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Changing attitudes on gender

2011-09-27 13:52    China.org.cn     Web Editor: Li Jing


Alarm bells have been ringing for some time around Asia about a growing gender imbalance at birth caused by a preference for boys over girls. But there is hope for a positive change.

The preference in traditional patrilineal societies might have made some sense in that boys offered a family more muscle in the battle for survival in a predominantly agricultural economy; sons brought in extra manpower through a daughter-in-law joining the family, while a daughter amounted to a net loss.

In the absence of an appropriate social welfare system, sons were an insurance policy for ageing parents to be looked after in their waning years.

Such an attitude encouraged infanticide or the abandonment of female babies; technological advances enabling the gender of a fetus to be determined have also encouraged sex-selective abortion (creating a new English word gendercide).

Reacting to this, the United Nations Population Fund has warned that any tinkering with nature's probabilities could lead to increased sexual violence and trafficking of women, as a generation of men faced limited marriage prospects.

These days, however, there is both good and bad news around Asia.

India remains a worry. The latest "Gender Gap Index" report from the World Economic Forum shows only 920 girls being born for every 1,000 boys. Among 128 countries surveyed, India ranked 114th.

This prompted a writer in the weekly Indian Tribune to castigate the practice, even among urban middle class parents, to "pay 500 rupees for an abortion to save 50,000 rupees later on a daughter's marriage dowry."

In the past, girls were often denied education and considered a useless burden. Nowadays, however, one can see highly educated young women taking their place in many fields at the highest level throughout the region.