Gendercide: The Child of “Choice” and the Feminist Movement

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gendercide.jpgGendercide through sex-selective abortion has resulted in the loss of at least 163 million girls and a global imbalance in sex ratios.  The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women has described this as “the most telling indicator of women’s devalued position in society,” and condemned sex-selective abortions as “grave forms of discrimination against women.” [1] The United Nations is not alone in identifying this global problem.  Within the last year, researchers and newspapers have brought heightened attention to this issue.  For example, in March 2010, The Economist featured a striking cover story entitled, “Gendercide: The worldwide war on baby girls.”  And just this June 2011, researcher Mara Hvistendahl published Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, a book that The Wall Street Journal has hailed as “one of the most consequential books ever written in the campaign against abortion.” [2]

The consequences of sex-selective abortions are not limited to 163 million missing girls and unnatural sex ratios.  The effects are deeper and far-reaching.  Increased violence and suicide, militant societies, prostitution, human trafficking, the sale of women, forced marriage, the rise of consumer eugenics, and an overall devaluation of women in society are direct effects of this systematic campaign against women.  As will be discussed in further detail in this essay, these are the ironic yet predictable results of “choice.”

This essay shall address these questions: How much has the sex ratio changed worldwide?  What are the causal factors of imbalanced sex ratios and gendercide?  What implications does the rise of global gendercide have for feminist abortion rights advocates?  And  what is to be done?

Naturally, in all societies, there are 105 boys born for every 100 girls.  Since baby boys have a slightly higher chance of infant death than girls, nature has found a way to balance the sex ratio so that, as adults, there is close to one man for every woman.  In the last 25 years, this balance has been skewed to naturally impossible numbers, in varying degrees, all over the world.  In its 2010 Social Blue Paper, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) reported that the average ratio in China today is 123 boys for every 100 girls.  Similarly, the British Medical Journal found in 2009 that six provinces in China had sex ratios of over 130.  [Note 4]  South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan also have skewed sex ratios.  In India, at least 46 districts have reported ratios over 125.  Imbalanced sex ratios are also characteristic of former communist countries.  Armenia has a ratio of 120, Georgia 118, Azerbajian 115, and Serbia 108. 

What do these numbers mean?  First and foremost, they mean that at least 163 million girls who should be alive are missing from the world.  Secondly, they mean that in many countries, there are not enough women for men to marry.  Within a decade, CASS has predicted that there will be 30 to 40 million Chinese men who will not be able to find wives.   

This “bachelor surplus” has had devastating effects for women in countries with unnatural sex ratios.  The scarcity and demand for wives has resurrected the ancient practice of selling and buying women into forced marriages.  A family will sell their daughter to the man with the highest price, and men consider women to be commodities for purchase.  Consequently, sex trafficking and prostitution is rampant in these countries.  Furthermore, men who cannot find women in their native countries to marry will purchase and “import” women from elsewhere. 

Suicide  rates for women of child-bearing age have also increased in these countries.  In China, many women  who have been pressured by their husbands, families and societies to abort their daughters  commit suicide by drinking agricultural fertilizer. Research has shown that crime waves, violence and militant societies are the hazards of “bachelor surplus.”  If brides are prizes for the rich, a society with an imbalanced sex ratio will end up with millions of poor, frustrated, young men who have no hope for marriage.  This class of men historically causes increased crime as well as a general societal instability and unrest.  Indeed, countries neighboring China are afraid of the excess of unmarried, young, violent men who have enlisted in the Chinese military and police force; specifically, they are afraid of the increasing possibility of war.

Researchers have identified the causes of gendercide and the resulting distortion of sex ratios: technological advancement, increased access to ultrasound, abortion rights, cultural preferences for males, and laws such as China’s one-child policy.  In her book, Unnatural Selection, Hvistendahl narrowed these causes down to just one: abortion.  Although she is a self-proclaimed pro-choice woman, Hvistendahl nonetheless concluded that none of the other causal factors could be effective without abortion.  The 2009 British Medical Journal also concluded that “Sex selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males.”  It is evident that abortion is the number one method of eliminating female babies.

It is ironic that the feminist reproductive health rights movement is responsible for this global trend of eliminating females through sex-selective abortions.  The very movement that purportedly sought to emancipate and empower women has caused women not only the devaluation of women, but has endangered their very existence.  And now, when we are faced with data showing the severe adverse effects that abortion has had on the women worldwide, the feminist movement has failed to stand up for these women and continues to ignore the fact that 163 million girls are missing because of sex-selective abortion.

This conflict pinpoints the fundamental error of the feminist and reproductive health rights movement– you can’t promote or protect women while at the same time promoting abortion.  The right to choose allows you to choose a boy over a girl.  The self-contradiction of the feminist slogan “pro-choice, pro-woman” is shown most evidently in the instance of global gendercide.  
Hvistendahl could not help blaming international pro-choice advocacy groups such as Planned Parenthood for pushing sex-selective abortions in foreign countries and purposefully neglecting to lobby against it.  Hvistendahl’s research uncovered the leading role that pro-choice reproductive health organizations played in causing global gendercide. 

Abortion and the misuse of ultrasound may not be the only way to eliminate female babies.  Although in vitro fertilization is not currently widely available worldwide, it allows parents to select the gender of their child and has further advanced consumer eugenics.  In the years to come, in vitro fertilization may join ultrasound abuse and abortion as a primary method of gendercide. 

The solution to gendercide?  Hvistendahl proposes strict enforcement of bans against sex-selective abortions, including police surveillance and punishment by imprisonment.  However, she misses the mark on this one.  China and India already have legal bans on sex-selective abortion, and Arizona is the first American state to ban both race- and sex-selective abortions.  U.S. Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) has also introduced a sex-selection abortion ban on the federal level.  Although bans on sex-selection abortion are helpful and increase public awareness of the issue, they are not the real solution.  Bans and restrictions on abortion itself are the only way to stop gendercide through sex-selective abortion. 

In conclusion, the unfortunate worldwide consequences of sex-selective abortions have revealed the irreconcilable and inherently contradictory nature of the feminist pro-choice movement, and has proven the effectiveness and pro-woman nature of abortion bans and restrictions. 


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