In Asia, Restricting Women's Rights

Western feminists insist that women have the right to abort an unborn child for any reason they choose, at any point in pregnancy, and this indeed is the law of the land in America as invented by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.

Abortion-on-demand in the early months also exists de facto in most of Europe. These same feminists and other Western leftists want to impose this abortion-on-demand regime upon the entire Third World as well. But what have they to say when tens, if not hundreds, of millions of women in Asia choose to exercise their abortion rights to abort girls more often than boys, leading to a massive shortage of women? What have they to say then?

It’s a quite a dilemma for any right-thinking lib — I mean, correct-thinking liberal to contemplate. It’s very politically correct to say women have a right to control their own bodies as they please, but it’s very politically incorrect to prefer to have sons rather than daughters. So, perhaps, a woman’s right to control her body isn’t so important after all. But who can admit that and still get invited to parties with the right- I mean, correct people?

A nice way out is to shift the discussion and blame the patriarchy, as if a shortage of women was somehow beneficial to all the Asian men who will be unable to find wives. As Isabelle Attané wrote in the August 2006 edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, "Until the early 1980s, boys and girls were born in normal proportions in China, India, South Korea, and Taiwan." Now, there are dramatic gender imbalances in those nations and many others-and keep in mind that China and India together have more than one-third of the world’s people, so gender imbalances in those nations have an enormous global impact. What has changed since 1980? Have these nations become more patriarchal, with more discrimination against women?

Of course not. What has changed is the availability of abortion and ultrasound technology that can detect sex, combined with the desire for smaller families. So the many Asian couples who want to have only one child — and sometimes are legally allowed to have only one — want to ensure it’s a son. Others who want two but have a daughter already ensure that the second is a boy. Sex-selective abortion is illegal in China and India, but widely practiced as such a ban is unenforceable since ultrasounds are routinely used.

Some nations, such as China and India, discriminate in law against families with more than one or two children, making even those couples who desire more children conform to the small-family dogma. And modern economics and feminism push married women into the workplace, causing them to have difficulty raising large families.

This week, India’s prime minister called for a halt to the growing danger. After an Indian couple was arrested for making a business of aborting girls, he spoke out. (Attention Ms. Magazine: Wasn’t this couple just helping facilitate women’s private choices? Aren’t they prisoners of conscience?)

"We must end the crime of female feticide. We must eliminate gender disparity," Manmohan Singh said in a national address on India’s independence day, according to AFP. "We have a dream of an India in which every woman can feel safe, secure and empowered. Where our mothers, sisters and daughters are assured a life of dignity and personal security."

So far, India is missing 5 to 10 million women, with a gender disparity that is worsening every day. And that’s 5 to 10 million young men who will be unable to marry. India has 927 girls under age six for every 1,000 boys. The world average is 1,050 girls for every 1,000 boys. In Punjab state, there are only 798 girls for every 1,000 boys.

"In China, the birth ratio of boys to girls is now 12% above normal levels," wrote Attané. "In India, it is 6%. . . . The demographic implications of all this are immense because of the size of populations involved. The first results will be felt around 2015, when huge numbers of men reaching marriageable age will be unable to find a wife. The imbalance in the Chinese marriage market will worsen after 2010, and by 2030 there will be a 20% surplus of men — every year 1.6 million will be unable to find wives."

Historically, large numbers of unmarried men in a society has meant destabilization and war. With so many potent powder kegs in Asia — Taiwan and Kashmir are just the best-known — are massive wars in the continent’s near future?

Contrary to what one might think, the status of women does not seem to be rising along with their increasing scarcity. Instead, trafficking in women is on the tremendous increase across Asia, with many reports of women being kidnapped from cities in order to be sold to farmers in rural areas. In some places, daughters are being hoarded and circumscribed like stocks of gold — a trend that, looking on the bright side, could lead to more female births as young women become more valuable to sell off as wives.

The Chinese government has announced plans to crack down on sex-selective abortion and promote the worth of raising girls. India’s prime minister is concerned. Yet such efforts have failed in the past and are unlikely to succeed in time to avert a major crisis, if it is not too late already.

The massive social changes underlying this trend — desire for small families, the expense of raising children in the modern world, legal discrimination against larger families, the easy availability and acceptance of abortion — must be addressed.