Prosperity and Sex-Selection (and Language)

A very grim story, sent by the Jender-Parents: Apparently as people in India get wealthier, sex-selective abortion is on the rise. (The older, cheaper method of female infanticide is still going strong, too, as evidenced by a recent finding of 40 female foetus and baby skulls in a well.) This article serves as a reminder of how complicated things are. Increasing prosperity: Good. Increasing access to abortion: Good. But put these in an unjust context, and the effects may not be so good. This is why it’s vital to look at the total picture, as advocates of reproductive justice urge.

(At the risk (make that ‘certainty’) of being a pedant, I can’t help but notice that the BBC article also offers some interesting linguistic tidbits:

Even though it is illegal in India for a doctor to reveal the gender of an unborn child, the law is rarely enforced.

First, we’ve got the use of ‘gender’ where sex is clearly what is meant, then we get the use of ‘unborn child’ for foetus.)

4 thoughts on “Prosperity and Sex-Selection (and Language)

  1. This is going to sound callous, but if I lived in India as part of a traditional family with no hope of getting out, I would abort a female fetus also.

    Life for most women in India SUCKS. I would never want to bring a precious girl baby into that culture. I haven’t lived in India since I was 14 years old (lived in Singapore first and then came to USA), and I had no idea how pervasive sexism was there until I got married to an Indian man and visited my inlaws for the first time.

    It. Was. HELL.

    The way they tried to boss me around, the astounding lack of respect for me as a person – for ALL women, really – floored me. We are nobody in that country. Nobody. It scares the FUCK out of me to even think of moving there. I am a strong woman, I’ve fought my battles with my own semi-traditional Indian parents, I’ve never shied away from standing up for myself… but two weeks in India took all the spirit out of me. By the end, I was just nodding along, not caring that I was a silent party to the demeaning treatment meted out to me. I hate what I became.

  2. “unborn child” indeed!

    What Nandini reports is discernible in the article Jender linked to – at least in the contrast between the reporter’s attitudes and the actions he describes. He was filming a ceasarian birth and for him,

    The Caesarean section was a complete success, and the safe arrival of such a beautiful ball of life should have been greeted with uncomplicated delight.

    But for the women of the family, it was a different story:

    But the mother had failed once again to provide her husband with a son and heir, so it was a singularly joyless occasion … the women of the family were disapproving and edgy … Then came an even more extraordinary request: did we want to take the baby, not just to hold, but to have?

    In another time, she might have been killed.

    One gives girl babies away. I don’t really feel I know enough to comment on the cultural attitudes, but I am struck by the fact that a lot of people would say the reporter’s attitude is the “natural one.”

    In some species apparently the mother may kill offspring she can’t take care of. It’s been suggested that we see this in humans sometimes too. I have no idea whether one could ever know that’s true (i.e., whether female humans can some sort of instinict for this), BUT it is another way of seeing the rejecting attitudes as possibly also “natural.”

    It is indeed grim news.

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