Gendercide in India: Add sugar and spice | The Economist
THE news from India’s 2011 census is almost all heartening. Literacy is up; life expectancy is up; family size is stabilising. But there is one grim exception. In 2011 India counted only 914 girls aged six and under for every 1,000 boys.
Without intervention, just a few more boys would be born than girls. If you compare the number of girls actually born to the number that would have been born had a normal sex ratio prevailed, then 600,000 Indian girls go missing every year. This is less distorted than the sex ratio in China, but whereas China’s ratio has stabilised, India’s is widening, and has been for decades. Sex selection is now invading parts of the country that used not to practise it.
India’s sex ratio shows that gendercide is a feature not just of dictatorship and poverty. Unlike China, India is a democracy: there is no one-child policy to blame. Although parts of the country are poor, poverty alone does not explain India’s preference for sons. The states with the worst sex ratios—Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat—are among the richest (see article), which suggests distorted sex selection will not be corrected just by wealth or government policy. But it can be corrected.
Parents choose to abort female fetuses not because they do not want or love their daughters, but because they feel they must have sons (usually for social reasons); they also want smaller families—and something has to give. Ultrasound technology ensures that this something is a generation of unborn daughters, because it lets them know the sex of a fetus. Sex selection therefore tends to increase with education and income: wealthier, better educated people are more likely to want fewer children and can more easily afford the scans.
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