Google+ Followers

Oriente Médio e Palestina

terça-feira, 3 de janeiro de 2012

The daughter’s return

A glimmer of hope in the sad tale of sex-selective abortion in India

THE march of sex-selective abortion in Asia seems relentless. Not every society adopts the practice, but those that do—and they include the two largest countries on earth—have seen it spread through every social group, unhampered by growing wealth. Indeed, middle-income couples seem more willing and better able to manipulate the sex of their children than are the poor. And they are more likely to want smaller families, increasing the premium on sons in countries where males are seen as more valuable.
As a result, richer areas have more sex selection than poorer ones and sex selection tends to rise as countries get richer. In China the sex ratio at birth is much more distorted in rich Shanghai and Guangzhou than in poor Tibet. From 2001-11, India’s GDP more than doubled and the census of 2011 found only 914 girls aged 0-6 for every 1,000 boys, worse even than the abysmal tally in 2001, when there were 927 girls per 1,000 boys. (India counts the sex ratio differently from the rest of the world, which expresses the idea as the number of boys per 100 girls; using the international measure, India’s child sex ratio rose from 108 in 2001 to 109.5 in 2011.) In 2001 India had 6m fewer girls than boys aged 0-6; by 2011 the number had risen to 7m.

It has long been assumed the process of reversing sex selection does not happen until countries are richer than India or China are now. One of the few to have succeeded in ending the practice is South Korea, where the sex ratio at birth peaked in 1990 and has since fallen to near-normal levels. South Korea did not manage fully to reverse the trend until its GDP per person had reached about $12,000. China’s is now $8,400, India’s $3,700. Both countries have been campaigning against sex-selective abortion for years, making it illegal to terminate pregnancies just because parents want a son (or indeed to inform parents of the sex of a fetus), launching “save the daughter” campaigns, and—in India’s case—enlisting Bollywood stars to sing the praises of girls. All, it seems, to no avail.
Now, however, comes evidence that India may in fact be succeeding. In a pair of articles in the Indian Express, Surjit Bhalla, an economist, and Ravinder Kaur, a sociologist, use a different set of figures to get a different result. On the basis of the national sample surveys (NSS), they calculate that India’s sex ratio at birth swung from 924 females per 1,000 males in 2004-05 to 977 in 2011, a stunning turnaround in favour of girls.
The NSS figure is not comparable to the census. It shows the sex ratio at birth, whereas the census shows the ratio for children aged 0-6 (census figures for the sex ratio at birth have not been published). But there are reasons for thinking the NSS is reliable. The sample size, of 125,000 households, is large. And when the NSS does produce figures comparable to the census, they closely match it (for example, the NSS and census figures for the child sex ratio in 2001 and 2011 are almost identical). The new figure represents a very big change. A sex ratio of 977 girls to 1,000 boys is closer to what prevailed in the 1960s than it is to more recent decades.
So it is possible that the sex ratio has begun to change recently in ways not captured by the census. If so, why? Mr Bhalla and Ms Kaur pin the explanation squarely on the behaviour of parts of India’s middle class. What they call the mature middle class, those with an annual income of 170,000 rupees ($3,200) for a family of five, no longer practises sex selection. Ms Kaur’s research in five Indian states finds that richer middle-class families are no longer using sons as vehicles for upward mobility. A combination of female education, the spread of “modern” social attitudes through television, government policies and a dawning sense that daughters are more likely than sons to look after parents in old age are all having a cumulative effect. This is persuading the richer parts of the middle class that girls are as valuable as boys. The authors reckon this slice of the population has almost doubled in size in six years, from 27% in 2005 to 50% in 2011, so its preferences explain the change in the figures.
The argument might seem to contradict the view that sex selection rises as people get richer. In fact, at slightly lower levels of income, the link is as strong as ever. Mr Bhalla and Ms Kaur find sex selection has run rampant among what they call the emerging middle classes—those with an income of 90,000-170,000 rupees a year. But since this group has declined as a share of the population, from 68% in 2000 to 41% now, their preferences have a smaller impact.
Thank you, Mr and Mrs Middle
Until further evidence appears (more census numbers, for example) the conclusion that India is reducing sex selection in the mature middle class will remain tentative. Still, regional data back it up. Monica Das Gupta of the World Bank points out that the 2011 census shows the sex ratio is beginning to return to normal in Punjab and Haryana, states where sex-selective abortion used to be common, but which now report big changes in attitudes to girls. These are rich states with many mature middle-class families. Meanwhile, in nearby Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, the sex ratio is getting worse. These are states with more of the emerging middle classes. Because there are many such states and some, like Uttar Pradesh, are huge, they explain why the national child sex ratio became more distorted in 2001-11. When the 2011 census appeared, some Indians agonised that the whole country was going the way of Punjab and Haryana. That looks unduly pessimistic. The distortions in the newly offending states are small compared with those that once gripped Punjab and Haryana. India’s efforts to cut sex selection may be starting to pay off, after all. And it is pretty clear why. “We can thank”, say Mr Bhalla and Ms Kaur, “the education- and equality-of-the-sexes-oriented middle class for this turnaround.”

Nenhum comentário:

Postar um comentário


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Follow by Email

Textos relacionados