Join 3,524 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Women hold up half the sky
March 9, 2010 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Gendercide, or sex-selective abortion aided by female ifanticide, is soberingly common in coutries where a strong cultural and economic preference for male children exists: 100 million women are "missing" in the Asia-Pacific region, 85% of them in India and China alone.

Improving the status of women could, among other benefits, help reverse this troubling trend: a 2008 study conducted in South Korea offers some encouraging news. Still, some parents feel that even in Western societies people just don't seem to get quite as excited about girls as they do about boys.

In the USA, where the IntelliGender test is available in your local drugstore, a bill to ban gender and race motivated abortion has been introduced in Congress – with no chance of passing – while in Sweden officials have explicitly stated that an abortion cannot be denied due to any reason, including gender bias.
posted by halogen (101 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just a warning: the opening paragraph of the Economist story (in the main link) could be really upsetting for some (as it was for me).
posted by anastasiav at 12:34 PM on March 9, 2010


But where will they get their prepubescent female gymnasts from now?
posted by Madamina at 12:38 PM on March 9, 2010


In the hospital where my wife had her ultrasound in Beijing (and we found out the sex of our daughter) there was a big socialist-realist type official poster that said in Chinese, "Telling the Sex of a Child Is a Crime!" I guess it only applied to the locals.

On a lighter note, my brother has three sons. I thank the lord every day I have daughters.

Ask me how I feel about this again when they are teenagers.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:38 PM on March 9, 2010


And what do millions of men with no prospects for marriage do with their lives?
What do their governments do with so many unattached young men?

Musical Theater!

I wish.
posted by Seamus at 12:39 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I dunno. I'm torn.

I've always been pro-choice, but not pro-picky.

Then again, maybe that type of person shouldn't be a parent in the first place.

But they'll continue until they "get it right..."

20 GO TO 10
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:39 PM on March 9, 2010


In January 2010 the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) showed what can happen to a country when girl babies don’t count. Within ten years, the academy said, one in five young men would be unable to find a bride because of the dearth of young women—a figure unprecedented in a country at peace.

Clearly, the most important issue in the murder of millions of female infants is how it will affect men's ability to find a wife.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:42 PM on March 9, 2010 [44 favorites]


how about that we invented easy cheese and youtube comments and yet chinese culture is still dumber
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:42 PM on March 9, 2010


John Lennon called it.
posted by vorfeed at 12:43 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Only a monster would make a joke about the subject of ifanticide.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:43 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


(and Yoko of course!)
posted by vorfeed at 12:43 PM on March 9, 2010


Clearly, the most important issue in the murder of millions of female infants is how it will affect men's ability to find a wife.

I know really, do we really want a society like that to breed more?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:44 PM on March 9, 2010


Calling this a gendercide is like following the logic of calling US abortions a "black genocide."

However, I do agree that this is thoroughly screwed up. I'm pro-choice, but I really would prefer that cultures and policy make abortion an action of last resort, not something that people would see as an acceptable way of getting a boy/girl.

Ultimately, this just makes the one child policy look really bad, more than it makes legal abortion look bad.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:45 PM on March 9, 2010


> In 2008, 11% of marriages were “mixed”, mostly between a Korean man and a foreign woman. This is causing tensions in a hitherto homogenous society, which is often hostile to the children of mixed marriages.

You can't have it both ways, South Korea. Fortunately, it looks like they've started to figure this out.

> I've always been pro-choice, but not pro-picky.

Yeah...*sigh* If there's anything that makes me question my support of abortion, it's this.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:48 PM on March 9, 2010


Clearly, the most important issue in the murder of millions of female infants is how it will affect men's ability to find a wife.

I had no idea we were only allowed to talk about the first-order effects of bad things. Thanks for clarifying.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:49 PM on March 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm pro-choice, but I really would prefer that cultures and policy make abortion an action of last resort, not something that people would see as an acceptable way of getting a boy/girl.

I'm so pro-choice that I think there should be ads on the subway that say "Pregnant? Have you considered abortion?" But delivering a viable child through normal means and killing it (as described in the primary link) is NOT abortion, it's barbarism.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


However, as gruesome as this topic is, I love the typo in the FPP: "female ifanticide". It conjures an image of Steve Jobs in a black turtleneck doing a presentation about how Apple will revolutionize how unwanted children are disposed of. "I present to you iFanticide 2010."

And then Metafilter turns into the '68 Democratic Convention over whether or not it's an innovative product.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:53 PM on March 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Race motivated abortion?" You get a test to see what race your baby will be, and . . . ?
posted by grobstein at 12:53 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


A related bit of reading would be "A Surplus of Men, a Deficit of Peace" which is a succinct look at the issue from an international relations perspective. It's an interesting read and provides a bit more detail on 'bare branches' in Asian society from the same authors the Economist article referenced.

Sidenote: boy this chart is difficult to read.
posted by cgomez at 12:55 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Any culture that holds boys to be more "valuable" than girls in any way is simply wrong.

But these are very, very old cultural stereotypes that are immensely difficult to change. A country with access to the very latest IVF and embryonic gender-selection technologies can still have its cultural preference for boys over girls rooted in Bronze-Age agrarian thinking. And the reality is that denied these technologies, a substantial portion of live births of girl children, particularly in rural areas of China and India, will result parents turning to the oldest solution, that of infanticide. While both outcomes are terrible, and it is clearly not an exclusive either-or choice, I know which I would prefer.

Ultimately, there are feedback loops. Nowhere are the consequences of these ancient biases meeting the abilities of modern techology (coupled with the driving force of one-child-per-couple rules) more evident than in China, with a male-female ratio of 118 to 100. When you have 20% more males than females, you have the making of a demographic time bomb... which, given human overpopulation, is not necessarily a bad thing, but is a serious source of concern. I do wonder about the long-term consequences of excess testosterone slopping and spilling over the edges of China's cities.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:59 PM on March 9, 2010


I've always been pro-choice, but not pro-picky.

I think that's a dangerous road to go down. What's "picky" exactly? Isn't one of the main tenets of abortion rights that the pregnant female (and their confidant(s)) can make a decision without societal judgment granted such decision is within a certain pre-defined realm of humanity?
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:59 PM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can't be the only person who thinks of The Rainbow Cadenza when reading about the possibility of millions more young men then young women.
posted by Slothrup at 1:00 PM on March 9, 2010


If there's anything that makes me question my support of abortion, it's this.

Hmm? If there's anything that makes you question your allegiance to women's reproductive rights, it's evidence that women are considered less desireable and perhaps even less human than men?

The issue of "safe and legal" abortions really has little to do with the issue of selective abortions. Since selective abortions still happen in countries that have outlawed abortions, or in the case of India have legal abortions with off-the-books restrictions.
posted by muddgirl at 1:01 PM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Clearly, the most important issue in the murder of millions of female infants is how it will affect men's ability to find a wife.

The opening paragraphs of that article are horrible, but the rest of the article talks about sex-selective abortion, not infanticide.

Undoubtedly, gender prejudice is leading to violence and neglect against girls, but I think it's important not to confuse abortion and infanticide when discussing this.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:02 PM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Why are some of you joking about something tragic???
posted by A189Nut at 1:04 PM on March 9, 2010


A lot of this comes from the dowry traditions of those countries. Female children are required have a wedding fund that makes their future marriage more attractive for prospective males. Also, in simple terms, male children are expected to take care of their parents into their retirement, while female children are expected to take care of their husband's parents. This has all sorts of ramifications in a country when you are only allowed to have one child.
posted by dobie at 1:05 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


In a just world, the very quick mechanism to improving the status of women would be this stupid unnecessary self-imposed scarcity itself.

I mean, I would think the absence of women would really underscore the importance of women, no?
posted by quin at 1:09 PM on March 9, 2010


Clearly, the most important issue in the murder of millions of female infants is how it will affect men's ability to find a wife.

As someone who has very few moral issues with abortion, I would say.. yeah, that might be the most important issue (completely independent of gender - would be the same problem if mostly male fetuses were being aborted).

For most people, having a romantic partner is an essential part of happiness. If 20% of the population can't do so, there are going to be a lot of problems.
posted by ripley_ at 1:11 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Calling this a gendercide is like following the logic of calling US abortions a "black genocide."

No, it makes perfect sense. It's not as if the racially disproportionate rate of abortions in the US is a result of black women saying to themselves, "Gosh, I was all set to have a kid but I don't want a black baby." This is a case of fetuses being aborted because they are female.
posted by amber_dale at 1:12 PM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Don't you have to be a little dodgy or have a dodgy doctor or both to get a sex motivated abortion in the United States in 2010? If that drugstore sex test kit works how could such a crime be prosecutable? That is messed up. If it ever happens it's messed up. And it's messed up if some government agents try and interfere with it. Messed messed up up.
posted by bukvich at 1:13 PM on March 9, 2010


Clearly, the most important issue in the murder of millions of female infants is how it will affect men's ability to find a wife.

Wait 50 years and see what those men end up doing. See how snarky you feel then.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:18 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Inspector.Gadget: "[[Clearly, the most important issue in the murder of millions of female infants is how it will affect men's ability to find a wife.]]

Wait 50 years and see what those men end up doing. See how snarky you feel then.
"

What are you predicting those men will end up doing?
posted by Joe Beese at 1:22 PM on March 9, 2010


Throughout human history, young men have been responsible for the vast preponderance of crime and violence—especially single men in countries where status and social acceptance depend on being married and having children, as it does in China and India. A rising population of frustrated single men spells trouble.

The crime rate has almost doubled in China during the past 20 years of rising sex ratios, with stories abounding of bride abduction, the trafficking of women, rape and prostitution. A study into whether these things were connected† concluded that they were, and that higher sex ratios accounted for about one-seventh of the rise in crime.

posted by amber_dale at 1:24 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


More like twenty years. Read cgomez's link. Some of these men may be drawn to radical movements.
posted by rainbaby at 1:26 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's not "oh boohoo those poor men without wives." It's "oh shit those men are going to be very frustrated and possibly turn to violence."
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:28 PM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


What are you predicting those men will end up doing?

Read cgomez's link.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:30 PM on March 9, 2010


What are you predicting those men will end up doing?

Picking up Kalashnikovs, for starters.
posted by stevis23 at 1:31 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that's a dangerous road to go down. What's "picky" exactly? Isn't one of the main tenets of abortion rights that the pregnant female (and their confidant(s)) can make a decision without societal judgment granted such decision is within a certain pre-defined realm of humanity?

Well, first, many people are "Pro-Choice" as a legal position. They might find abortion to be abhorrent, but not as bad as the alternative. Thus they want to keep them legal, but that says nothing about social acceptability being guaranteed. I've known people who describe themselves as pro-choice that ascribe to that. It might not be your viewpoint, but it's certainly present.

On the the article. China as a nation wants females, but the individual Chinese does not. As much as they want women out there to marry or for the sons to marry, Dobie points out the reason that they don't want daughters: they're expensive and don't have the short and long term benefit to you personally as parents that boys do. And remember that for a lot of rustic farmers, the chances of their daughters going off to the city to become a money-earning biologist is pretty slim. For us, it's like having garbagemen on our street. Sure, you want them in society at large, but do you want YOUR kid to grow up to be one? The difference is that people aren't born garbagemen, so parents of them don't know until its 17 years too late to abort.

I don't really know what to do here. Sometimes people make choices that while individually free affect society in a catastrophic way. Perhaps the main government can put out a huge campaign to reverse centuries of dowry tradition to make it so the men are the ones that put it up (which I believe the custom in Iran is), so that parents that have girls can look forward to cash.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:32 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are several strands to this problem, not all equal:

1. Aborting a female fetus--actually this is the least problematic to me, in that it's better than infanticide, or, than a family raising a daughter who will be, in her society, horribly abused. If I were a woman in that society and knew exactly what kind of life my potential daughter (vs. a potential son) would face, I'd probably think I was doing her a favor by not letting her be born into that. A grim and hopeless choice, but yeah, I can see it.

2. Infanticide; objectively horrible and hard to even think about, but unsurprising.

3. Gender imbalance; the most worrisome part, because this has already resulted in quite a few kidnappings/rapes/trafficking of women from other countries, and of course is only going to cause more disruption in the culture in the long run. You would think that it would make women more valuable, and it does, but only as wombs, not as people. You can still beat and abuse the owner of the womb, or sell her, or kill her if her womb doesn't work. Scarcity of women /= higher status of women, at least, not yet.

It's funny actually, because I just came from another blog discussion about Australian panic over (the right kinds of) women not reproducing enough to maintain (the right kinds of) population levels there. Perceiving women's reproduction as a society's common property (rather than her own) manifests itself in lots of strange ways.
posted by emjaybee at 1:32 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, I think we've established that its not good for the mens or the womens when there are a lot less women than men.
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:33 PM on March 9, 2010


showbiz_liz: "Yeah, it's not "oh boohoo those poor men without wives." It's "oh shit those men are going to be very frustrated and possibly turn to violence.""

Fair enough. It just seems odd to me to put possible future radicalization on the scales with actual current murder. [To be clear: I'm speaking of infanticide again - not selective abortion.]

To me it's like saying if we don't stop the Holocaust, we'll suffer a dearth of Yiddish literature.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:34 PM on March 9, 2010


Isn't one of the main tenets of abortion rights that the pregnant female (and their confidant(s)) can make a decision without societal judgment granted such decision is within a certain pre-defined realm of humanity?

Sure, but

1. Pre-defined? By whom?
2. I guess that's the question...is this outside that realm?

Why are some of you joking about something tragic???

That's a pretty common reaction to tragedy, isn't it?

Hmm? If there's anything that makes you question your allegiance to women's reproductive rights, it's evidence that women are considered less desireable and perhaps even less human than men?

Not everyone frames the whole abortion thing in terms of women's rights. To me, the most important question is "Is a fetus a person?" If one's answer is "no," like it is for me, then things like women's rights come into play, although even then, I would frame it a little differently.
posted by Edgewise at 1:35 PM on March 9, 2010


While missing women is a huge problem, it's just bad math to blame abortions for a sizable percentage of the problem. Much of the consternation in development circles is based off a terrible understanding of basic science and women's health. Ultrasounds give a poor prediction of sex even at 20 weeks and for sex-selective abortion to play a big role we'd need there to be more than 50x the number of physicians capable of performing second- and third-trimester abortions than actually exist in China and India. South Korea might be a different story although the data there is heavily compromised as well.

A lot of the data gathering has been done by World Bank researchers with little understanding of technology and even worse research methods. The Economist article is only slightly more complex than a Reader's Digest version of the underlying research, which is so laughably thin that it would get laughed at by any peer reviewed journal. But this isn't peer review. This is the World Bank. Joe Stiglitz may have gone easy on them when he described the researchers there as third-rate students from first-rate schools.

The missing women problem predates ultrasound technology. You think someone would point that out. The real cause is far more likely to lie in girl-infant morbidity and mortality rates. Amartya Sen, one of the leading proponents of the missing women concept, noticed this decades ago. Importantly, he had data. If sex-selective abortions are having an impact, it must, by the numbers, be a tiny fraction of this.

The idea of sex-selective abortions is sexy to a lay audience because it combines moral discomfort while turning politics around. It's just not based in fact. And anyone who works on these issues knows that restricting women's rights is really not the way to make societies value women more.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:36 PM on March 9, 2010 [35 favorites]


quin: In a just world, the very quick mechanism to improving the status of women would be this stupid unnecessary self-imposed scarcity itself.

Yes, in a just world. I used to have those hopes, too. In this world, though, "The scarcity of females has resulted in kidnapping and trafficking of women for marriage and increased numbers of commercial sex workers, with a potential resultant rise in human immunodeficiency virus infection and other sexually transmitted diseases."

on preview, what emjaybee said.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:39 PM on March 9, 2010


Don't you have to be a little dodgy or have a dodgy doctor or both to get a sex motivated abortion in the United States in 2010?

Apparently not.

Last year, a survey found that 1 of every 11 Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis treatment was for sex-selection alone. The study by Johns Hopkins University also found that 42 percent of clinics offering PGD offer it for sex selection.

A lot of this comes from the dowry traditions of those countries. Female children are required have a wedding fund that makes their future marriage more attractive for prospective males. Also, in simple terms, male children are expected to take care of their parents into their retirement, while female children are expected to take care of their husband's parents. This has all sorts of ramifications in a country when you are only allowed to have one child.

Makes me wonder if we'll see a reverse-dowry tradition arising in countries with hugely-skewed sex ratios.
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:39 PM on March 9, 2010


It's simple, really. We just need a good, bloody ground war to thin out the population of males, once they're of fighting age.
posted by The otter lady at 1:41 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some of these men may be drawn to radical movements.

Chartism? Female equality? Universal suffrage? Democracy? Woohoo!
posted by biffa at 1:41 PM on March 9, 2010


This post comes shortly on the heels of my having read this article, summarizing a recent paper (linked in article) showing that the economic downturn is causing fewer male births in California.
posted by hippybear at 1:48 PM on March 9, 2010


People do what they get paid to do, and right now the returns to having a boy are so much higher than the returns to having a girl that if you're only allowed to have one or the other, well, of course people are choosing boys.

I don't remember the specifics, but a few years ago one of the case studies in one of my development economics classes was about a program that encouraged parents to send their children to school (versus to work in the fields or factories) by feeding the schoolchildren. So parents knew they didn't have to worry about feeding their kids that day as long as they went to school. Then, because the country in question was misogynistic/chauvinistic, the program gave female students an extra ration of grain to bring home to their families every day they attended school. Attendance jumped and girls were valued more within their families.

So, probably the best way to combat this would be an international charity program that gives things to Chinese families with daughters. Like regular payments to the parents if they send their daughter to school and bring her to the doctor for preventative and other care at least once a year, followed up by a college or trade school scholarship for the girl once she reaches adulthood.

A generation or two of that and the payoff from investing in girls' human capital should begin to change attitudes as daughters become economic assets instead of liabilities.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:50 PM on March 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


There is a documentary film coming out about this phenomenon in India: Petals In The Dust: India's Missing Girls. The trailers are just heartbreaking.
posted by Wavelet at 1:51 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or, working within the dowry tradition, you could work within the existing culture by offering to fund dowries for daughters. (Ideally the money would be put in the daughter's name, accessible by her when she reached the local age of marriage/majority, so she could choose if she really wanted to get married or if she wanted to use it for something else.)
posted by Jacqueline at 1:53 PM on March 9, 2010


Well perhaps you have to be as cold-blooded as me to think this, but I think it adds to the tragedy that the family that threw that baby girl in a bucket did so (a) in response in part to financial considerations and (b) in a world where people in developed countries spend tens of thousands of dollars to adopt.

If my wife and I have kids we'll have to adopt and the costs associated with just bringing that child in the door are staggering. I honestly have no idea where most of that money will inevitably end up, but I doubt in most cases any of it will end up in the hands of poor families like the one engaging in that casual barbarism in the first link.

Of course part of the reason that money doesn't end up in the hands of people putting children up for adoption is that we're terrified of creating a "farming" operation. Whenever the subject of paying for organ donations comes up that's the drum that gets beaten.

I've always thought that the concern is a little overblown and ignores the kind of pay that happens anyway. Here it looks like here's also other unrelated tragedies that might be somewhat diminished if people could get compensated.
posted by phearlez at 1:58 PM on March 9, 2010


Some good friends of mine who spend a lot of time in China, have reported that at least out in the countryside, what people do is simply not report daughters being born. Which might also be reported as abortions or stillbirths, but there's a growing number of women in China who have zero documentation.

Naturally, this leads to other problems ranging from human trafficking to simply underserving infrastructure based on inaccurate estimates of population, and definitely doesn't completely cover the "missing women" ratios, but the gender imbalance isn't -quite- as far off as typically reported. (Mind you, the key word here is "quite", there's definitely gender preference and ratio imbalance and it's problematic).
posted by yeloson at 2:00 PM on March 9, 2010


Seriously? A post about female gendercide is turning into another "what about the menz" thread? Really?

Men turn into radical extremists because they're bachelors? For realsies? No other factors at work here?

Men not finding wives is the most important aspect of this? Rather than the second-class status of half the human population, to the point of denying their personhood, denying their existence?

The mind, it boggles.
posted by speicus at 2:01 PM on March 9, 2010 [15 favorites]


Improving education outcomes, economic productivity and personal wealth may be the only way to stop this practice (if the police are reluctant to enforce existing laws). Of course, the Catch 22 is that increasing material wealth means more environmental degradation, not only for China but for the test of the planet. While to an outsider like me China seems to be a bit of a horror story, the country is also a source of optimism about the future. In many ways, China is humanity's future of scarcity. If they can get through their current problems by developing innovative solutions (not just technological, but diplomatic, developmental, structural, societal, legal, the whole gamete of human response to change, threats and opportunities) they may be able to show the rest of us the way to somehow survive the next two centuries. Hopefully these solutions incorporate the fundamental Enlightenment values that have helped western society prosper.

Over the past 100 years, the Chinese have been through it all.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:05 PM on March 9, 2010


Fair enough. It just seems odd to me to put possible future radicalization on the scales with actual current murder.

Agreed. It's just another piece of the problem. Like how meth labs are being used to make meth that ruins people's lives now, but meth labs can also become chemical waste dumps that are unlivable for others without Superfund money. It's worth looking at the larger picture, sometimes, while also putting things in a proper order.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:05 PM on March 9, 2010


You can't be "pro-choice except..."

Let's keep a woman's choice seperate from infanticide. Even when driven by the same motivations; the are totally different issues.
posted by spaltavian at 2:05 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


phearlez, while I have sympathy for anyone with issues that keep them from procreating, it's not minor frivolous concerns that keeps babyfarming from being (more of an) industry, it's the major ethical sinkholes of turning human beings into commodities and, I might add, creating one more way to make enslaving women profitable. If baby selling were a legal industry, then how much choice do YOU think ANY women would have in being anything but a baby factory, with all the hardship and loss of personhood that implies, in these societies? Once their own governments saw them as cash sources, how many would ever be allowed an education, a job, or a chance to leave the country?

It would be taking an already unjust situation and making it worse, much like putting the kidneys of poor people on the open market for purchase by the more privileged would.

I mean yes, this stuff already happens, but it's at least nominally not open and part of your 401k investments, nor should it be. If an injustice is happening, shrugging our shoulders and turning it into a hot new growth industry isn't the right response.
posted by emjaybee at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2010


showbiz_liz: "Yeah, it's not "oh boohoo those poor men without wives." It's "oh shit those men are going to be very frustrated and possibly turn to violence.""

Fair enough. It just seems odd to me to put possible future radicalization on the scales with actual current murder. [To be clear: I'm speaking of infanticide again - not selective abortion.]


You're thinking too small here. Simply saying "radicalization" implies that maybe some small percentage of folks may get up to some shenanigans. 20% of the population isn't a group that maybe breaks some windows - they steer national policy. They create internal unrest. They topple governments.

A government with a huge financial impact on the rest of the world and a nuke or two.

Killing babies is repugnant, a stain on the soul of those doing it, and particularly bad for the baby in question. A superpower suffering internal turmoil and unrest because its societal traditions are upended by a huge shift in its gender balance is bad for everyone.
posted by phearlez at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


emjaybee, I am neither looking for your sympathy nor advocating the Next Big Moneymaker.

I merely think it's interesting and somewhat ironically sad that there is this huge exchange of money that happens in order for rich whiteys to get babies at the same time that these people kill their children because they're the wrong gender to provide for them, or would cost them dowry money in the future.

The ban on paying for children and organs, like China's one child policy, is well intentioned and meant to prevent other suffering. But all three cause other, different pain and problems, some of which is very similar to the exact problems they're designed to prevent.

Just because I think something is sad doesn't mean I can't find it interested and it doesn't mean I'm necessarily advocating to stop it.
posted by phearlez at 2:24 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This has been a very disturbing trend for a long time. The reversal in South Korea is the first news I have heard of any change.

Jim Rogers in his book Investment Biker talked about South Korea's preference, at the time, for boys. He predicted that the shortage of girls would lead to massive cultural changes in Asia, the major one being that after marriage the couple would go and live with the parents of the bride. Obviously that hasn't happened yet, but I wouldn't rule it out either. As these girls age and recognize their parent's refusal to abandon them, they may develop a sense of loyalty to their own family that overcomes the tradition.

-----

What are you predicting those men will end up doing?

Take a look at this Metafilter post and then imagine the same set of conditions continuing for another twenty to thirty years.

-----

The issue of "safe and legal" abortions really has little to do with the issue of selective abortions. Since selective abortions still happen in countries that have outlawed abortions, or in the case of India have legal abortions with off-the-books restrictions.

The legality of abortion almost certainly has a pronounced effect on the amount of selective abortions. See the links in the second half of this post.
posted by BigSky at 2:29 PM on March 9, 2010


You can't be "pro-choice except..."
Sure you can. That's the entire point of divorcing 'legality' from 'personal belief and societal preference.'
posted by verb at 2:31 PM on March 9, 2010


There will be a surplus of men. This is a problem?

The above 'predicted futures' seem to me to be very much shaped by the lens of a western, male-dominated culture. (I am not saying the posters above all ascribe to that 'lens' -- just that most of us are immersed in it.)

There are other possible futures for a male-heavy population. In anthropology (Patterns of Polyandry in Tibet and India) studies of 'higher' tribal cultures describe systems of wife-sharing that bring about "a certain inhibition of aggressive tendencies ..." and in which the men sharing one wife are "quite content to have children of the family without any distinct paternity."

Polyandry may even yield "considerable economic value" -- something all men might ponder.
posted by Surfurrus at 2:32 PM on March 9, 2010


Metafilter: joking about something tragic
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 2:32 PM on March 9, 2010


I've often wondered about this if they ever find a "gay gene." Never even dawned on me that you'd get an abortion over gender.
posted by toekneebullard at 2:40 PM on March 9, 2010


Let's keep a woman's choice seperate from infanticide. Even when driven by the same motivations; the are totally different issues.

Agreed. The right to choose is wholly separate from this tragic issue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:40 PM on March 9, 2010


verb: You can't be "pro-choice except..."
Sure you can. That's the entire point of divorcing 'legality' from 'personal belief and societal preference.'


No, you really can't. "Pro-choice", whatever the issue one is considering, never means that you must agree with all possible choices. I'm for free speech, but that doesn't mean I agree with all possible things that could be said.

You can think that to decide based on gender is wrong, or a bad idea. That's different from thinking that the practice should be banned; which is all that's relevant. The term "pro-choice" is politico-speak for your view on what should be legal, not what you think is moral.

The trouble is that there are a lot of people who think they are pro-choice, but would support an outright ban on the procedure for the purposes of gender selection. This makes one no longer pro-choice and puts them in the position of arguing that they and the government should have a say- overriding the woman's own wishes- regarding her body. That they know better that the woman in question. Just because their list of "acceptable" reasons might me longer than, say, a GOP office holder, does not make them pro-choice.
posted by spaltavian at 2:40 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


11% of the population. 20% of the male population.
posted by alasdair at 2:40 PM on March 9, 2010


In many Asian countries the ratio of male to female population is higher than in the West: as high as 1.07 in China and India, and even higher in Pakistan. A number of authors (most notably Amartya Sen) have suggested that this imbalance reflects excess female mortality and have argued that as many as 100 million women are "missing." This paper proposes an explanation for some of the observed overrepresentation of men: the hepatitis B virus. I present new evidence, consistent with an existing scientific literature, that carriers of the hepatitis B virus have offspring sex ratios around 1.50 boys for each girl. This evidence includes both cross-country analyses and a natural experiment based on recent vaccination campaigns. Hepatitis B is common in many Asian countries, especially China, where some 10–15 percent of the population is infected. Using data on prevalence of the virus by country and estimates of the effect of hepatitis on the sex ratio, I argue that hepatitis B can account for about 45 percent of the "missing women": around 75 percent in China, between 20 and 50 percent in Egypt and western Asia, and under 20 percent in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal.
Article PDF "Hepatitis B and the Case of the Missing Women" by Emily Oster
posted by andoatnp at 2:48 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why are some of you joking about something tragic???

Probably because the root of all humor is pain, which would make this pretty much the funniest thing ever.

For some of us, exceptionally tragic madness like this bypasses our sympathy synapses and goes straight to the cheap yucks gland in our hindbrains.

Haw haw haw! stupid, backwards, murderous humans and their idiotic "cultures". Look at 'em. Haw haw haw!

Hurry up, giant earth-destroying asteroid, you are long overdue. I hope you land on me.
posted by chronkite at 2:53 PM on March 9, 2010


The ban on paying for children and organs, like China's one child policy, is well intentioned and meant to prevent other suffering. But all three cause other, different pain and problems, some of which is very similar to the exact problems they're designed to prevent.

I don't agree, because it's not the ban on selling children or organs that is causing the suffering, it's the much larger cultural and economic factors of oppression and injustice that cause the suffering.

And while selling babies and kidneys may provide some extra cash flow to some people, it will do nothing to address those larger factors and will also create a great many more instances of injustice (like enslaving people in order to sell their babies or organs to others) than it would help. After all, selling your own baby or organs is risky and painful, why not enslave someone else and sell theirs instead?

You are envisioning a Chinese woman attending college after selling a few babies; I am imagining a local group of thugs imprisoning Chinese women and selling the babies they force on them until they drop dead or become too sisk/infertile and are killed. Frankly, I'm pretty sure my scenario is the more likely one.
posted by emjaybee at 3:00 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


sisk=sick.
posted by emjaybee at 3:01 PM on March 9, 2010


Infanticide and abortion are not the only options for sex selection.

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (embryo screening) is less destructive than fetal deselection during pregnancy or infanticide.

Bioethicist Jacob M. Appel put forward the argument that sex selection can empower women and increase familial happiness:

"Mothers who want boys should have boys and mothers who want girls should have girls. Pre-implanting diagnosis offers the promising of increasing the number of children who are loved and wanted. I look forward to the day when every son knows that his parents wanted a son and every daughter knows that her parents wanted a daughter."

His article "Want a Daughter? Try Paying for Her" goes into further detail.
posted by stringbean at 3:06 PM on March 9, 2010


Interestingly, there is a correlation between literacy and a skewed sex ratio. (Link is further discussion of something raised in the Economist article.)
posted by stoneweaver at 3:07 PM on March 9, 2010


Sure you can. That's the entire point of divorcing 'legality' from 'personal belief and societal preference.'

No, you really can't. "Pro-choice", whatever the issue one is considering, never means that you must agree with all possible choices. I'm for free speech, but that doesn't mean I agree with all possible things that could be said.

You can think that to decide based on gender is wrong, or a bad idea. That's different from thinking that the practice should be banned; which is all that's relevant. The term "pro-choice" is politico-speak for your view on what should be legal, not what you think is moral.
I think we might have been talking past each other: The "Pro-choice, except..." comment I was noting implied that one could be pro-choice but have misgivings about abortion as gender-selection. Which is essentially what you're saying.

Now, that said, I don't think that the "no limits, ever, period, no matter what" view is the only one that can be considered legitimately pro-choice. Obviously there comes a point where the label "pro-choice" is no longer applicable, but to say that any limitations at all invalidate the term is silly, just as much as those who say that "Pro-life" means never, ever, ever having an abortion even if the mother's going to die.
posted by verb at 3:17 PM on March 9, 2010


(I have the sneaking suspicion that I've opened up a can of worms with that statement. It shouldn't be necessary, but let me reiterate that I'm not surreptitiously advocating some particular restriction, or suggesting that women are not capable of making decisions for themselves, etc. My comment was specifically restricted to the extremely narrow definition of "pro-choice".)
posted by verb at 3:20 PM on March 9, 2010


Calling anything that's primarily abortion anything-cide seems trollish.

Anyway, given that it's harder and more effort for women to have children than for men, might this further reduce the birthrate in countries like India and China within a generation? If so, it might not be a bad thing.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:26 PM on March 9, 2010


Calling anything that's primarily abortion anything-cide seems trollish.

Not necessarily. Calling it a gendercide is to put it up against genocide which include activities which don't always result in murder. Enslavement, force sterilizations, forced abortions, or forcibly transferring children away from parents would still be considered genocide if the intent was to reduce or remove the ethnic or religious group in question. So, when we're talking about gendercide and abortion, we're talking about the effect on the female sex as a whole (both in general and in China). All and all, I think the term is appropriate because it's killing Womankind, even if it isn't killing individual women.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:46 PM on March 9, 2010


Metafilter: joking about something tragic - Mr. Anthropomorphism

I wasn't joking. I think polyandry could be a very positive step for human evolution. Not all tragedies (and infanticide is one!) have to end in more tragedies.
posted by Surfurrus at 3:47 PM on March 9, 2010


whoops ... I mean "gendercide" ... not just infanticide (which is a small part of the op).

The effects of this 'wave of gendercide is tragic - we have no way of knowing how long or to what extent this will continue. But, we also have to acknowledge human resilience and the ability to innovate when faced with unforeseen consequences. I only meant to comment on the surplus of men in the future -- and that it does not have to equate to a violent future.
posted by Surfurrus at 3:51 PM on March 9, 2010


Some of these men may be drawn to radical movements.

Chartism? Female equality? Universal suffrage? Democracy? Woohoo!


You are right, biffa, it could produce change for the better. But this looks to me like something much messier than one young man standing in front of a tank.
posted by rainbaby at 3:59 PM on March 9, 2010


allen.spaulding: Ultrasounds give a poor prediction of sex even at 20 weeks and for sex-selective abortion to play a big role we'd need there to be more than 50x the number of physicians capable of performing second- and third-trimester abortions than actually exist in China and India. South Korea might be a different story although the data there is heavily compromised as well.

80-90% is poor? Really? And you don't think that if the tech makes the pronouncement at 11/12 weeks that the foetus is 'probably' a girl parents who are willing would abort on that statement?

Like anything else, it's not just the abortion based on gender. It's the cultural bent that says 'girls are bad' and simultaneously says 'single men are bad after X age' and 'all worth is through procreating'. A clusterfuck of gender and culture issues all bound up with modern technology.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:02 PM on March 9, 2010


it's just bad math to blame abortions for a sizable percentage of the problem

Some good friends of mine who spend a lot of time in China, have reported that at least out in the countryside, what people do is simply not report daughters being born. Which might also be reported as abortions or stillbirths, but there's a growing number of women in China who have zero documentation.


The article addresses both these points. It suggests that higher mortality rates for girls after birth (due to differing levels of health care, etc.) are partly to blame for the overall gender ratio, though it notes that ratios at birth are more skewed for second and subsequent children, suggesting that active selection before birth does play a role. The article also states that the hidden-girl problem in China is actually not much of a factor due to various things (rural areas, where it's easier to avoid being reported, are generally the same areas where it's legal to have multiple children under various conditions, and those regions report more even gender ratios than the rest of the nation. Furthermore, unless the parents are not using any social services on their illicit daughters, there's not enough evidence in school attendance, hospital stays, etc. for illicit children to be playing a large role.) I haven't read any of the references, so I can't vouch for the accuracy of these claims.
posted by ubersturm at 4:04 PM on March 9, 2010


The missing women problem predates ultrasound technology. You think someone would point that out. The real cause is far more likely to lie in girl-infant morbidity and mortality rates. Amartya Sen, one of the leading proponents of the missing women concept, noticed this decades ago. Importantly, he had data. If sex-selective abortions are having an impact, it must, by the numbers, be a tiny fraction of this.

Where can we find this data? I am not *at all* doubting it exists. I just think it would be fascinating to see.

Also, ultrasounds aren't very specific at 20 weeks, but what about amnio tests? If they can determine the father, surely they can find a Y chromosome. Are they too expensive?
posted by effugas at 4:06 PM on March 9, 2010


Ultimately, this just makes the one child policy look really bad, more than it makes legal abortion look bad.

Did you read the article? You can't blame it on one-child, because it happens just as much in parts of India that are not subject to the policy. One-child may make it more obvious or more understandable to Western observers, but the gender ratios are off by just as much or more in other areas. It's pretty clearly a product of cultures that don't value girls or women, which in some cases happen to fall under China's one-child laws but in other cases don't.

I find the number of people who somehow find the whole issue to be a case against abortion to be interesting. And not really in a good way. The whole thing is disturbing, but it's not disturbing because a lot of female fetuses are being aborted — it's disturbing because it demonstrates how little some cultures value women and girls.

Restricting abortion — forcing those fetuses that were aborted to be born — wouldn't change this low value put on women. Keep in mind that these cultures have undervalued women for a long time, and during most of that time sex-selective abortion wasn't available. Now sex-selective abortion is available, and parents are deciding not to have daughters.

How would forcing them to have daughters that they don't want, and bring them into a culture that very apparently doesn't value them, be a good thing? That's horrible.

I'd like to see 100% prenatal sex verification in cultures that undervalue women. Let every woman decide, every pregnancy. Make sure every child is wanted. Don't want a girl? Fine; don't have one. Better to have a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of boys to girls and have the girls that are born be wanted and well-cared for, than force a 1:1 ratio and have girls and women continue to be undervalued and mistreated.

Restricting sex-selective abortion wouldn't solve the real problem, it would just sweep it back under the carpet as it has been for centuries. Seeing "abortion" or "demographics" as the problem ignores women and focuses on the male side of the problem — all those poor, poor boys who won't be able to find wives, and the trouble they're going to cause to the status quo. It's offensive.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:08 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


All and all, I think the term is appropriate because it's killing Womankind, even if it isn't killing individual women.

See, I don't like the term "gendercide" because "genocide" is an important word with a specific meaning that doesn't apply to these situations. Girls aren't being aborted, murdered or abandoned in China because of an effort to wipe out girlkind - it's that the government has a one child policy and the individuals living under that policy - for various reasons - want their one child to be a boy. We can express our horror at certain policies and their consequences without referring to genocide (which sometimes seems like a lazy shorthand for "a serious and awful thing that needs attention").
posted by moxiedoll at 4:14 PM on March 9, 2010


andoatnp: Oster's 2005 paper is bullshit; her own name is on the refutation paper:
Earlier work (Oster, 2005) has argued, based on existing medical literature and analysis of cross country data and vaccination programs, that parents who are carriers of hepatitis B have a higher offspring sex ratio (more boys) than non-carrier parents. Further, since a number of Asian countries, China in particular, have high hepatitis B carrier rates, Oster(2005) suggested that hepatitis B could explain a large share – approximately 50% – of Asia’s “missing women”.
Subsequent work has questioned this conclusion. Most notably, Lin and Luoh (2008) use data from a large cohort of births in Taiwan and and only a very tiny effect of maternal hepatitis carrier status on offspring sex ratio. Although this work is quite conclusive for the case of mothers, it leaves open the possibility that paternal carrier status is driving higher sex offspring sex ratios. To test this, we collected data on the offspring gender for a cohort of 67,000 people in China who are being observed in a prospective cohort study of liver cancer; approximately 15% of these individuals are hepatitis B carriers. In this sample, we find no effect of either maternal or paternal hepatitis B carrier status on offspring sex. Carrier parents are no more likely to have male children than non-carrier parents. This finding leads us to conclude that hepatitis B cannot explain skewed sex ratios in China.
posted by benzenedream at 4:20 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pollomacho: I know really, do we really want a society like that to breed more?

Right, I too support the genocide of many Asian and pre-literate cultures. ~
posted by coolguymichael at 4:46 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are envisioning a Chinese woman attending college after selling a few babies

Actually I'm envisioning a MetaFilter where you don't turn my idle observations about aspects of society into big societal plans and capitalistic ventures and then pin them on me. It's a nicer place and the version of you there is less of a jerk.
posted by phearlez at 4:49 PM on March 9, 2010


Usual correlation/causation problems with the rise in crime in China and the growing sex imbalance. I'm sure it will be a factor, but far more likely that both are associated with the massive social and institutional changes of the 'reform' era. For all its other faults, the Maoist period was both a time of very low crime and explicitly geared to raising the status of women (source of the slogan that's the title of this post).
Of course, the family planning laws didn't come in until 1978 either, so direct comparisons aren't possible, but there's such a host of other factors that you can't simply point to sex selective abortion as the sole culprit. For example, while it's hardly better and results in equally grim outcomes, a major part of the disparity in infant survival between the sexes is due to the willingness of families to go that extra mile in post-natal care for a male child - spending on health and even better feeding. But here again, you have to look at the breakdown in free mother-and-child care in rural areas as a factor and the soaring costs of marketised healthcare provision.
I certainly don't want to pretend that traditional prejudice isn't a or the key factor in all of this; quite clearly, it is in the different treatment of newborn girls as against boys. But the wider socio-historical context against which that tradition plays out is as significant.
posted by Abiezer at 5:06 PM on March 9, 2010


speicus: Men not finding wives is the most important aspect of this? Rather than the second-class status of half the human population, to the point of denying their personhood, denying their existence?

I understand your point, but let's be clear - we're talking about something which could conceivably make China and India aggressive and warlike. The consequences for that could potentially extend all the way to global nuclear war.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:18 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


80-90% is poor? Really? And you don't think that if the tech makes the pronouncement at 11/12 weeks that the foetus is 'probably' a girl parents who are willing would abort on that statement?


Um, at 11 weeks the genitals have just barely started to form and the fetus is now around two inches long. No ultrasound technician is going to honestly give you anything better than 50/50 odds at that point. By 18-22 weeks, you can get up to 70-80%, under good circumstances. If we are to believe that abortion plays a large part in missing women, then it would require that there be 20-25% more abortions occurring this late to make up for the number of male fetuses accidentally aborted. So we would expect to see millions more abortions in the late second trimester.

And amnios are also not the culprit. These are expensive, mildly dangerous, and simply not happening with any frequency in these countries. I've never seen this argument made.

As far as the science is concerned, the only time we would expect to see significant bias in sex selection is for IVF, where prescreening can be done safely and within the cost realm of the procedure itself. If there were millions of women in rural parts of India and China getting late second trimester and early third trimester abortions, there would be far more evidence. The proponents of this thesis do not point to any such data. Instead, they point to statistical samples of children enrolled in school and then extrapolate backwards to form their theories.

But ignorance of reproductive realities has never gotten in the way of a politically motivated campaign to control a subordinated segment of the population.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:58 PM on March 9, 2010


Girls aren't being aborted, murdered or abandoned in China because of an effort to wipe out girlkind - it's that the government has a one child policy and the individuals living under that policy - for various reasons - want their one child to be a boy.

Several people here have said something like this, but it's refuted by the article. Maybe the most important point the article makes is that the disparity (a) post-dates China's one-child policy; (b) is largest in areas that do not have a one-child policy, like Punjab, India; (c) within China, is largest in areas that have exceptions to the one-child policy; and (d) is much larger for second and third births than for first births.

In other words, pretty much the most interesting point of the article is that this disparity is not explainable by the one-child policy.
posted by palliser at 6:06 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Er, just to be specific, that 70-80 rate is for the various studies done in-country by IPAS and others. Stateside and in developed countries, I think we hit 80-90 by 20 weeks.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:08 PM on March 9, 2010


... we're talking about something which could conceivably make China and India aggressive and warlike ... all the way to global nuclear war.

So, men who can't possess each their own woman will resort to violence? Bachelor madness! The penis revolt!

Resorting to war and violence is born from a great lack of imagination.
posted by Surfurrus at 6:29 PM on March 9, 2010


Hmmm. I predict that within in a generation or two, there's going to be a booming mail-order husband business in the U.S., with can't-find-a-husband Black women as the primary clients and can't-find-a-wife Chinese men as the primary "goods."
posted by fuse theorem at 6:38 PM on March 9, 2010


Resorting to war and violence is born from a great lack of imagination.

I dunno about that. Sometimes we get pretty damn creative with violence.

As for being concerned about a very real demographic crisis, we should at least be concerned. States with a large portion of single males with no hope of finding families and settling down do tend to be much more likely to use violence. The domestic slows us down, for good or ill.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:40 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This entire argument might be moot 150 years from now when the population of the Earth exceeds half a trillion and we're duct taping newborns together into giant balls and catapulting them into the Sun.
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:42 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lord Chancellor, the 'great lack of imagination' that allows war/violence is (even now) the inability to imagine any other choices than violence. It is much easier to give up and toss babies out to the sun than to imagine a huge cultural shift; much easier to label men as inherently violent than to imagine them choosing new ways of living.

Polyandry (one wife, many husbands) is one example of another form of "domesticity" that could provide more than "hope" for the future - if not the present (see my previous link). There are many other ways that human culture could evolve. The trendy discussions on 'redefining families/marriage' are barely scratching the surface.

Humans are blessed with polymorphous perversity.
posted by Surfurrus at 7:26 PM on March 9, 2010


I'd agree with this post except for the part where now any female baby is a target for kidnapping. Which is... not an improvement. I'd be inclined to say "screw them for their stupidity" too, except well, seven brothers want seven brides, dammit.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:43 PM on March 9, 2010


It's a nicer place and the version of you there is less of a jerk.
posted by phearlez at 6:49 PM on March 9 [+] [!]


Is that the place where people who adopt children aren't referred to as "rich whiteys" by some ignorant jerkoff?
posted by MikeMc at 9:13 PM on March 9, 2010


Son, It's Time We Have A Talk About Where Babies Go

You see, when a mommy and daddy love each other very much, but they're being pressured by the People's Republic of China and they have nowhere else to turn, sometimes they will walk miles away to a place where nobody knows who they are, and they'll—wait, no. Hold on. Let's start over. Can Daddy just think for a moment here?

Play with your toys for a bit. Why don't you take out Mr. Bear and Mrs. Giraffe and play with them for a little while? It's all right, Daddy's okay. He just needs to go splash some cold water on his face.

Okay, this might make more sense. You know how sometimes I complain about there being too many toys in your room, and how I say that they're making a mess, and in order to not make such a mess, you might need to throw some of your toys out? Well, China is kind of like that, too. What's that? You're right, I've never told you to throw any of your toys away. Because that would be very mean—yes—you're right. Xiu, my son, please don't cry. None of your toys will have to be thrown out.

Nobody should have to get rid of anything they love.

posted by Rhaomi at 11:24 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older Stefania Rotolo performs live!...  |  Blog: Daily Plays. "Reading a ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments