« The Ultimate Planned Community | Main | Happy Mardi Gras!! »

March 01, 2006

Aborting Female Fetuses In India

Jeff at Protein Wisdom has asked feminists to answer some questions he has about the practice of aborting female fetuses in India. Jill at Feministe answered his questions. Her answers are similar to mine. Some Indian women get ultrasound to determine if a fetus is female, and if it is, she aborts it. A man is going around Punjab trying to find out if a pregnant woman is getting an ultrasound to determine the sex of her fetus, and he is shaming these women into carrying their pregnancies to term.

Jeff wrote the following:

This creates an interesting question for American feminists, who often advocate for abortion as a universal women's right—but who, in this case, run up against a scenario wherein it is the women who wish to have prenatal scans and choose whether or not to keep a child (her reasons are somewhat culturally-specific, but such could be said about all cultures where choice is an option:  in the US, some women may feel they simply aren’t ready to be mothers, or that they would first like to pursue a career, etc), and the government, by way of civil servants, who are trying to "shame" them out of their ability to choose.

It isn't so much the right for abortion as a universal women's right, but the right for a woman to decide whether or not she will carry and bear a child. Pro-choice also means the right to carry a child and for mothers to have more social support than they have. This view does not clash with not wanting to see Indian women abort female fetuses. That practice shows that women and girls are not valued in India. They definitely are not as valued as men and boys. One factor is the lower value of women and girls is that "many Indians have viewed girls as liabilities because large dowries have to be paid on marriage." What needs to be done is for women and girls to gain more social value in India. Dowries should be eliminated. It's illegal, but it's still practiced. Women in India are under great social pressure to abort female fetuses. A real choice would be for girls to have more value in India, and then women won't be under so much pressure to give birth to boys rather than girls.

A big clue regarding the reason the man in Punjab is trying to shame women into giving birth to girls was this sentence: "Punjab is suffering from a shortage of brides ." The focus remains on women only as they relate to men, and in this case, the cultural devaluing of women has resulted in fewer brides, because women are aborting their female fetuses. It's the cultural view of women and girls that needs to change. Once that changes, I suspect the aborting of female fetuses will diminish in number.

Oh, and Jeff, Ramen is full of salt. Try making your own miso soup. It's Japanese. It tastes much better than Ramen. Here's a good recipe. It's very easy to make. I like to add seaweed to miso soup. You can find all the ingredients at an Asian grocer.

Posted on March 1, 2006 at 11:08 AM | Permalink


Well, viewing sex-selective abortion as anything more than a symptom of a broader problem doesn't work. China's one-child policy led to a tremendous rate of sex-selective abortion, until the government decided to crack down on the practice and forbid doctors to reveal fetuses' sex to the mothers. The sex ratio has become more balanced, but the status of women remains abysmal. There's no reason to think a similar scheme will succeed in India, regardless of whether it is based on criminalization or shaming.

(By the way, Violet, if you're reading this, it's a good example of empirical rather than moral reasoning)

Posted by: Alon Levy at Mar 1, 2006 1:37:46 PM

I was just coming over here to try and write something highly offenseice to jolt you into returning to your blog. Glad I didnt have to stoop so low.

Posted by: will at Mar 1, 2006 2:30:31 PM

Will, write something highly offensive anyway so I have an excuse to throw spitballs at you. I have a blowgun I can use to throw the spitballs. I have unusual weapons. ;)

Posted by: The Countess at Mar 1, 2006 2:36:41 PM

Why does the image of the fembots in Austin Powers immediately come to mind?

Posted by: will at Mar 1, 2006 2:39:12 PM

Ha ha! I've never seen Austin Powers all the way through. I couldn't take it. It was too stupid. I prefer the fembots in "Our Man Flint". That movie was a better spoof of James Bond films, and it was full of 60's fembots.

Posted by: The Countess at Mar 1, 2006 2:49:37 PM

Alon, that's why I think the cultural view of women and girls has to change. Stopping the abortions of female fetuses alone won't change that culture. The abortions are a symptom of a bigger problem. It's the big problem that must be dealt with, and stopping the abortion of female fetuses alone won't change it. You've said much the same thing about the one-child policy in China. Plus, the guy who is "shaming" Indian women isn't concerned with them or the fetuses. He's mainly concerned about the lack of women who will become brides. It's still focused on what men want, not what is best for women and girls.

Posted by: The Countess at Mar 1, 2006 2:52:49 PM

Yeah, I know... though sometimes I get a sense of comfort when I see patriarchs fight one another, much like how sexists gloat when they see infighting among feminists. Conflict between different hierarchs, or oppressors, or privilege advocates, has historically been one of the most powerful forces bringing about freedom and equality.

It's interesting to read about solutions that focus on dowries. I'm not sure enforcing a ban will even be possible in all the villages, where the bulk of oppression takes place (Indian city women are far freer than Indian rural women; by some metrics, they're better off than even Western women). Eventually urbanization will simply destroy rural culture, but I don't know that it's possible to either deliberately destroy rural culture without urbanization, or promote gender equality in the villages without destroying rural culture. I don't doubt that enforcing a ban on dowries will go a long way to improve women's status; I just don't know whether it can be done.

Posted by: Alon Levy at Mar 1, 2006 3:13:55 PM

Wow. The countess and I agree that it is a sympton of larger problem.

Posted by: will at Mar 1, 2006 3:49:00 PM

I think the only other thing that we've agreed on was the importance of drinking some absinthe and trying a undress rehearsal of some of her stories with violetsocks.

Posted by: will at Mar 1, 2006 4:21:21 PM

I don't mind people here who disagree with me, Will. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. I just don't like trolls, and I tend to attract them. You aren't a troll. I haven't had any trolls lately, mainly because I've been writing a lot about sex. That's fun to write about. You're welcome on my blog, Will. I like you alot.

Yes, we must drink more absinthe and try a rehearsal of my stories with Violet.

Violet... where are you, girl???? :::tapping on Violet's door:::

Posted by: The Countess at Mar 1, 2006 4:35:59 PM

You gender feminists are all the same: radicals who engage in identity politics and try to ram all men, while pretending to care about equality at all.

(Sorry, this blog just doesn't seem whole without the occasional FRA troll)

Posted by: Alon Levy at Mar 1, 2006 5:34:27 PM

(By the way, Violet, if you're reading this, it's a good example of empirical rather than moral reasoning)

I'm just reading it now. Alon, you are so confused. Some feminists argue against legalizing prostitution because of research showing that such schemes either worsen women's lot or have no positive impact, in contrast to the Swedish approach, which seems to be effective. Instead of dealing with the research, you claim that the feminists are arguing from morality rather than empirical evidence -- exactly the opposite of the situation. But this thread isn't about prostitution...

Hi, Trish, it's nice to see you back! Did you know that Will is fat, has bad teeth, and back hair waxed in the shape of the Olympic rings? It's true!

I think I'm going to put up an absinthe-soaked sex post on my blog to drive out the godbags who are infesting the cartoon thread. Fortunately they're pretty much confined to the one thread -- it's like the little right-wing corner of the Reclusive Leftist -- but jesus christ almighty. Tonight one woman compared two gay guys she saw kissing at Disneyworld with the 9-11 hijackers. In terms of their moral depravity and effect on the world, that is. I shit you not.

Posted by: Violet Socks at Mar 2, 2006 12:14:02 AM

"Hi, Trish, it's nice to see you back! Did you know that Will is fat, has bad teeth, and back hair waxed in the shape of the Olympic rings? It's true!"

She said breathlessly as her supple bosoms heaved and she felt her body grow warm.

Posted by: will at Mar 2, 2006 8:49:50 AM

Blecch. Absinthe. That shit is not only pretentious, it tastes like rubber cement thinner. Give me a Guinness preceded by a shot of Tullamore Dew any day.

(Sorry. I couldn't really find anything else to disagree about today, not even the innate value of a good Miso soup. Don't hurt me.)

Posted by: alsis39.5 at Mar 2, 2006 7:11:12 PM

What is the theme song for this post?

Posted by: The Heretik at Mar 7, 2006 1:46:25 AM

Sub: "Beti Bachaao" (Save Daughter) - Saturday Evening Party at India Gate- New Delhi

Sachit , 30 years old , a brilliant Software Consultant, BE, till date who is struggling to register an FIR or any Small Investigation by Local Police officials , how his wife and her Parents had killed his Daughter , send the below mail to me :-

"This is regarding The 'Beti Bachaao' Programme, organised at India Gate NewDelhi, on 04-03-2006 evening.
Mrs. Sheila Dixit was also present there includingaround 4000 women. Today (05-03-2006) I watched (a news) at a reputed TV news Channel regarding“Women’s Day” function at India Gate, New Delhi.
According to the news : There were over 4000 (Over Four Thousand) womenpresent (including Mrs. Sheela Dixit - Hon’ble CM Delhi) at this occasion. Save daughter (Beti Bachaao – slogan of the programme).
Initially, I was really thrilled to hear “Beti Bachaao – slogan” of theprogramme. I was delighted to expect something really relevant to save thedaughters (specially the unborn/newly born daughters).
But to my surprise (even still I can’t believe what I saw on TV)… a couple ofyoung girls are playing the popular hindi film songs (Mera Yaar Mila De Mujhko-Remix - DJ) and dancing there….. I felt ashamed/pity to see the ‘way’ they are trying to save our daughters –By dancing on DJ at India Gate… I wonder how can they save my daughter by organizing ‘Kitty party’ typefunction at India gate in the evening (in addition to that Saturday Evening!!!!).
They also lit some candles (as a mark of hope), organized dance party (as amark of enjoyment), eating samosas (feeling hungry after dance), havingtea/coffee etc…..

Sorry to admit : They can do these activities at their own level every Saturday evening in a pub/club. I want to request them to STOP playing such tunes on the name of SaveDaughters (as I have already lost one)….
I want to request them to please don’t harm the already striken parent (like me) by dancing at India gate on Saturday evening on the name of Save Daughter (Beti Bachaao).

I suggest : Even if out of that 4000 women, every women tries to save onedaughter (Beti) by inspecting the ‘Abortion Centres’ records, they (alltogether) could have saved atleast 40000 (forty thousand) daughters (Betis). Also, I wish my daughter (Beti) were ONE out of that FORTY THOUSAND DAUGHTERS".

This is not the feeling of only Sachit , Lakhs of Sachit all over the India are making round the police station and court room , as thier wives had allready aborted their Daughters , without their any consent , started to raising thier voice in Save Indian Child Yahoo Groups ( SIF Volenters ) .


One hand our so called Women Orginasations are supported by our own hard earned Tax Payer money , are busy for the Dance Show at India Gate , SIF Volenters are busy at the Back Side of India gate ( Patilawal Court Room ) , arguing with Judges , why those Criminal should not be punished who had Killed thier Daughters , before their Born .

We wonder , our NCW have really any concern for Murder of our Daughters !!!!

Otherwise how so many 498A girls and thier family able to kill the child and move freely in our society ??

Can we expect a Special LAW , by which those people Killing our Daughters along with those abortion centers , to be hang till the death under IPC314/315 ??

Let Ban the Child Abortion in India and then prodly say ""Beti Bachaao" (Save Daughter) " instead of making fun /enjoyment at India Gate .

With Regards
Swarup Sarkar

Posted by: swarup at Mar 7, 2006 4:55:15 AM

Actually there is a rule in India regarding abortions and sex determination: doctors are not allowed to reveal the sex of the foetus to parents. Of course, this doesn't prevent illegal sex screenings and abortions. Female infanticide is also present in some states.
In certain ways however India is more progressive with regard to abortion -- there is less of this sense that the foetus is entitled to the same rights a human is.

Posted by: Anu at Mar 27, 2006 8:30:11 AM