The Lost Girls of China and India
Across most cultures and throughout time, parents have wanted boys more than they have wanted girls. Recently developed technologies are allowing parents to reject their girl children before they are even born.
In India and China, the world's two most populated nations, parents have chosen to abort hundreds of millions of baby girls.
According to Samanth Subramanian, writing for The National, "Indians are aborting more female foetuses (sic.) than at any time in their nation's history, with the practice growing fastest in the more affluent states …. There are now 914 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6."
Furthermore, the BBC News reports that in India, "activists fear eight million female foetuses may have been aborted in the past decade." In addition to a large number of abortions using so-called "sex-selection," the infant mortality rate is higher for girls than boys in India, probably due to a combination of neglect and infanticide.
This gender disparity has posed social problems for decades. In 1994, India's legislators made it illegal for ultrasound technicians to reveal babies' sex in India, yet the disparity between births of girls and boys has only increased in recent years. The laws on the books are rarely enforced and pose minimal consequences, but even for doctors who obey the law, the problem remains. World Magazine recently reported on a hospital in Morena, a rural area with 825 girls to every 1,000 boys. The editors wrote, "The hospital insists it strictly obeys the law against using sonograms to reveal the gender of a baby …. The sex ratio at birth at [Dr. R.C. Bandil's] hospital is as high as 940-945." In other words, even when baby girls aren't aborted, they die young: "An exhausted mother who faces neglect, poor nutrition, and blame for producing a daughter is likely to pass on that neglect, social workers say. For an infant, that can mean the difference between life and death."
An even greater gender disparity exists in China, where "the ratio is 837 girls per 1,000 boys." According to an Economist report last year, "The destruction of baby girls is a product of three forces: the ancient preference for sons; a modern desire for smaller families; and ultrasound scanning and other technologies that identify the sex of a fetus." Furthermore, at least in India, parents still often pay a dowry when their daughters get married. Girls cost more and produce less. Ultrasound technology and abortion allow them to be treated as commodities, discarded like defective widgets on a production line.