Monday, March 8, 2010

Girl Feticide in Chindia Cuts Population Growth

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?


Mayraj said...

"A study of Tamil Nadu by the Community Service Guild of Madras similarly found that "female infanticide is rampant" in the state, though only among Hindu (rather than Moslem or Christian) families. "Of the 1,250 families covered by the study, 740 had only one girl child and 249 agreed directly that they had done away with the unwanted girl child. More than 213 of the families had more than one male child whereas half the respondents had only one daughter." (Malavika Karlekar, "The girl child in India: does she have any rights?," Canadian Woman Studies, March 1995.)"

Also like India, China also has history of female infanticide predating Govts one child policy.....

Riaz Haq said...

Mayraj: "Also like India, China also has history of female infanticide predating Govts one child policy....."

It's probably true, though I believe the trend has accelerated in recent years because of the availability of cheap ultrasounds and the pressure to have smaller families with the embrace of capitalism combined with ancient preference for male children.

Mayraj said...

By the way it is not new. The British recorded it during colonialism:
"In the late eighteenth century, infanticide was initially documented by British officialswho recorded it in their dairies during their travels. The scope of the problem ofinfanticide became clear in 1871, in the setting of India’s first census survey. At that timeit was noted that there was a significantly abnormal sex ratio of 940 women to 1000 men.This prompted the British to pass The Infanticide Act in 1870, making it illegal. But theInfanticide Act was difficult to enforce in a country where most birth took place in thehome and where vital registration was not commonly done.1 This inhuman practicecontinues even today. Unfortunately gross misuse of technological advancement hasaggravated this problem of female foeticide and ultrasound machines that were earlierused for other medical purposes are now being extensively used to determine the sex ofthe child."
Note what it says about unenforcement of laws:"Despitethe law being there, due to lack of proper implementation, very few cases are registered."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent BBC report about fetus dumping in Gujarat:

Authorities in the western Indian state of Gujarat say they have recovered more than a dozen human foetuses from a rubbish bin in the city of Ahmedabad.

They suspect the foetuses could have been dumped by local abortion clinics which have been conducting illegal sex determination tests.

The unborn babies' bodies have been sent for post-mortem examinations.

It is thought millions of female foetuses may have been aborted in India over the past 20 years.

India, where boys have traditionally been favoured over girls, banned gender selection and selective abortion in 1994.

Ante-natal tests to determine the sex of babies is banned in India but the practice carries on despite the law.

The BBC's Rathin Das in Ahmedabad says the foetuses were found in the east of the city on Monday morning. Some were in broken jars which have been sent for forensic examination.

Our correspondent says the recovery of so many foetuses has raised fears that they could be the result of illegal abortions conducted after sex determination tests confirmed the unborn babies were female.

Female foeticide has led to an unbalanced sex ratio in many northern districts of Gujarat, and in other states in India.

Ahmedabad's chief medical officer said some of the foetuses could have originated from legitimate abortions but that the clinics would then still be guilty of negligently dumping bio-medical waste.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excepts of Nehru University's Prof Jayanti Ghosh's video interview on Real News Network in which she says there is "no Indian miracle":

JAY: So in India you're saying there never was major reforms and it's getting worse.

GHOSH: Absolutely. If you look at the pattern of Indian growth, it's really more like a Latin American story. We are now this big success story of globalization, but it's a peculiar success story, because it's really one which has been dependent on foreign—you know, we don't run trade surpluses. We don't even run current account surpluses, even though a lot of our workers go abroad to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, to California, as IT workers. We still don't really run current account surpluses. So we've been getting capital inflow because we are discovered as this hot destination. You know, we are on Euromoney covers. We are seen as this place to go. Some of our top businessmen are the richest men in the world. They hit the Fortune top-ten index. All of that kind of thing. This capital inflow comes in, it makes our stock market rise, it allows for new urban services to develop, and it generates this feel-good segment of the Indian economy. Banks have been lending more to this upper group, the top 10 percent of the population, let's say. It's a small part of the population, but it's a lot of people, it's about 110 million people, which is a pretty large market for most places. So that has fuelled this growth, because otherwise you cannot explain how we've had 8 to 10 percent growth now for a decade. Real wages are falling, nutrition indicators are down there with sub-Saharan Africa, a whole range of basic human development is still abysmal, and per capita incomes in the countryside are not growing at all.

JAY: So I guess part of that's part of the secret of what's happening in India is that the middle, upper-middle class, in proportion to the population of India, is relatively small, but it's still so big compared to most other countries—you were saying 100, 150 million people living in this, benefiting from the expansion. And it's a lot bigger. It's like—what is it? Ten, fifteen Canadas. So it's a very vibrant market. But you're saying most of the people in India aren't seeing the benefits.

GHOSH: Well, in fact it's worse than that. It's not just that they're not seeing the benefits. It's not that they're excluded from this. They are part of this process. They are integrated into the process. And, in fact, this is a growth process that relies on keeping their incomes lower, in fact, in terms of extracting more surplus from them. Let me just give you a few examples. You know, everybody talks about the software industry and how competitive we are. And it's true. It's this shiny, modern sector, you know, a bit like California in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa. But when you look at it, it's not just that our software engineers achieve, it's that the entire supporting establishment is very cheap. The whole system which allows them to be more competitive is one where you are relying on very low-paid assistants, drivers, cooks, cleaners. You know, the whole support establishment is below subsistence wage, practically, and it's that which effectively subsidizes this very modern industry.

Riaz Haq said...

In a recently published book "Superfreakonomics", the authors highlight the following points 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...

Some highlights from the latest Superfreakonomics text:

A baby Indian girl who does grow into adulthood [i.e., who doesn't fall prey to selective abortion or infanticide] faces inequality at nearly every turn. She will earn less money than a man, receive worse health care and less education, and perhaps be subjected to daily atrocities. In a national health survey, 51 percent of Indian men said that wife-beating is justified under certain circumstances; more surprisingly, 54 percent of women agreed — if, for instance, a wife burns dinner or leaves the house without permission.


Unfortunately, most [government and non-government aid] projects have proven complicated, costly, and, at best, nominally successful. A different sort of intervention, meanwhile, does seem to have helped. … It was called television.


Rural Indian families who got cable TV began to have a lower birthrate than families without TV. (In a country like India, a lower birthrate generally means more autonomy for women and fewer health risks.) Families with TV were also more likely to keep their daughters in school, which suggests that girls were seen as more valuable, or at least deserving of equal treatment. (The enrollment rate for boys, notably, didn’t change.) … It appears that cable TV really did empower the women of rural India, even to the point of no longer tolerating domestic abuse. Or maybe their husbands were just too busy watching cricket.

Mayraj said...

Here's a PRB reportthat conflicts with Jensen and Oster:

A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports on a sex ratio that favors boys among U.S.-born children in Indian, Korean, and Chinese families. Using the 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses, the study found that the ratio of male to female births is much higher if the first child is a girl and even higher, by as much as 50 percent, if the first two children are girls. The normal ratio of males to females at birth is 1.05:1. However, if the first child is a girl, the ratio increases to 1.17:1, and if the first and second children are girls, the ratio increases more dramatically to 1.51:1 in favor of boys. The authors note that this is not evident with white parents and that the trend among the base group was not evident in the 1990 census.

The phenomenon is not unique to Asian immigrants in North America. In 2007, an Oxford University study suggested a similar phenomenon among Indian-born mothers in both England and Wales. It found that the proportion of male to female newborns increased from 103 male births per 100 female births in the 1970s to 114.4 by the end of 2005.

The authors expect the sex ratio to move upward given the recent surge in immigration from Southeast Asia and the availability of new technology that makes sex determination possible within the first five weeks of pregnancy. New reproductive technologies used for sex selection such as embryo screening, sperm sorting, and blood tests have been marketed to Indian expatriates in the United States and Canada in recent publications such as India Abroad and The Indian Express.

Given the small size of the Asian-born population relative to the total U.S. population, the practice is unlikely to have major consequences on the national sex ratio at birth in the short term. However, the implication of such practices might have a profound effect beyond U.S. borders. Since 1994, laws have been in enacted in India banning the use of embryo screening, sperm sorting, and other methods for sex selection, although these are not always strictly enforced. Canada, the UK, China, and the Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine have all outlawed and condemned any type of sex selection method. However, the U.S. fertility industry remains largely unregulated and American Society of Reproductive Medicine recommendations on the ethical use of the technology are largely ignored by practitioners.

Riaz Haq said...


Yes, the PRB report does conflict with Jensen and Oster to the extent of selective abortions and son preference which appear to cut across all castes and classes in India and China.

The situation is particularly alarming among upper-caste Hindus in some of the urban areas of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, specially in parts of Punjab, where there are only 300 girls for every 1,000 boys, according to Laura Turquet, ActionAid's women's rights policy official.

The Indian diaspora is not immune from the cultural bias against female children, either. The male-female ratios of British Indians are also getting increasingly skewed in favor of male children. Since the 1970s, the at-birth male-female ratio of British Indians has dramatically change from 103:100 to 114.4:100, excluding the birth of the first or the second child.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from on female genocide in India:

As John-Thor Dahlburg points out, "in rural India, the centuries-old practice of female infanticide can still be considered a wise course of action." (Dahlburg, "Where killing baby girls 'is no big sin'," The Los Angeles Times [in The Toronto Star, February 28, 1994.]) According to census statistics, "From 972 females for every 1,000 males in 1901 ... the gender imbalance has tilted to 929 females per 1,000 males. ... In the nearly 300 poor hamlets of the Usilampatti area of Tamil Nadu [state], as many as 196 girls died under suspicious circumstances [in 1993] ... Some were fed dry, unhulled rice that punctured their windpipes, or were made to swallow poisonous powdered fertilizer. Others were smothered with a wet towel, strangled or allowed to starve to death." Dahlburg profiles one disturbing case from Tamil Nadu:

Lakshmi already had one daughter, so when she gave birth to a second girl, she killed her. For the three days of her second child's short life, Lakshmi admits, she refused to nurse her. To silence the infant's famished cries, the impoverished village woman squeezed the milky sap from an oleander shrub, mixed it with castor oil, and forced the poisonous potion down the newborn's throat. The baby bled from the nose, then died soon afterward. Female neighbors buried her in a small hole near Lakshmi's square thatched hut of sunbaked mud. They sympathized with Lakshmi, and in the same circumstances, some would probably have done what she did. For despite the risk of execution by hanging and about 16 months of a much-ballyhooed government scheme to assist families with daughters, in some hamlets of ... Tamil Nadu, murdering girls is still sometimes believed to be a wiser course than raising them. "A daughter is always liabilities. How can I bring up a second?" Lakshmi, 28, answered firmly when asked by a visitor how she could have taken her own child's life eight years ago. "Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her." (All quotes from Dahlburg, "Where killing baby girls 'is no big sin'.")

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an excerpt from an interesting commentary by Soutik Biswas of BBC:

Incidentally, many of India's sterling performances came from women, including badminton star Saina Nehwal, who picked up the badminton singles gold. Many of India's medal-winning women athletes came from the northern state of Haryana, which has some of the worst rates of female foeticide in the country. These girls can drive change in this benighted region better than the politicians.

That was not all. The once glorious field hockey team - undefeated in the Olympic Games between 1928 and 1956, winning six gold medals in succession - which has been on a comeback of sorts made it to the finals before being thrashed by Australia. (The team had returned empty handed from the three Commonwealth Games ever since hockey was introduced in 1998)

One hopes that India's apathetic sports officials will build on the success of its athletes and begin treating them better with more incentives, increased funding and improved infrastructure. The legacy of the Delhi games will depend on this alone. The expensive stadia and other state-of-the-art infrastructure could easily turn out to be white elephants, decaying away in neglect, if they are not used to showcase and train athletes regularly. Half of India's one billion population is under the age of 25. Can there be any other country in the world with such untapped sporting potential?

It is tempting to suggest that India's success at the games have happened despite the system - even after the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, sports has remained mired in politics, nepotism, provincialism and corruption. Governments don't appear to be interested in nurturing sports seriously by tapping talent at the grassroots and setting up academies. Will the Delhi games help in ushering in a new sports culture in India?

There's still a lot of catching up to do, as sports writer Suresh Menon points out. One sobering example: the 100m track record in India is 10.3 seconds, achieved in 2005. Canadian Percy Williams clocked that record in 1930. So India trails by 75 years in that event. Or take China. Since 1984, India has won three Olympic medals. China has won 420. India's athletes have shown a lot of promise at Delhi, but it's still a long way to the top. Will the authorities now wake up - and do their job?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India report on UNDP gender gap report indicating Bangladesh and Pakistan doing better than India:

NEW DELHI: Believe it or not when it comes to gender inequities India fares worse than Pakistan. In fact, the country fares lower than all other countries in South Asia save Afghanistan. These are the findings of the 2010 Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme on Thursday as per its Gender Inequality Index.

So while Pakistan may be in the news for its treatment of women and might have become a hot bed for international women's activism, it certainly seems to know how to take care of its mothers better. On maternal mortality, India -- with its abysmal record -- trails Pakistan.

Reproductive health is the largest contributor to the inequality index. The other indicators, based on which it is calculated, include women's participation in the labour force, their level of empowerment based on educational attainment and parliamentary representation.

For maternal mortality, the figure for Pakistan is 320 deaths per 100,000 live births. In India, the corresponding figure stands at 450. The country also falters on adolescent fertility rate, another indicator of reproductive health.

As per this data, in India the adolescent fertility rate is 68 births per 1,000 live births as compared to 45 births per 1,000 live births in Pakistan. The figures illustrate that Pakistan have fewer younger mothers.

India, however, does better in female participation in the labour force, with the figure being 36% for the nation as opposed to 23% for Pakistan.

However, the country has been really found wanting on the health front.

India ranks 122 among 138 countries for which the gender inequality measure has been calculated. Pakistan is at 116, and Bangladesh is a notch higher at 112.

The other area, where India needs to do better is at the level of Parliamentary participation. India, the reports states, stands out as an exception where 30% local government seats are reserved for women. However, participation at this level has not been incorporated in the report. If India wants to fare better on this front, then Congress President Sonia Gandhi will have to keep her promise of ensuring reservation for women in Parliament and the legislative assemblies.

After all, most countries where women have found more places in Parliament are those where affirmative action has been put in place like Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and even Rwanda.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Soutik Biswas of the BBC on India Census 2011:

The good news is that at 17.64%, the rate of growth between 2001-2011 represents the sharpest decline over a decade since Independence. The growth rate was at its lowest between 1941-1951 when it was 13.3%: that was a time of famine, religious killings, and the transfer of populations in the run-up to partition. The growth rate was more than 24% between 1961 and 1981. So a 17.64% growth rate points to a slowing down that will cheer those who are concerned about how India will bear the burden of its massive population.

The bad news for those with such concerns is that India still has more than a billion people, and this number is rising. Indian politicians and policy planners speak eloquently about how this population will fetch demographic dividends, and ensure India's growth story.

But such optimism can be unfounded if the state is found wanting in the way that it is. It is very easy, warn social scientists, for this demographic dividend to turn into a deficit with millions of uneducated, unskilled and unemployed young people on the streets, angry and a threat to peace and social stability. "There is nothing to brag about our population growing and crossing China. Do we know how we are going to skill all these people?" That is the question of India's top demographer, Ashish Bose.

The government would like to say that the dip in population growth has to do with pushing a successful contraception programme in the country. But social scientists say that with rising urbanisation, it is no surprise that population growth is on the decline. Increasing urbanisation leads to nuclear families in small homes paying high rents in increasingly expensive cities. Having more children does not help matters.

The biggest shock in this census is the decline in the child gender ratio at 914 girls (up to six years) for every 1000 boys. This is the lowest since Independence and it looks like a precipitous drop from a high of 976 girls in the 1961 census.

Social scientists and demographers believe that the decline in the number of girls all over the country - in 27 states and union territories - points to deeply entrenched social attitudes towards women, despite economic liberalisation and increasing work opportunities.

They link sex determination tests and female foeticide - banned in India, but still quite widespread due to lax enforcement - to the rising costs of dowry, a practice which even the burgeoning middle classes have been unable to get rid of. "Marriages have become costlier, dowries have been pricier, so there is a lot of social resistance to having girl children in the family," says Mr Bose.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Newsweek piece by Nial Ferguson titled "Men Without Women":

In 1927, Ernest Hemingway published a collection of short stories titled Men Without Women. Today, less than a century later, it sums up the predicament of a rising proportion of mankind.

According to the United Nations, there are far more men than women on the planet. The gender gap is especially pronounced in Asia, where there are 100 million more guys than girls. This may come as a surprise to people in the Western world, where women outnumber men because—other things being equal—the mortality rate for women is lower than for men in all age groups. Nobel Prize–winning economist Amartya Sen calls it the mystery of Asia’s “missing women.”

The mystery is partly explicable in terms of economics. In many Asian societies, girls are less well looked after than boys because they are economically undervalued. The kind of domestic work they typically do is seen as less important than paid work done by men. And, of course, early marriage and minimal birth control together expose them to the risks of multiple pregnancies.

When Sen first added up the missing women—women who would exist today if it were not for selective abortion, infanticide, and economic discrimination—he put the number at 100 million. It is surely higher now. For, even as living standards in Asian countries have soared, the gender gap has widened. That’s because a cultural preference for sons over daughters leads to selective abortion of female fetuses, a practice made possible by ultrasound scanning, and engaged in despite legal prohibitions. The American feminist Mary Anne Warren called it “gendercide.” Notoriously common in northwestern India, it’s also rampant in the world’s most populous country: China.


The question left open by economists is what the consequences will be of such a large surplus of young men. History offers a disquieting answer. According to the German scholar Gunnar Heinsohn, European imperial expansion after 1500 was the result of a male “youth bulge.” Japan’s imperial expansion after 1914 was the result of a similar youth bulge, Heinsohn argues. During the Cold War, it was youth-bulge countries—Algeria, El Salvador, and Lebanon—that saw the worst civil wars and revolutions. Heinsohn has also linked the recent rise of Islamist extremism in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan to an Islamic youth bulge. Political scientists Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer warn that China and India could be the next countries to overdose on testosterone.

That has scary implications. Remember, most of Hemingway’s stories in Men Without Women are about violence. They feature gangsters, bullfighters, and wounded soldiers. The most famous story is called simply “The Killers.”

It may be that the coming generation of Asian men without women will find harmless outlets for their inevitable frustrations, like team sports or videogames. But I doubt it. Either this bachelor generation will be a source of domestic instability, whether Brazilian-style crime or Arab-style revolution—or, as happened in Europe, they and their testosterone will be exported. There’s already enough shrill nationalism in Asia as it is. Don’t be surprised if, in the next generation, it takes the form of macho militarism and even imperialism. Lock up your daughters.

Riaz Haq said...

As if female genocide and world's most child marriages weren't enough, here's yet another example of rampant misogyny in India:

A 17-year-old Indian girl who was allegedly forced by her father to have sex for money with up to 200 men has described her ordeal to the media.

Police in the southern Indian state of Kerala arrested her father and 29 other people two weeks ago.

The girl said she was raped by her father, starved and forced by him to have sex with other men.

Her father has not made any public comment. Police have vowed to hunt down the men alleged to have paid for sex.

They have despatched special police teams to find up to 70 men she has named and accused of paying to have sex with her. These are said to include contractors, film producers and policemen.

"My father first raped me when my mum was not home. Later he started taking me out to different locations, saying I'll get a chance to act in movies," the girl told a local television channel.

She says that when her mother found out, her father threatened to kill the entire family unless her mother kept silent. Police have arrested the mother for not disclosing a crime.

"The government will not allow anyone to escape the law," Chief Minister Oomen Chandy said.

The girl was finally rescued when other relatives discovered what was going on and informed the police. She is currently in a shelter where she is undergoing treatment for depression, police say.

"We will do whatever we can to bring her back to normal life. She wants to complete schooling and lead a good life," said Dr MK Muneer, the minister for social welfare in the provincial government.

"She says she was raped by 200 men. It is shocking and it freezes your conscience," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Americans, too, prefer boys over girls, according to a new Gallup poll:

A new survey has found that almost half of people would prefer to have a baby boy than a baby girl.

48 per cent of respondents admitted they wanted a son more than they wanted a daughter.

By contrast, just 28 per cent said they would rather have a girl, while 26 per cent said they would be content with either sex. The remaining people polled either had no opinion or didn't know what they wanted.

Gallup, which interviewed over 1,000 people across the U.S. for its research, revealed that Americans' preference for a male child today is even stronger that it was in 1941, when just 38 per cent wanted a boy more.

It said that the same poll 70 years ago found that just 38 per cent of people wanted a son more than a daughter,with 24 per cent stating preference for a baby girl.

The organisation found that the age, sex and education levels of respondents all made a difference in what the response was likely to be.

Fifty-four percent of people under 30 said that they would prefer a male child, but those with a university education showed equal results for both sexes.

Its report read: 'It is significant that 18- to 29-year-old Americans are the most likely of any age group to express a preference for a boy because most babies are born to younger adults.

'The impact of the differences between men and women in preferences for the sex of their babies is also potentially important. The data from the U.S. suggest that if it were up to mothers to decide the gender of their children, there would be no tilt toward boys.'

Even political stance made a difference. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to state preference for a male child.

Gallup said that the trend was 'driven partly by the fact that American men are more likely to be Republicans and women are more likely to identify as Democrats.'

Read more:

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.

Riaz Haq said...

Is India's population policy sexist? asks Soutik Biswas of the BBC:

Can the promise of a car or a mixer grinder help keep India's population in check?

Well, that's what health authorities in the northern state of Rajasthan apparently believe. They are offering a cheap car, among other things, as a prize in an attempt to sign up some 20,000 people to meet an ambitious sterilisation target. Time will tell whether this turns out to be another gimmick or an innovative incentive.

But what worries many is the ethics of such sterilisation drives in a largely patriarchal society like India.

As population expert Usha Rai says, the promise of such lucrative incentives typically make husbands push their wives to undergo sterilisation and avoid a range of contraceptives that are available to help limit the size of their families. There's enough evidence to support this concern.

Some 37% of India's married women - who use modern family planning methods - have opted for sterilisation, a government study has found. (Only 1% of males had opted for sterilisation.) Intrauterine devices, condoms and pills were being used by some 10% of the women.

In India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, with 200 million people - and an economy the size of Qatar which has a population of less than 2 million - the bulk of women who use any modern method of family planning get sterilised.

Ever since the 1970s India has used a combination of coercion and incentives to carry out sterilisation drives to check population growth.

During the 22-month-old memergency in the mid-1970s when prime minister Indira Gandhi suspended democratic rule, the government embarked on a draconian campaign to sterilise poor men - they were dragged into operating theatres in makeshift camps, and police surrounded entire villages at night and herded the men into the camps. ....

Even the Planning Commission admits that female sterilisation has become the mainstay of the programme. High levels of infant and child mortality and preference for sons means that women delay sterilisation.

Experts believe that women should be offered more reversible choices of contraception like injectibles and implants which are not presently offered under India's family planning programme.

More importantly, they say, men should be pushed to take more responsibility for limiting their family - male methods account for only 6% of contraceptive use in India. Should women be bearing the brunt?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting perspective assigning responsibility to the West for female feticide:

Hvistendahl points a finger at the West for encouraging the epidemic of sex selection which has gripped Asia since the early 1970s.

Amniocentesis tests and ultrasound scans have led to more than 160 million girls being aborted in Asia alone since then, according to one widely quoted 2005 estimate.

It had to do, Hvistendahl writes, with the West's paranoid population control movement during the Cold War - a growing fear that more hungry babies would grow up and turn to communism. The "monster of sex determination in Asia" lead to vastly skewed ratios in countries like India, China and South Korea.

Western money, she writes, was used to set up an extensive network of family planning advisers and doctors that encouraged women to opt for amniocentesis.

That's not all. Throughout the late 1960s and early 70s, writes Hvistendahl, influential US experts supported sex selection in academic papers and government-sponsored seminars - "a disturbed sort of technological sexism".

In 1969, sex determination was included as one of the 12 new strategies for global birth control at a US workshop. Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state under Richard Nixon, signed a classified memo stating that "abortion is vital to the solution" of population growth in the world.

So in India, Hvistendahl says, advisers from the World Bank and other organisations pressured the government to "adapt a paradigm" where population was the problem. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation poured money into "research into reproductive biology".

And in the mid-1960s, she writes, leading American embryologist and biochemist, Sheldon Segal, showed doctors at India's top medical school AIIMS, how to test human cells for sex chromatins that indicate whether a person is female - a method, she says, that was the precursor to foetal sex determination.

In India, the early sex selective abortions were performed openly at government hospitals. Doctors helped identify the sex and abort the foetus if it was a girl. Hvistendahl quotes from papers written by senior doctors belonging to India's premier medical school, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), in which they back prenatal sex determination as a way of putting an end to "unnecessary fecundity". In other words, female foetuses were aborted in the name of population control.

It was only in the late 1970s, when India's feminist groups and other campaigners began making a noise about sex selection, that the authorities took notice.

By that time, writes Hvistendahl, the damage had been done. At AIIMS alone, doctors had aborted an estimated 100,000 female foetuses. Taxpayers' money and Western funding had been spent to fund sex selective abortions. Today, 112 boys are born for every 100 girls in India, against the natural sex ratio at birth of 105 boys for every 100 girls. This is what Dr Sabu George, a leading expert on sex selection, calls the "forgotten story" of India's missing girls.

Mayraj said...
"Wife-sharing" haunts Indian villages as girls decline

BAGHPAT, India (TrustLaw) - When Munni arrived in this fertile, sugarcane-growing region of north India as a young bride years ago, little did she imagine she would be forced into having sex and bearing children with her husband's two brothers who had failed to find wives.

"My husband and his parents said I had to share myself with his brothers," said the woman in her mid-40s, dressed in a yellow sari, sitting in a village community center in Baghpat district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

"They took me whenever they wanted -- day or night. When I resisted, they beat me with anything at hand," said Munni, who had managed to leave her home after three months only on the pretext of visiting a doctor.

"Sometimes they threw me out and made me sleep outside or they poured kerosene over me and burned me."

Such cases are rarely reported to police because women in these communities are seldom allowed outside the home unaccompanied, and the crimes carry deep stigma for the victims. So there may be many more women like Munni in the mud-hut villages of the area.

Munni, who has three sons from her husband and his brothers, has not filed a police complaint either.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Times of India on human sacrifice of a 7-year-old girl in India:

Two farmers from Bijapur district have been arrested for allegedly killing a seven-year old girl to offer her body part as a sacrifice to God for good crops, police said on Monday.

Two farmers, Padam Sukku and Pignesh Kujur, have been arrested for killing the girl, Lalita, in anticipation of good crops, Additional SP of Bijapur district BPS Rajbhanu said. Lalita had gone missing on the night of October 21 last year, following which, her father Budhram Tati had registered a missing person's complaint with the police. Her body was found on October 27.

During the investigation, police came to know that Lalita had been murdered and last week, police registered a case of murder and arrested the duo in this connection. When quizzed, Sukku and Kujur admitted they had kidnapped and strangled her. They said they had removed the liver and offered it to the God at a temple. They buried her body which was retrieved by animals.

Riaz Haq said...

India is the deadliest country for girl child, according to a report published by the Times of India:

NEW DELHI: It's official - India is the most dangerous place in the world to be a baby girl. Newly released data shows that an Indian girl child aged 1-5 years is 75% more likely to die than an Indian boy, making this the worst gender differential in child mortality for any country in the world.

Newly released United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs ( UN-DESA) data for 150 countries over 40 years shows that India and China are the only two countries in the world where female infant mortality is higher than male infant mortality in the 2000s. In China, there are 76 male infant deaths for every 100 female infant deaths compared with 122 male infant deaths for every 100 female infant deaths in the developing world as a whole.

The released data has found that India has a better infant mortality sex ratio than China, with 97 male infant deaths for every 100 female, but this is still not in tune with the global trend, or with its neighbours Sri Lanka (125) or Pakistan (120).

When it comes to the child mortality sex ratio, however, India is far and away the world's worst. In the 2000s, there were 56 male child deaths for every 100 female, compared with 111 in the developing world. This ratio has got progressively worse since the 1970s in India, even as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Iraq improved.

The UN report is clear that high girl child mortality is explained by socio-cultural values. So strong is the biological advantage for girls in early childhood that higher mortality among girls should be seen as "a powerful warning that differential treatment or access to resources is putting girls at a disadvantage", the report says.

"Higher female mortality from age 1 onwards clearly indicated sustained discrimination," says P Arokiasamy, professor of development studies at Mumbai's International Institute for Population Studies, who has studied gender differentials in child mortality in India. "Such neglect and discrimination can be in three areas: food and nutrition, healthcare and emotional wellbeing. Of these, neglect of the healthcare of the girl child is the most direct determinant of mortality," says Arokisamy. Studies have shown that health-related neglect may involve waiting longer before taking a sick girl to a doctor than a sick boy, and is also reflected in lower rates of immunization for girls than boys.

Moreover, since the outrage over India's poor child sex ratio came out of census data for children aged 0-6 years, the UN data on child mortality indicates that a campaign against female foeticide alone is not a complete solution. "Pre-natal and post-natal discrimination are complementarily contributing to gender imbalance," agrees Dr Arokiasamy. While pre-natal discrimination in the form of sex-selective abortions is more common among better educated upper income households, post-natal discrimination or neglect is more common among poorer, less educated rural households, he adds.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Time on child rapes in India:

One of the more disturbing things to come to light since the Dec. 16 Delhi gang rape is just how many cases of sexual violence in India involve children. In the media’s ongoing effort to keep attention on the problem of sexual assault, the fact that children are so frequently the victims of brutal sexual attacks has provided yet another rude wake up call, and a grim reminder that the cases coming to light are only a small part of a much bigger problem. (Have a look at the rolling headlines at the bottom of this page of the Times of India.) “There is a lot of attention on sexual violence now,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, on Thursday. “We need to focus the attention on the sexual abuse of children.”

That is the goal of a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The Feb. 7 report calls for the government to do more to protect children from sexual abuse. In more than 100 interviews, case studies of multiple child victims lay bare the pervasive institutional weaknesses and attitudes that have created a “conspiracy of silence” around child sex abuse in India. According to UNICEF, one in three rape victims in India is a child, and more than 7200 children are raped each year, with many more cases believed to go unreported. In 2007, a government-sponsored survey of 12,500 children in 13 states “reported serious and widespread sexual abuse,” but found that only 3% of the cases in which children said they had been abused had been reported to the police.

(PHOTOS: Tens of Millions Gather at India’s Maha Kumbh Mela)

That serious under-reporting is due in large part to how victims are treated once they do make the difficult choice to come forward. In four of the cases documented in the report, victims said doctors had used the much-maligned “finger test” to determine whether they had been raped or not. This type of examination is permitted under current Indian law but is of little forensic value and risks re-traumatizing the victim. Doctors routinely showed outright insensitivity to the young victims, a fact that regularly discouraged families from pursuing their cases legally, the report found.

Reported cases can be met with callousness by the cops. Indian law mandates that every police station have a trained child welfare officer, and that every district have units to deal with juvenile cases. But the efficacy of the units varies wildly, particularly in under-resourced districts. In one case detailed in the HRW report, a 12-year-old girl named Krishna was raped by a man from a neighboring village in eastern Uttar Pradesh. When she went to report the crime, she says she was detained by police for nearly two weeks. “I was kept in the police station and locked up,” she told the rights group. “They kept insisting that I change my statement, otherwise they threatened that something would happen to me.” For cases that do make it to court, the legal process can be excruciatingly painful and slow for families, and convictions are rare, according to the Childline India Foundation....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Stephen Mosher on fertility decline in Europe published by Population Research Institute:

It’s happened before.

Writing a century and a half before the birth of Christ, the Greek historian Polybius observed “nowadays all over Greece such a diminution in natality and in general manner such depopulation that the towns are deserted and the fields lie fallow. Although this country has not been ravaged by wars or epidemics, the cause of the harm is evident: by avarice or cowardice the people, if they marry, will not bring up the children they ought to have. At most they bring up one or two. It is in this way that the scourge before it is noticed is rapidly developed.”

He concluded by urging his fellow Greeks to return to their historic love of family and children. “The remedy is in ourselves,” he wrote. “We have but to change our morals.” His advice, unfortunately, went largely unheeded.

The demographic winter of the Greek city-states led to economic stagnation and military weakness, which in turn invited invasion and conquest. After a century of increasing dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean, Rome finally annexed the Greek city-states in 146 B.C.

Will a Europe in the grip of a similar demographic winter come to a similar unhappy end? Certainly Europeans of today, like the Greeks of old, are barely having children. The birthrate across the entire continent is far below the replacement level of 2.1 children per couple. Italy, Spain, Austria, and Germany have total fertility rates, or TFRs, of only 1.4 or so, while Poland and Russia languish at 1.32 and 1.2 respectively. The more or less generous child allowances these countries pay the prolific has scarcely caused these numbers to budge. The birth dearth continues to widen.


Most Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East have fertility rates two or three times as high as Europe. Afghanistan and Somalia, whose fertility rates are above 6 children (6.62 and 6.4 respectively), may be outliers. But other Middle Eastern countries with above-replacement TFRs include Iraq at 4.86, Pakistan at 3.65, and Saudi Arabia at 3.03. Even immigrants from the most Westernized Muslim countries such as Turkey and Tunisia average nearly twice as many children as the extant populations of most European countries.

While falling fertility may be humanity’s general fate, it is this differential fertility that will determine Europe’s destiny. Although the birthrates of Muslim immigrants to Europe are far lower than they were just a generation ago, they are still far more open to life than highly secularized Europeans. Moreover, these immigrants, once in place in Germany, Italy, Spain, etc., tend to maintain their relatively high fertility for a generation.

If, on the other hand, the second- and third-generation Muslims are largely secularized, then the Christian minority will be, presumably, treated somewhat better, though still subject to some level of discrimination. As everyone knows by now, the Secular Left preaches a tolerance that it generally does not practice.

Either way, believers in once-Christian Europe will probably find themselves living in what might be called a pre-Constantine moment. In others words, they will be living under regimes that punish, even persecute, them for their beliefs.

At the present moment, Europeans still control their own destiny. As Polybius, were he alive today, would surely remind them: “The remedy is in yourselves. You have but to change your morals.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by David Ignatius of Washington Post on declining fertility among Muslims:

Something startling is happening in the Muslim world — and no, I don’t mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a “sea change” is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a “flight from marriage” among Arab women.

Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, documented these findings in two recent papers. They tell a story that contradicts the usual picture of a continuing population explosion in Muslim lands. Population is indeed rising, but if current trends continue, the bulge won’t last long.

Eberstadt’s first paper was expressively titled “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World: A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed.” Using data for 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he found that fertility rates declined an average of 41 percent between 1975-80 and 2005-10, a deeper drop than the 33 percent decline for the world as a whole.

Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50 percent or more. The sharpest drops were in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait, which all recorded declines of 60 percent or more over three decades.

Fertility in Iran declined an astonishing 70 percent over the 30-year period, which Eberstadt says was “one of the most rapid and pronounced fertility declines ever recorded in human history.” By 2000, Iran’s fertility rate had fallen to two births per woman, below the level necessary to replace current population, according to Eberstadt and his co-author, Apoorva Shah.

A July 2012 Financial Times story placed the Iranian fertility rate even lower and cited a U.N. report warning that Iran’s population will begin to shrink in two decades and will decline by more than 50 percent by the end of the century if current trends continue.

Big cities in the Muslim world have seen especially sharp drops. Eberstadt notes that only six states in the United States have lower rates than Istanbul. In Tehran and Isfahan, Iran, fertility rates are lower than those of any state in the United States.

Eberstadt argues that the fertility decline isn’t just a result of rising incomes and economic development, though these certainly played a role: “Fertility decline over the past generation has been more rapid in the Arab states than virtually anywhere else on earth.”

The decline of marriage in Europe is well-known but still striking: The female marriage rate fell in Germany from 0.98 to 0.59 from 1965 to 2000; it fell in France over that period from 0.99 to 0.61; in Sweden from 0.98 to 0.49; in Britain, from 1 to 0.54.

Marriage is also plummeting in Asia: In Japan, the percentage of women between 30 and 34 who have never married rose from 7.2 percent in 1970 to 26.6 percent in 2000; in Burma, it rose from 9.3 percent to 25.9 percent; in Thailand, from 8.1 percent to 16.1 percent; in South Korea, from 1.4 percent to 10.7 percent.

Marriage rates in the Arab world are higher, but they’re moving fast in the same direction. What’s “astonishing,” says Eberstadt in an e-mail explaining his findings, is that in the Arab world, this move away from marriage “is by many measures already as far along as was Europe’s in the 1980s — and it is taking place at a vastly lower level of development than the corresponding flights in Europe and developed East Asia....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Aljazeera story on 60 million missing Indian women:

It has been nearly seven months since a young student was gang-raped in the New Delhi, India, and died from her horrific injuries 13 days later on December 29, 2012. The fast-track trial of the accused men has just re-started and the sentence is due any day now.

When thousands of Indians took to the streets to protest the inability of the establishment to protect women, they demanded not just a change in the law but in people's attitudes. But the watershed moment that many Indians hoped for doesn't seem to have arrived. And that may be because most Indians don't even recognise the extent of the problem in their own country.

Let's start with a figure: 60 million. That is nearly the entire population of the United Kingdom. That is also the approximate number of women "missing" in India. They have either been aborted before birth, killed once born, died of neglect because they were girls, or perhaps murdered by their husband's family for not paying enough dowry at marriage.

That number isn't a wild exaggeration or a figure thoughtlessly plucked out of the air, but a matter of demographics. As far back as 1991, the economist Amartya Sen pointed out that Asia was missing 100 million women because of sex-selection and the poor attention paid to women. In 2005, it was estimated at 50 million Indian women in the New York Times. But this isn't a new problem.

In 1991, the Indian census showed an unprecedented drop of women in the sex-ratio. After running tests to check whether women had been under-counted, they found that a massive explosion in sex-selection during the 80s had led to a sharp drop in the number of girls being born. A report by Action Aid in 2009 ("Disappearing Daughters" [PDF]) found that in some villages in the state of Punjab, there were as few as 300 girls for every 1,000 boys.

Overall, India had 37.25 million fewer women than men according to the 2011 Census. To match the sexes equally and then increase the number of women to match the natural sex-ratio would require around 60 to 70 million women. That is the number of women missing. This phenomenon cannot be called anything less than genocide.

So why isn't there more recognition of this mass tragedy? In my recently released e-book India Dishonoured: Behind a Nation's War on Women, I show that many Indians don't want to recognise the problem because it has become deeply ingrained in the culture....