back to 800 B. C.
E. Until the fourth century, infanticide was neither illegal nor immoral (Weijing 2010). Legal sanctions against infanticide were introduced in the fourth century as Christianity infused secular laws (Weijing 2010). “We feel it’s a serious problem that everybody should be concerned about and aware of,” said Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee. “This is a form of abortion that, from our point of view is especially egregious. Abortion is claimed to help women; obviously in these cases, females are the direct victims, because women in these cultures are not valued. Caldwell and Bruce 2005)” Another country that has high rates of infanticide is India. Unlike China, India does not have a one-child policy in place, but instead, parents of daughters who are to get married, must pay a dowry. Although the dowry is illegal in most of India, in areas of poverty, most parents still struggle and are expected to pay the families into which their daughters marry (Mahalingam et al. 2007). The dowry consists of large amounts of money and valuable goods. For families with several daughters this can be a serious financial burden (Dube and Dube 1999).
In India, the practice of female infanticide is even more common. As in China, the birth of a daughter is seen as a liability. In India the sex ratio is 93 women for every 100 men, but in some regions there are fewer than 85 women per 100 men (Ahmad 2010). According to a recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) up to 50 million girls and women are missing from India’ s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination in India. Another study showed that approximately 2,000 females are illegally aborted every day in India (Mahalingham et al. 2007).
India is known throughout the world for being a country of a large population, a diverse culture, and beautiful sites. A part of India that is coming out of the dark and being discussed rapidly by academics is the extent of female infanticide and sex selective abortion. Statistics show in a United Nations report, that India has a higher death rate of females under four years old than any other country in the world. Poorer nations such as Peru have a female death percentage compared to males of seventy three percent, where a more developed country such as Japan has a female death rate of eighty three percent.
The national average in India has a death rate of one hundred and seven percent compared to the death rate of boys, and in the area of Rajasthan the death rate of females under four years old is one hundred and nineteen percent compared to boys of the same age. A percentage of these deaths can be contributed to the decreasing health of female toddlers in India. Verma explains, in most regions of India girls are only fed after the males in the family. If the mother of a family does not receive proper nutrition than the chances of her daughter receiving it are very slim.
The other major reason for mortality rates of young female children is so high is due to the practice of female infanticide. Virma, while travelling through her homeland on a search of qualitative research about the practice of female infanticide, came to find just how common female infanticide is across India, particularly in rural areas. Virma explains throughout many villages the male head of the household orders the daughter to be killed. In a particular interview a woman was screaming and crying, her husband told his wife, if she did not kill the baby than he would smash her head in until she was dead. Virma, 2005) In the village of a Bihar, the killing of female infants is so common; the locals repeatedly state, “The killing of girls is not a sin. ” Midwives who play a large role in rural societies of India openly admit how many female infants they have killed. One stated “I have killed at least sixty five female babies in the last ten years. ” (Verma 2005 Pg. 29) In the same villages midwives are paid a fee of one hundred rupees if the baby is a boy, twenty-five rupees if the infant is a girl, and fifty rupees if the midwife kills, or disposes of the female child. Verma, 2005) There are many different ways in which the female infants are killed; two common practices include starving the baby to death, or poisoning her with tobacco or oil. Many midwives feel that they are “liberating the female infants soul by killing them. They believe the alternative, being a woman in many parts of India is much worse than being dead. (Verma 2005) Female children who are raised in India are aware of the way they are treated by society and within their own families.
In many instances they understand the expense of their dowries, and in certain circumstances go to great lengths to bring honor to their families. In a northern rural village, three sisters had hung themselves, with a note explaining the financial freedom their parents would have without them. (Verma 2005) The Chinese government has taken a number of steps to combat the practice of female infanticide, as well as promote and protect women’s rights. The Marriage Law and Women’s Protection Law prohibit female infanticide, and the latter prohibits discrimination against women who give birth to daughters (Hvistendahl 2008).
The Sex Selective Abortion Law and Maternal Health Care Law of 1994 were created to put an end to sex selective abortions, and the latter prohibits the use of medical technology to determine the gender of a fetus (Hesketh et al. 2011). Unfortunately, however, the practice continues in China despite these efforts. The availability of modern ultrasound technology is a major contributing factor to sex-selective abortion. The technology was introduced to China in the 1980’s for diagnostic purposes, however, the opportunity to use the technology for sex selection was soon exploited.
In 1994, the Chinese Government banned the use of ultrasound technology for the use of sex selection in 1994 in an effort to elevate the number of females born per year and decrease the rate of sex-selective abortions and infanticide (Hesketh et al. 2011). In 2003, the Indian Government implemented the 2002 amendments to the PNDT (Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act, explicitly recognizing the responsibility of manufacturers and distributors, such as GE Healthcare India, to protect against female feticide.
Manufacturers must confirm that their customers have valid PNDT certificates and have signed legal documents stating that the equipment shall not be used for sex determination (Mahalingham et al. 2007). Female infanticide is a horrible manifestation of the anti-female bias that continues to pollute societies throughout the world. Even in technologically advanced and educated societies, the brutal practice continues. The successful eradication of the practice of female infanticide seems an arduous task. In order to combat the phenomenon, careful consideration of the location-specific and cultural factors leading to the practice is necessary.
The education of both men and women, social strategies to improve the status of women, and access to family counseling and healthcare may provide means of eliminating female infanticide, as well as elevating the value assigned to women around the globe. In countries such as China and India where the preference of male children has been a part of their cultures history and tradition, one of the only ways to prevent the acts of female infanticide and sex selective abortion is through education. In the early 1990’s less than forty percent of India’s three hundred and thirty million females aged seven and older were literate.
Approximately ten years later the numbers improved with sixty five percent of the female population being able to read or write. “Numerous studies show that illiterate women have high levels of fertility and mortality, poor nutritional status, low earning potential, and less autonomy within the household. ”(United Nations 2002) Although there are many schools within India whose curriculum is outstanding and where the student’s performance out does primary schools in the global north there are still many areas where improvement must take place. The government of India must start with setting up more schools and classrooms and providing more teachers at the grass root levels. ”(UNICEF) The second step that needs to be taken is to ensure quality teacher training and a solid planned out curriculum for each school to follow across the country. Along with a solid curriculum there needs to be more encouragement of education for girls. If encouragement means giving families incentives to keep their daughters in school, then the government should seriously consider them says the president of the Kanchan Foundation.
With an outstanding number of children in upper primary schools across India many girls either drop out or there is not enough space for them so they are forced to leave. By increasing the number of upper primary schools many more girls in India would have the chance of a formal education. Overall the two most populous countries in the world, China and India, are facing what has been described as something close to genocide.
With China attempting to control their population size, and India’s historical and cultural preference of male children, both countries are in dire need for daughters in their societies. Between female infanticide and sex selective abortion both countries are running out of potential marriage partners for their male children. With female infanticide and sex selective abortion on the rise the number of kidnapping, and forced marriages of females has also been increasing. Research shows the answer to the problem is increased education for both male and females throughout both countries.
Encouraging girls with their education, and teaching boys and men that women should be valued in society are the first steps in stopping such practices. Although sex selective abortion has been against the law in China since 1994, the practice has been on the rise, particularly with advancing technology. Authority does not watch the practice closely and more recent policy needs to be put in place. It should be both China and India’s goal to give infant females, the same celebrations of life as their male counterparts and to give all women in both countries gender equality.
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