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May 16, 2005

Fact of the Day

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

According to a recent study conducted in Mumbai, 999 out of 1000 abortions in that city were performed on female fetuses. (Source: a Teaching Company lecture series about Hinduism that I perhaps unfairly semi-panned in a recent posting.)



posted by Michael at May 16, 2005


Wow, that's a very sad statistic although it doesn't surprise me much. Unfortunately, people don't think that if there are only males in the next generation, it would be impossible to carry on any sort of lineage--family names or otherwise--at all. Unless they want to start cloning themselves...

Posted by: sya on May 16, 2005 2:11 PM

I can tell you that this is a severe problem in the Indian state of the Punjab; what this will be like, in the next few decades, is troubling -- the "shortage" of women will provoke serious crisis in a society that places so much value in the institution of marriage and family...

Posted by: haroon on May 16, 2005 2:30 PM

Well, if that's the choice of 999 women who would rather have sons, can we complain? Or is there actually something terrible happening here? And by extension, here?

I tend to think so.

Posted by: Dave Shackelford on May 16, 2005 2:53 PM

The last two postings seem rather oddly paired---so men can't wait for women to take their clothes off---except when they don't want them born at all??

Posted by: annette on May 16, 2005 3:21 PM

Wow. That's strange and troubling.

This stat is only part of the story, though. What is the actual abortion rate there? In other words, what's the actual impact on the percentage of the population that's female? If only one or two percent of pregnancies are aborted, for instance, this won't cause a "woman shortage," because IIRC women make up around 51 or 52% of the world population; as tragic and disgusting as this is, it might not be enough to shift the balance too far. On the other hand, if five or ten percent of pregnancies are terminated, this is a disaster in the making.

Posted by: Scott Cunning on May 16, 2005 5:57 PM

Sigh. I wonder what the economic breakdown is of these abortions? Sadly, some educated and middle class Indians still prefer to have sons, as opposed to daughters.

*And this makes me think about my own Indian relatives, especially on my mother's side. Girls were so cherished! How and why do people buck trends or society's larger expectations?

Posted by: MD on May 16, 2005 7:27 PM

See ">this article

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. In most countries in the world, there are approximately 105 female births for every 100 males. In India, there are less than 93 women for every 100 men in the population. … For a poor family, the birth of a girl child can signal the beginning of financial ruin and extreme hardship. However this anti-female bias is by no means limited to poor families…Diagnostic teams with ultrasound scanners which detect the sex of a child advertise with catchlines such as spend 600 rupees now and save 50,000 rupees later.

And this recent piece from the CSMonitor.

For the potential long-term political and security consequences of this trend, see this.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 16, 2005 7:56 PM

Ah, thanks Lexington. That's the kind of additional information I was hoping for [read: curious about but sadly too lazy to go look up on my own.]

Posted by: Scott Cunning on May 16, 2005 8:11 PM

I'm sure this rate of abortion is a bad thing but I'm in the middle of James Wilson's "The Marriage Problem" and he believes that a high sex ratio (a high number of males compared to females) tends to promote stability and women's power in (emphasis) some situations. Predicting the consequences of sex ratios is difficult.

Posted by: JT on May 17, 2005 9:57 AM

"...a high sex ratio (a high number of males compared to females) tends to promote stability and women's power in (emphasis) some situations."

Odd. Rodney Stark, in The Rise of Christianity says the opposite regarding "women's power". In Roman society there was a highly disparate sex ration due to female infanticide and other reasons. Women were valuable chattels, but not much more, and had little power. As to stability, the link I provide above it to a book entitled "Bare Branches" which makes precisely the opposite argument. There was an article which preceded the book, which I read but cannot find. Wilson's book may be right, but he'd have a steep hill to climb to convince me.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 17, 2005 10:15 AM

Any study that generates statistics like these is immediately suspect, at least for me. I think there must be sampling error or extrapolation issues. I don't suppose the recently panned lecture series provides a reference citation?

I don't mean to imply that this problem is real -- I simply marvel at the magnitude.

Posted by: Michael on May 17, 2005 2:37 PM

It is a male-dominated society there. I think that South Asia may be the only place in the world, outside of the Middle East, in which males outnumber females. (Statistically, this is not supposed to happen, due to higher average life spans for females.)

Posted by: Aakash on May 21, 2005 11:22 PM

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