Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Another Price of Abortion

GetReligion has an interesting story on a series unfolding at the Washington Times.

The series is about sexism and women's rights in India, and the initial installment leaves plenty of food for thought.

India is facing a shortage of women like Miss Kaur.

In most places in the world, a mother can find out the sex of her unborn child, but in India, it's illegal to do so. That is because if she's a female, there is a good chance she will never be born.

Roughly 6.7 million abortions occur yearly in India, but aborted girls outnumber boys by 500,000 -- or 10 million over the past two decades -- creating a huge imbalance between males and females in the world's largest democracy.

Ironically, a machine used by many pro-life groups in this country to dissuade women from aborting--the ultrasound--is used by women in India and China for sex selection abortions. The high number of abortions in these countries means that the imbalance between the sexes is getting worse, and with that imbalance, women will become more and more valuable...as a commodity.
As a result, a new class of wifeless men are scouring eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal for available women. India, already a world leader in sex trafficking, is absorbing a new trade in girls kidnapped or sold from their homes and shipped across the country.

Are these women just exercising their right to choose abortion in these situations? If women don't even value their daughters, how can a culture be changed to give those daughters full equality? How do pro-choice supporters handle sex selection abortion as an issue?

The Washington Times story is gut-wrenching. The roadblocks and dangers that Indian women face is staggering. Besides the sex selection abortions, women must deal with the burdensome dowery system that is still in place.
Sister Mary Scaria was one of two girls in a family of nine children.
Dressed in an aqua-colored sari of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, the nun is also a lawyer and coordinator of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese's Justice & Peace Commission. In early 2006, she published "Woman: An Endangered Species?" which charged that "female feticide" is decimating half of the population.
She chiefly blames the dowry system, a Hindu marriage practice by which the groom's family demands enormous sums of money and goods from the bride's family as a condition for letting their son marry her.
"At a wedding, everyone looks to see how many bracelets the bride has and how much gold she has," the nun says. Dowries typically consist of gold and appliances, as well as substantial amounts of cash. Defenders of the system say that girls are often denied an inheritance in India; thus, what she gets at her wedding is in effect a savings account she can retain for the rest of her life.
What actually happens is the groom's family pockets the dowry, the nun explains, and the payments don't stop there.
"When a wife has a baby in India, the wife's family has to pay for the hospital stay," Sister Mary says. "After the birth, they also have to bring gold and food for the new family, even new saris for all the relatives."
Some Indian castes even require that the bride's family pay her funeral expenses when she dies. Worse yet, the groom's family will often kill the bride in what's known as a "dowry death" if they think the dowry is too small.

And even though the dowry system was banned in India back in 1961, the system still remains.

The caste system is still prevalent in India as well. The ratio of women to men is most skewed in the richest provinces. The large number of unmarried men are resorting to importing brides from other areas, and those women are treated little better than slaves. As feminists, the mistreatment of all women--from womb to death--should be a concern.

UPDATE: Deep Thought reminded me in the comments that he addressed this sex ratio imbalance in a post from a year ago.