Yesterday we noted demographer Nicholas Eberstadt’s horrifying research into the fate of unborn girls around the world; India was one of the countries where women bearing unborn female children are either persuaded or forced to abort.
From the Times of India comes word that the girls who make it out of the womb aren’t out of the woods. A suspiciously large number of Indian girls die young: 56 boys under six years old die for every 100 girls. According to Indian doctors, this has to be the result of parental choice; left to nature, young girls generally have a better chance of survival than boys, and India’s sex differential has been growing steadily worse since the 1970s.
“Higher female mortality from age 1 onwards clearly indicated sustained discrimination,” says P Arokiasamy, professor of development studies at Mumbai’s International Institute for Population Studies, who has studied gender differentials in child mortality in India. “Such neglect and discrimination can be in three areas: food and nutrition, healthcare and emotional wellbeing. Of these, neglect of the healthcare of the girl child is the most direct determinant of mortality,” says Arokisamy. Studies have shown that health-related neglect may involve waiting longer before taking a sick girl to a doctor than a sick boy, and is also reflected in lower rates of immunization for girls than boys.
According to the Times, abortion is how the Indian middle class prunes unwanted girls from its population pool; poorer families bring girls to term but to then leave them to struggle on their own. If a boy gets sick he gets treatment; if a girl gets sick then nature takes its course.
Perhaps the multicultural relativists can explain how ongoing gendercide (killing people because of their gender) is simply a lifestyle choice that should be celebrated and hailed — another unique hue of life’s rainbow in whose light we should learn to rejoice. And it’s easy to understand the terrible human and economic pressures that force millions of Indian women to acquiesce in the deaths of their daughters. But this is too much; even Pakistan treats baby girls better than India.
Evils this widespread are deeply rooted and will not quickly be cured. Absolute, grinding poverty is not, alas, the cause of the social attitudes that make this practice appear tolerable; otherwise female abortions would not be so prevalent among middle class Indians.
Gender discrimination is not the only serious social problem facing the country. Caste, religion, ethnicity, language: Indians are divided among themselves in many ways, and identity politics combined with class struggle at times help make Indian politics complicated, violent and corrupt. Debt bondage reduces millions of Indians to the status of slaves; callous and brutal forms of child labor are widespread. American democracy also first took root in a culture of slavery; Indians, like those Americans, have a long way to go before the ideals of their democratic aspirations transform their institutions and their daily lives.
Sometimes it isn’t clear whether India is really ready for the 21st century or the world role it is called to play, but that scarcely matters. The world needs a strong, free and developed India; the mass death of girls, born and unborn, in this country is not just an Indian problem or an Indian concern.