This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Sad Story from Afghanistan

The 30 million residents of Afghanistan have been under a lot of scrutiny over the past few decades, and relatively few stories from there are happy ones. The most recent sad story to come to light deals with the fate of girls in some families without a son. The status of women in Afghanistan is generally as low as anywhere in the world, but it is still hard to comprehend disguising a girl as a boy because of the shame associated with not having a son.
Afghan families have many reasons for pretending their girls are boys, including economic need, social pressure to have sons, and in some cases, a superstition that doing so can lead to the birth of a real boy. Lacking a son, the parents decide to make one up, usually by cutting the hair of a daughter and dressing her in typical Afghan men’s clothing. There are no specific legal or religious proscriptions against the practice. In most cases, a return to womanhood takes place when the child enters puberty. The parents almost always make that decision.
It is a commonly held belief among less educated Afghans that the mother can determine the sex of her unborn child, so she is blamed if she gives birth to a daughter. Several Afghan doctors and health care workers from around the country said that they had witnessed the despair of women when they gave birth to daughters, and that the pressure to produce a son fueled the practice.
There is obviously a huge gulf between local Afghan culture and western culture, and many years of Russian and then American presence in the country have as yet done relatively little to improve the incredibly low status of women.

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