100 Million Missing Girls of India and China

The last century saw the largest total population increase ever in the history of the world. At the start of the twentieth century, there were 1.6 billion people, according to Gaia Watch. At the end there were 6.1 billion people. However, the total fertility rates in the world are now rapidly declining; it is happening in America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. With increasing urbanization and rapid economic growth, there are tremendous pressures being felt to reduce the family size in the emerging economies of the world. And it's a trend often missed by the casual consumer of frequent sensational media stories warning us about "the population bomb". Dramatic increase in female Genocide or gendercide—the title of a 1985 book by Mary Anne Warren—is seen as an unintended consequence of pressure to have smaller families in countries like India and China.

As we are constantly bombarded by such stories and arguments about the the dangers of increasing world population, let's consider the following: Is it necessarily a good thing that the fertility rates are reaching sub-replacement levels of less than 2.2 in many nations of the developing and the developed world? Why are the disappearing daughters in India and China bearing the brunt of this decline? How will this heavily skewed male-female ratio impact social stability and economics in the largest Asian nations? What will be the impact of declining fertility rates on the welfare states in Europe? How will different nations cope with the consequences of fewer workers and aging populations? Who will pay the taxes to cover the escalating costs of caring for the elderly? Will the elderly be required to work well beyond the prevailing retirement age? Or will it be the new immigrants who will join the work force to pay to sustain the welfare states in Western Europe? Before answering these questions, let us look at what is happening to the world population today.

Fertility rates are declining, and the baby girls are paying the heaviest price in the rapidly unfolding tragedy of female genocide. This is particularly true for the most populous Asian nations of India and China, with the pressure to have small families combined with the ancient preference for male children. Add to that the widespread availability and affordability of ultrasound scan technology used to determine fetus gender, and you see all of the ingredients of a "gendercide" that, according to the Economist magazine, is responsible for 100 million missing baby girls in the world today.

Here's how the Economist magazine puts the issue of "gendercide" in its recent issue: "For millions of couples, the answer is: abort the daughter, try for a son. In China and northern India more than 120 boys are being born for every 100 girls. Nature dictates that slightly more males are born than females to offset boys’ greater susceptibility to infant disease. But nothing on this scale". It is estimated that at least 50 million Indian girls have been aborted in recent years, partly contributing to the decline in India's fertility rate from 3.11 to 2.81 children per woman in the last decade. China's TFR has actually increase slightly from 1.70 to 1.73 during the same period. To put it in perspective, the world average TFR declined from 2.65 to 2.55 children per woman from 2000 to 2009.

Among the consequences of more boys than girls in society, the Economist story on gendercide points out rising social instability in parts of the developing world. It explains, "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 list of countries and territories where the total fertility rate has dropped below sub-replacement level is long, and it extends beyond Europe and Asia into the conservative Islamic nations of North Africa and the Middle East. Of the 195 countries and territories listed on the UN TFR ranking, 85 have fertility rates of less than 2.2, considered an acceptable replacement level. Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation by population, has sub-replacement fertility level of 2.18, and it is declining. Turkey is at 2.14; Tunisia is at 1.93; Iran is at 2.04, slightly lower than the US's 2.05.

With increasing urbanization, Pakistan's population growth rate has declined from 2.17% in 2000 to 1.9% in 2008. Based on PAI Research Commentary by Karen Hardee and Elizabeth Leahy, the total fertility rate (TFR) in Pakistan is still the highest in South Asia at 4.0 children per woman. Women in urban areas have an average of 3.3 children compared to their rural counterparts, who have an average of 4.5 children. The overall fertility rate has been cut in half from about 8 children per woman in 1960s to about 4 in the last decade, according to a study published in 2009.

In a book titled "The Empty Cradle", the author Phillip Longman warns that the declining birth rates around the world will cause many social and economic problems. As a consequence of declining fertility, by 2050 the population of Europe will have fallen to what it was in 1950. Longman says this is happening all around the world: Women are having fewer children. It's happening in Brazil, it's happening in China, India and Japan. It's even happening in the Middle East. Wherever there is rapid urbanization, education for women and visions of urban affluence, birthrates are falling, disproportionately cutting female births in some of the most populous nations such as India and China. Having and raising children is seen as an expense and a burden.

"So we have a "free rider" problem. You don't need to have children to provide for your old age -- but the pension systems need them." Says Longman, referring to the coming Social Security crunch as the number of retired people rises faster than the number of workers.

In addition to outsourcing in Asia, America is relying increasingly on immigration from the developing world to fill its jobs, according to report in Daily Mail. The nation is reaching a "tipping point" when the babies born to minority parents outnumber whites for the first time. More white women than ever before are postponing having children until they are older, while minority mothers are still having babies at younger ages, according to a US study published recently.

Europeans are also starting to face the problems stemming from their declining birth rates and aging populations on the solvency of their pension systems, and the need to increase immigration from the developing world to fill the jobs in their domestic economies. Some of the European corporations are choosing to move jobs to developing nations, which cuts their costs but also reduces government revenue. Both of these options are causing backlash against immigrants, and fueling protectionist policies against trading partners.

Looking to the future, it is quite easy to see the rapidly declining worldwide birth rates, and it is important to recognize the impact of this trend on national economies, global trade, immigration policies, social structures, and politics around the world. Instead of continuing to harp on the potential adverse effects of the "population bomb", the mass media need to balance the conversation by highlighting the negative effects of the ongoing baby bust.

Here's a video clip about the wanton destruction and dumping of female fetuses in India:

Related Link:

Do Urban Slums Offer Hope?

Pakistan Most Urbanized in South Asia

Sub-replacement Fertility Rates

Female Genocide Unfolding in India

Missing: 50 Million Indian Girls

Population Growth and Migration

The Empty Cradle By Phillip Longman

Demographics Trend Favor Muslims in the West?


Riaz Haq said…
In a recently published book "Superfreakonomics", the authors cite two American economists' finding that cable TV in 2700 households empowered Indian women to be more autonomous. Cable TV households had lower birthrates, less domestic abuse and kept daughter in school. Here are some more highlight from the book about India:

1. If women could choose their birthplace, India might not a wise choice to be born.

2. In spite of recent economic success and euphoria about India, the people of India remain excruciatingly poor.

3. Literacy is low, corruption is high.

4. Only half the households have electricity.

5. Only one in 4 Indian homes has a toilet.

6. 40% of families with girls want to have more children, but families with boys do not want a baby girl.

7. It's especially unlucky to be born female, baby boy is like a 401 K retirement plan, baby girl requires a dowry fund.

8. Smile train Chennai did cleft repair surgery. A man was asked how many children he had. He said had 1, a boy. It turned out that he had 5 daughters which he did not mention.

9. Indian midwives paid $2.50 to kill girl with cleft deformity

10. Girls are highly undervalued, there are 35 million fewer females than males, presumed dead, killed by midwife or parent or starved to death. Unltrasound are used mainly to find and destroy female fetuses. Ultrasound and abortion are available even in the smallest villages with no electricity or clean water

11. If not aborted, baby girls face inequality and cruelty at every turn,

12. 61% of Indian men say wife beating is justified, 54% women agree, especially when dinner is burned or they leave home without husband's permission.

13. Unwanted pregnancies, STDs, HIV infections happen when 15% o the condoms fail. Indian council of med research found that 60% of Indian men's genitalia are too small by international standards.

14. Indian laws to protect women are widely ignored. The government has tried monetary rewards to keep baby girls and supported microfinance for women. NGOs programs, smaller condoms, other projects have had limited success.

15. People had little interest in State TV due to poor reception or boring programs. But cable television has helped women, as 150 million people between 2001-2006 got cable
TV which gave exposure to world.

16. American economists found that the effect of TV in 2700 households empowered women to be more autonomous. Cable TV households had lower birthrates, less domestic abuse and kept daughter in school.
Riaz Haq said…
The West enabled the killing of 160 million female fetuses, argues an NY Times Op Ed:

Twenty years later, the number of “missing” women has risen to more than 160 million, and a journalist named Mara Hvistendahl has given us a much more complete picture of what’s happened. Her book is called “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men.” As the title suggests, Hvistendahl argues that most of the missing females weren’t victims of neglect. They were selected out of existence, by ultrasound technology and second-trimester abortion.

The spread of sex-selective abortion is often framed as a simple case of modern science being abused by patriarchal, misogynistic cultures. Patriarchy is certainly part of the story, but as Hvistendahl points out, the reality is more complicated — and more depressing.

Thus far, female empowerment often seems to have led to more sex selection, not less. In many communities, she writes, “women use their increased autonomy to select for sons,” because male offspring bring higher social status. In countries like India, sex selection began in “the urban, well-educated stratum of society,” before spreading down the income ladder.

Moreover, Western governments and philanthropic institutions have their fingerprints all over the story of the world’s missing women.

From the 1950s onward, Asian countries that legalized and then promoted abortion did so with vocal, deep-pocketed American support. Digging into the archives of groups like the Rockefeller Foundation and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Hvistendahl depicts an unlikely alliance between Republican cold warriors worried that population growth would fuel the spread of Communism and left-wing scientists and activists who believed that abortion was necessary for both “the needs of women” and “the future prosperity — or maybe survival — of mankind,” as the Planned Parenthood federation’s medical director put it in 1976.

For many of these antipopulation campaigners, sex selection was a feature rather than a bug, since a society with fewer girls was guaranteed to reproduce itself at lower rates.

Hvistendahl’s book is filled with unsettling scenes, from abandoned female fetuses littering an Indian hospital to the signs in Chinese villages at the height of the one-child policy’s enforcement. (“You can beat it out! You can make it fall out! You can abort it! But you cannot give birth to it!”) The most disturbing passages, though, are the ones that depict self-consciously progressive Westerners persuading themselves that fewer girls might be exactly what the teeming societies of the third world needed.

Over all, “Unnatural Selection” reads like a great historical detective story, and it’s written with the sense of moral urgency that usually accompanies the revelation of some enormous crime.

But what kind of crime? This is the question that haunts Hvistendahl’s book, and the broader debate over the vanished 160 million.

The scale of that number evokes the genocidal horrors of the 20th century. But notwithstanding the depredations of the Chinese politburo, most of the abortions were (and continue to be) uncoerced. The American establishment helped create the problem, but now it’s metastasizing on its own: the population-control movement is a shadow of its former self, yet sex selection has spread inexorably with access to abortion, and sex ratios are out of balance from Central Asia to the Balkans to Asian-American communities in the United States.


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