Gender bias kills tens of millions of girls


by Rumbold
25th April, 2008 at 5:19 pm    

The Post, a Pakistani newspaper, highlights the number of females dead as a result of gender bias, particularly in Asia. It points out that Amartya Sen estimated that in India and China alone, there are 83 million few women then there should have been, because of a preference for a boy over a girl:

“It is important to understand that these 100 million women should have been alive and living today if not for the fact that they were killed, often directly in the form of abortion, killing after birth and death due to medical negligence and discrimination over food. It is important to understand that unlike in war where state institutions and politics is responsible for the deaths, here parents and close relatives of the unborn girl and the girl child are responsible for the deaths…

In India and China there are 107 men to 100 women, in Pakistan there are 108 men to 100 women. Truly a dubious distinction for a region that prides itself on its culture, history and civilisation!

To say that South Asian cultures are biased against women would be an understatement. Historically, some of the most devious, cruel and humiliating forms of female oppression have emerged in South Asia, China and the Arab world. From discriminating the girl child with food, medicine and education, from forcing subservience to male commands, from burning widows and enforcing pardah, from honour killings to female feticide, Asia and the Arab world have led the world in sexual apartheid.”

Nor is this a recent occurrence:

“Historically, girl children were often killed at birth by the midwife by feeding her poison, drowning her, strangulating her with her own umbilical cord or stuffing her mouth with salt. All these practices are reported from different parts of the British Indian Empire by the firangi civil servants. Even those girls who escaped this death at birth faced a childhood of neglect in the family with regard to food, medical care and education. Women were married off very early in life, often before they even attained puberty and became mothers in early teenage. Millions more were martyred on the altar of motherhood as the demands of repeated childbirth led to high mortality too. Many were killed when their husbands died, either by the religious practice of Sati or by the more prevalent custom of branding widows as ‘witches’ and ‘daayens’ and then lynching them.

Today, some of these more explicitly cruel forms of killing women may have become rare (though not entirely ended), but these have been replaced by the cold medical technology of the ultrasound scan of the mother’s womb and the abortion of the female foetus. This brings us to the first of the main variations in the spread of missing women. It is the urban, educated, high income groups that display the maximum number of missing women! This means that the more educated, well-off and urban based a family, the more the chances of girl children being killed.”

It sometimes takes headline-grabbing numbers just to highlight how widespread and ingrained the problem is.

(via The International Campaign Against Honour Killings. The link in the post goes to their site, not the newspaper’s, because nothing comes up for the latter).


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Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence,China,Current affairs,Middle East,South Asia






6 Comments below   |  

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  1. Amrit — on 25th April, 2008 at 6:29 pm  

    Interesting that it’s the higher-income groups… but it doesn’t surprise me that much. Perhaps that works in the same way that it does with ex-pat Indians, who I find can often be more bigoted than their relatives ‘back home’?

  2. fugstar — on 26th April, 2008 at 1:38 am  

    the accusation of femicide by statisticide. how economicsy.

    hmm, no pakistanis honour kill 1 more woman per 100 women than the indians and chinese.

  3. billericaydicky — on 26th April, 2008 at 7:46 am  

    There is a really good book on this by Mala Sen,Death by Fire. Sati,Dowry Death and Female Infanticide in modern Indian. Bit of a different picture to the one we get from Amit Roy in Eastern Eye every week.

    It’s publishe by Weidenfeld and Nicholson and you can get it on Amazon.

  4. Golam Murtaza — on 26th April, 2008 at 10:46 am  

    Genuinely curious here….though don’t want to the take the thread too far off course. I used to read Eastern Eye, dating back to the time when Tufayl (sp?) Ahmed did what is now Amit Roy’s column. I have read a few of Roy’s articles, though not for the last year. They seemed O.K. What exactly is wrong with them these days? Is he painting too rosy a picture of attitudes towards women in India?

  5. billericaydikey — on 26th April, 2008 at 10:53 am  

    Golam Ji,

    I think he is on the payroll of the Bilmorias et al. I know people who know him and they say he actually does write serious stuff at times, but the last year or so what he has produced could have come from the PR department of any big Indian multi national company.

  6. Golam Murtaza — on 26th April, 2008 at 11:58 am  

    That’s a shame – I’ve liked some of his writings in the past…. Anyway, I’ve digressed.

    I’ve heard the growing gender imbalance in India and China has contributed to the ‘bare branch’ syndrome, that is, millions of semi-educated, poor, frustrated, young (and not so young) men growing older with no chance of being able to get married. Ever. The long term social consequences of that look ominous.

    But then that’s what you get for trying to murder half of humanity…

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