What Are We Doing About The Issue Of Missing Women In 2021? | #missingkids


The State of World Population 2020 report indicates that the number of “missing women” has more than doubled over the past 50 years, rising from 61 million in 1970 to an estimated 142.6 millions in 2020. The phrase “missing women” refers here to “those whose numbers are reflected in sex ratio imbalances at birth as a result of gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection, combined with excess female mortality stemming from postnatal sex selection.” According to the report, two countries, China and India, together account for 90-95% of the estimated missing female births worldwide, caused by gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection. China, with an estimated 72.3 million and India with an estimated 45.8 million.

Independent of what your view on abortion, there is something malign in the practice of sex-selective abortion. It is a practice that disproportionately affects women, prenatally but also later in their lives. The issue is significant in countries such as India, China and Pakistan, and has resulted in a serious imbalance of the male babies to female babies. While there are other contributing reasons for such an imbalance (including early child mortality), the practice of sex-selective abortion is clearly preventable. 

The devaluation of women’s lives does not stop with sex selection prenatally. The issue of “missing women” has wide ranging consequence throughout their lives. As the State of World Population 2020 report emphasizes: “Sex selection can distort the composition of a country’s population for generations… Over time, these skewed ratios translate into missing girls, missing women and missing elderly women… The effects of sex ratio imbalances ripple throughout societies and help perpetuate the gender inequality that led to them in the first place.” Furthermore, “Sex ratio imbalances (and the marriage squeezes that result from them) can exacerbate problems of gender-based violence, including rape, coerced sex, sexual exploitation, trafficking and child marriage—all of which are human rights violations.” Hence again, it does not stop at sex selection. Violations against women and girls continue throughout their lives, reinforcing gender inequalities. Also, in countries where sons are preferred over daughters, “some couples… also practiced postnatal sex selection when they neglected the health and nutrition of daughters or, in some extreme cases, resorted to female infanticide.” Whether intentional or by neglect, this amounts to manslaughter or murder. 

What drives sex selection? According to the State of World Population 2020 report, “son preference and the gender inequality that underlies it are the main drivers of gender biased and postnatal sex selection.” In order to address the issue, it is not enough to introduce laws that prohibit such practices. Indeed, in many countries, such sex selection is already prohibited, but nonetheless, it continues to be used. We must also educate people on the inherent value of human life, gender equality and break with stereotypes or ancient practices that devalue women (including the practice of dowry). In 2021, we should not accept practices that say that a men’s life is worth more than women’s life. Any other position harms whole societies for generations. Furthermore, in 2005, Valerie M. Hudson, distinguished professor of political science at Department of International Affairs at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, and Andrea M. den Boer, senior lecturer in political science at the University of Kent at Canterbury, warned about some of their predicted consequences of the issue, including “crime rates will increase; the proportion of violent crime will increase; rates of drug use, drug smuggling, weapons smuggling, trafficking, and prostitution will increase. The society might develop domestic and international chattel markets that kidnap and traffic women within the country and across borders. For example, the shortage of marriage-age women in China is fueling a brisk business in trafficked brides from North Korea.” These predictions are not far from reality.

There is nothing we can do to address the consequences of missing women, consequences that many societies have experienced for many years and will continue to do so. However, we do need to address the situation of sex selection now to ensure that the situation improves. Considering the pressures and challenges that women face as a result of sex selection, the issue cannot left to its own devices.



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