Relations Reporting on marriage, family, and sexuality

India’s missing women

Family | A new report shows sex-selective abortion reinforces the ‘son preference’
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 2/02/18, 04:02 pm

There are 63 million women statistically “missing” in India today due to a preference for sons, according to the Indian government’s annual economic survey released Monday.

The report attributed the nation’s skewed ratio of men to women (1,108 males to evey 1,000 females) largely to sex-selective abortions, called “female feticide,” along with disease, neglect, and inadequate nutrition.

Despite hopes that a growing economy would ease the pressure on Indian families to have sons, disproportionate birth rates have only increased as the country has developed. The report found an upward drift in the sex ratio across the country, but especially in the richest states, where the number is approaching 1,200 males to every 1,000 females.

The report detailed the reasons for the son preference:

  • Property commonly passes to sons, not daughters.
  • Women often move to their husbands’ houses after marriage, taking their labor with them.
  • Although illegal, families still practice marriage dowries, meaning girls create an extra financial burden to families.
  • Sons perform important religious rituals.
  • Parents rely on support from their sons in old age.

These factors lead not only to the killing of baby girls in utero, but also to the oppression of little girls who are born. Studies have found girls in India are less educated, have poorer nutrition, and receive less medical care than boys.

For the first time, this year’s survey also tried to estimate the effects of something researchers called the “son meta preference,” finding families often keep having children until a son is born and then stop. Girls in those families are disadvantaged as resources and attention flow to the desired sons. The researchers estimated 21 million girls in India are unwanted by their families.

Despite all this, the report listed several indicators of improvement in the lives of girls and women in India, including educational attainment and personal agency in some household decision-making. But the ugly truth remains: “In some sense, once born, the lives of women are improving, but society still appears to want fewer of them to be born,” the report concluded.

These statistics tell a larger story about the appalling effects of a “son preference” globally, according to Steven W. Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute.

Mosher has studied the issue in India and China and advocated for a proposed ban on sex-selective abortion in the United States, called the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, which has been introduced in Congress several times to no avail. Mosher said the practice is all too common in the United States, especially among immigrant families from countries where it is practiced. But pro-abortion women’s groups have always opposed the bill even though Mosher contends sex-selective abortion is the worst kind of gender discrimination possible—a discrimination that kills.

Whereas female infanticide used to be more common in India, Mosher said sex detection technology “has pushed it back into the womb.” Despite laws that forbid using ultrasound to detect the gender of a baby for abortion, the practice is not only happening, but growing.

Mosher noted the mothers who have these abortions are often victims along with their prenatal daughters. Husbands and other relatives often pressure, and sometimes violently force, sex-selective abortions.

But Mosher believes there is hope, and it lies in a change of heart, not law.

“What people fail to realize is that it is Christianity that has raised the status of women,” Mosher said, noting Christians believe “we all possess an immortal soul, so we are all fundamentally equal.” He said sex-selective abortion can end if more people become Christians “because that elevates the status of women.”

iStock.com/Saklakova iStock.com/Saklakova

Rejecting biology

Last week, a five-judge panel in New York ruled against a man battling for parental rights to a now 3-year-old girl conceived by a lesbian couple using his donated sperm.

The man initially signed a homemade contract relinquishing his parental rights before providing his sperm for an at-home insemination, but soon after changed his mind, arguing he had a right to know the child because of his biological connection to her.

The state appellate court disagreed.

The judges ruled that the two women were the sole and rightful parents to the child. The ruling applied the “presumption of legitimacy”—the basic legal principal that the children of a married man and women are assumed to be their biological offspring—to the lesbian couple, arguing that the legalization of same-sex marriage necessitated that courts assume the children of married, same-sex couples are biologically related to them both.

But pro-family experts argue that applying a presumption of legitimacy to same-sex parents requires the presumption of the impossible, denies biology, and harms donor-conceived children of same-sex couples by denying them any connection to one of their biological parents.

In 2015, a lower family court ruled in favor of the sperm donor, ordering genetic testing to confirm his paternity. But the appellate court last Thursday dismissed the ruling.

“[Genetic testing] in these circumstances exposes children born into same-gender marriages to instability for no justifiable reason other than to provide a father-figure for children who already have two parents,” wrote Justice Robert Mulvey in the 19-page opinion.

The 3-year-old girl is currently in foster care due to neglect claims. Mulvey acknowledged the foster care situation in his opinion, but said it did not alter the conclusion. —K.C.

Facebook Facebook An ad in New York City for the website It’s Over Easy

It’s over too easy

The devaluation of marriage hit a new low last week. A website called It’s Over Easy now offers a cheap, completely online divorce—without having to hire an attorney or set foot in a courtroom. The site, founded by famed Hollywood divorce attorney Laura Wasser, launched last Thursday with the goal of “changing the face of divorce.”

A divorce using the site ranges from $750 for a self-guided filing to $2,500 for a premium service that includes a 90-minute mediation counseling session and court document filing. The company works with state attorneys to process the divorce. Couples need an account with the site but can pay together or separate. And if they disagree on a certain provision of their divorce, the site, for an additional fee, provides consultation sessions with accountants, child custody experts, and mediators.

“I feel like there are so many people who these days shop online, date online, bank online—maybe they actually even met dating online—and now they’re married,” Wasser said. “Why not give them the opportunity to do this online?” —K.C.

O Canada

After 11 failed attempts since 1980, Canada on Wednesday officially made its national anthem gender neutral. The Canadian Senate voted to revise the second line of “O Canada” to read “true, patriot love, in all of us command,” instead of the former, “in all thy sons command.”

The bill, first introduced in 2016, previously passed the House of Commons but stalled in the Senate. Conservative members of Parliament argued it wasn’t Parliament’s job to change the anthem. Wednesday’s voice vote means the measure now awaits approval by the governor general, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in Canada, to become law. —K.C.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a WORLD Digital assistant editor and reports on marriage, family, and sexuality.

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