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 12th (it came out in 2015), 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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Monday, January 29, 2018

An Awful Reminder of the Low Status of Women in India

Justin Stoler just sent me a link to a story from the BBC reminding us of the low status of women in India. The headline tells it all: "India estimates that 21 million of its girls are 'unwanted'". Perhaps the only "good" thing about this report is that it comes from a government agency, rather than an NGO.
The desire among parents in India to have sons instead of daughters has created 21 million "unwanted" girls, a government report estimates. The finance ministry report found many couples kept on having children until they had a boy. Authors called this a "subtler form" of son preference than sex-selective abortions but warned it might lead to fewer resources for girls. Son preference was "a matter for Indian society to reflect upon", they said.
The authors also found that 63 million women were "missing" from India's population because the preference for sons led to to sex-selective abortions and more care was given to boys. Tests to determine a foetus's sex are illegal in India, but they still take place and can lead to sex-selective abortions.
Now, if you've read Chapter 6 of my book, you'll remember the discussion about the status of women in India (p.199):
India is a country where the desire for a surviving son is strong, since the Hindu religion requires that parents be buried by their son (Mandelbaum 1974). Malthus was very aware of this stimulus to fertility in India and, in his Essay on Population, quoted an Indian legislator who wrote that under Hindu law a male heir is “an object of the first importance. ‘By a son a man obtains victory over all people; by a son’s son he enjoys immortality; and afterwards by the son of that grandson he reaches the solar abode’” (Malthus 1872 [1971]:116).
The BBC story also points out that girls are a drain on the family economy because they require a dowry to be married (i.e., parents have to pay another family to take the girls off their hands), and then they go off to live with the husband's family, rather than staying around to help her parents. These are cultural characteristics that work against equal status for women and the cultural world turns more slowly than we might wish, I'm afraid. 

1 comment:

  1. Good news from Japan (women want to marry and have kids!) and bad news too: