Baby Girls Missing

Did you know that there are 100 million baby girls missing worldwide? They were not born, aborted when an ultrasound showed the ‘wrong’ gender, or killed at birth, or abandoned to the elements as infants.

If they are missing, how does anyone know they are gone? The gender ratios are wrong in many countries in Asia and the surrounding area. Naturally, there should be slightly more baby boys born than baby girls, to account for the higher rate of birth defects and infant mortality due to illness in baby boys, as well as the slightly higher death rate of boys up through adolescence. The ratio should be something like 103 to 106 baby boys born for every 100 baby girls (then, by late adolescence, there are usually 100 boys for every 100 girls). However, in the last decade in China, the ratio has changed from 108 to 100 (already high) to 124 to 100 (which is impossible naturally), with even higher ratios in some provinces.

Why is this happening? Apparently, parents really only want sons to carry on the family name. This is most prominent in areas where custom dictates that women are no longer part of their birth families when they marry, but belong only to their husbands’ families.

What are the consequences? Higher suicide rates among women, apparently distressed at having killed their daughters; a huge surfeit of young men, unable to find wives; a decrease in dowries and a decrease in dowry size when it is offered; and, perhaps most ironically, an increase in the value placed on women. Women become much sought after for wives, even being brought in from other places (generally taboo in Asia).

South Korea faced increasing gender ratios in the 1980s, but has since managed to return to natural levels through laws and public policy campaigns by the government. However, it is still facing side effects, as men in the countryside cannot find wives and end up marrying a non-Korean women and having mixed children (who would before have been outcast but are now so numerous as to be more accepted).

Disclosure: This post, up to this point, is summarizing a set of Economist articles from early March 2010. I highly recommend reading all the articles. They are quite shocking.

These articles just make me want to cry. I don’t think that there’s really anything anyone from outside these cultures can do, but I hope and pray that the changes to the mindset and culture happen sooner rather than later. If you have a little girl in your life, give her a big hug, because she is incredibly lucky. She is alive.

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