More Than Two Million Women “Disappear” Each Year

Female Chinese Infant
Many Chinese girls are subjected to preventative abortion. Photo courtesy of Cordon Press.

More Than Two Million Women “Disappear” Each Year
Feticide of girls extends to the Caucasus and Balkans
El País: Más de dos millones de mujeres ‘desaparecen’ cada año
Georgina Higueras reporting from Madrid September 21, 2011

Technological advances in the detection of fetal gender has extended the barbarism of female feticide to the Caucasus and the eastern Balkans, according to a detachment from the World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development written by the World Bank. The report reveals that a million and a half selective abortions of females are carried out each year. In addition, another half a million girls younger than five die from discrimination because poor households choose to dedicate their scarce resources to the males in the family rather than the females.

The hateful practice of selective abortion of girls is utilized most of all in China, India, and South Korea, countries that have prohibited the use of ultrasounds to ascertain the sex of the fetus for over a decade and whose doctors are considered lawbreakers if they inform parents of fetal gender. Despite that, feticide of Chinese girls has risen for 20 years, up to over a million in 2008. In India, the total has slightly descended, but the report reveals that while these selective killings were only found in the north before, they are now occurring in some parts of the central and southern regions as well.

Experts attribute the cause of this barbarism to “the combination of a strong preference for sons, falling fertility rates, and the expansion of technology that allows parents to know the gender of a child before birth.” The most alarming datum corresponds to Europe and Central Asia, specifically the eastern Balkans and Caucasian republics: the number is still small, but it has doubled from 7000 in 1990 to 14,000 in 2008.

The report estimates that close to four million women are lost each year because there is also a high number – close to a million and a half – that die during reproductive age (15-49), primarily because there is a very high rate of maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and certain parts of Asia. In Afghanistan, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Somalia, at least one of every 25 women dies from complications of pregnancy or childbirth, and an even greater number suffer from different ailments as a consequence of childbirth.

But not all the news is negative. The report also reveals important advances in gender equality have been made around the world in the last half a century such that women now have a higher life expectancy than men in every region of the planet. In 2007, the average woman’s life expectancy was 71 years, compared to 67 for men. In some developing countries, feminine life expectancy has risen up to 25 years, in part thanks to a decreased rate of childbirth.

As for education, the gains have been spectacular. We can say that there is near parity between men and women in primary and secondary education, while at the university level, there are more female than male students in 60 countries. Among the countries that have made the greatest leap in the education of women is Morocco, which had only 58% of its girls in school in 1997 compared to 88% in 2008.

In the working world, 500 million women have distinct occupations, from farmer to chief of state, and in 2008 women made up 40% of the total workforce, although positions for women in the Middle East and Northern Africa are still very deficient. There is also a significant gender gap in salaries, 20% on average.

The World Bank has urged countries to eliminate barriers to women working in certain occupations and sectors, “which would reduce the differences in productivity between male and female workers between 33% and 50%” and which would increase many nations’ productivity between 3% and 25%. It also calls for farmers to have more access to resources that would increase their productivity.

Explore posts in the same categories: China, Politics, Translations

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