According to the World Health Organisation, the natural sex ratio at birth is considered to be 1.05. This means that on average there are 105 males for every 100 females born. China and India are immensely exceeding this rate. The CIA’s World Factbook exposes the harsh reality of China’s sex ratio at birth averaging to be a staggering 1.19, and India’s 1.08, however population levels between the ages of 0 and 14 have a ratio of 1.12, suggesting the practise of female infanticide is often occurring. Son preference is highly present in these two countries and has resulted in skewed sex ratios. It has been researched that parents favouring baby boys in China has stemmed from the Confucian tradition which has imbedded ideologies of the roles and importance of females and males in Chinese society for more than 2000 years. Not only has China’s cultural traditions enforced son preference, but despite governments attempts to better the population with the One-Child Policy, it has further encouraged the families to abort if the one child is not a boy. Son preference is again reinforced with parents concerns for old age support; the now failed rural pension programs in China has concreted the minds of many parents to rely on sons in their old age. India’s son preference, like China, originates from deep rooted culture. The Caste system in which allows females to be raped and the expensive payment of dowries are two of the most prominent reasons of why Indian parents go to the extremes to have a son and not a daughter. Sex selective abortions are seen as the lesser of two evils by Indian mothers considering the suffering women endure in India. Skewed sex ratios resulting from male preference have delivered major issues and social implications in both China and India. The trafficking industry has emerged from the lack of wives in China and India. An increase in young unmarried men has contributed to higher crime rates in both countries. Studies have shown increased trafficked sex workers has increased STI counts in particular HIV and AIDS in China and India. Lastly young men have been provided with the strenuous task of supporting the growing population.
The Confucian tradition, the One-Child Policy and the unsuccessful pension are all contributing factors for the male preference of children in China. Confucianism is characterized as a system of social and ethical philosophy in which establish the social values and transcendent ideals of traditional Chinese society. The authors of the academic article Sex Preference, Fertility, and Family Planning in China, Arnold and Zhaoxiang argue that the traditional society in China is strictly patriarchal, while it is believed that the family line is carried on solely by descendants on the male side, moreover only the male offspring belong to the clan community. Furthermore, the tradition suggests that men can provide old-age security, the provision of labour, and the performance of ancestral rites. The authors continue to state that the patriarchal Confucian customs constituted the foundation of male supremacy. The 2000-year-old Chinese Confucian status of women in that they bring little value to the birth family is reflective of their current status today. The persistence of son preference in China demonstrates the difficulty of overcoming deeply rooted Confucian traditions. The next contributing reason to the preference of male children is the implementation of the One-Child Policy. The essential idea of policy was to benefit the population by decreasing it, however the implementation of such a policy in China, where there is already a strong son preference, enhances it. The constriction of only one child puts pressure on the family for that child to be a male contributing to the number of sex selective abortions and female infanticides. “Constrained by a limited number of potential heirs, parents with son preference could resort to extreme measures to ensure having a male heir and therefore distort the sex ratio in newborn babies.” Li states that patterns of births indicate parents in rural China are reluctant to complete their childbearing without having at least one son. The author also states that sex-selective induced abortion became common in rural communities after the One-Child Policy was introduced. While son preference is in part cultural value, economic incentives is a large component of the preference, especially in rural areas of China. The economic value sons provide to parents manifests itself through the traditional expectation that sons care for their parents in old age. This is an important motivation for having a son, to secure a viable source of support. Despite failure of the Rural Old-Age Pension Program, through its short-lived use, Ebenstein, and Leung present that, “51% of respondents to a fertility survey in Hubei province identified the primary motivation for a son as the desire for old-age support.” The authors also indicate that “the results presented suggest that pension program availability is associated with a negative change in the sex ratio (fewer missing girls).” China’s male preference has originated from the Confucian tradition, enhanced by the One-Child Policy and further enriched by the absence of an adequate pension program in China’s poor rural areas.
India’s son preference is largely based upon the cultural influences of the caste system, financial influences of the dowry and ethical considerations of the female children. The Caste system is an extremely oppressive way in which India’s social hierarchy is based upon today, despite efforts from the government to ban caste discrimination. Individuals in the lowest caste (Dalit) are mistreated, especially women. On average “six Dalit women are raped a day.” Azaera states that if a woman is raped by someone of a higher caste, they are ostracised by the police and upper-caste members, however if they are raped by someone from their own caste, they are shunned by their own community. Male preference is strong among the Dalit caste, as a fellow mother of the Dalit caste explains, “Bringing up a girl is difficult, in a poor family ensuring her safety and protection is difficult once she’s about 15 to 16 years old.” Even though the traditional payment from the bride’s family to the husbands, known as a dowry, has been illegal in India since 1961, it is still occurring in India’s current society. Kavya Sukumar, author of Dowries are illegal in India. But families — including mine — still expect them, reveals that in 2015 less than 10,000 cases of dowry were reported in India, in a country with nearly 10 million weddings a year. For impoverished families a dowry is impossible, however with a son the family would receive the dowry, clearly resulting in a male preference for a child. A prominent reason poverty-stricken, low caste mothers in India have practiced sex selective abortions and male preference is simply to end the life of the child before a lifetime of suffering, consequently of the unethical treatment of women in India. Kavya Sukumar exhibits that nearly 21 women are killed every day by their husbands or in-laws because their families could not meet the dowry demands. Indian women are also regularly beaten if they continue to birth girls “The in-laws were blaming and torturing the mother for only delivering girls.” Laxmipriya Biswas a mother and villager emphasise that it is a curse to be born as a woman, “There is no sympathy for women either within the family or outside in society, they have to suffer everywhere.” Women and child development minister, Pramila Mallick illustrates the reason for male preference due to the suffering of females, “A house where the mother is unable to meet and fulfil the needs and wants of a child is such a place where the mother kills her child.” The preference of sons in India is largely based upon the caste system for low caste families, the illegal dowry is constantly used, putting a financial burden on having daughters and the suffering of women reinforce the decision to have sons.
The male preference in China and India has led to skewed sex ratios, which in turn has developed into major human rights and social issues in these countries. One of the most prominent issue is the trafficking of women for wives and sex workers from countries near the borders of China and India. The lack of females has resulted in the many poor young men having to buy wives as a cheaper alternative than impressing women from their own country. The trafficking industry and the treatment of women as objects is reiterated through worker at Pacific Links Foundation Shelter, Mimi Yu’s statement, “The demands for brides and prostitutes is so high that victims are not only abducted from the region near the southern border anymore, but from all parts of Vietnam” , later referring to the trade as definitely growing. Furthermore, escaped women have been rejected from their homes after returning, due to a profound lack of understanding and the assumption of a better life “Another reason why 60% of all arrested traffickers in Vietnam are former victims themselves.” The surplus of poor, young, unmarried men has increased the number of sex workers across China and India, moreover the HIV prevalence among the sex workers. In China, “poor migrant males moving from rural areas to urban areas in search of better jobs will engage in high risk sexual behaviours that place them at risk for HIV infection.” India is the third largest HIV epidemic in the world , like China it is largely a result of the skewed sex ratios. For men in both countries, “the immediate costs of paying a sex worker are less than the long-term investments necessary to find a bride.” The prevention of HIV in China and India is difficult as the stigma and discrimination against sex workers restrict their access to healthcare, making this an ongoing social issue. Another issue increased by skewed sex ratios is the levels of crimes in both countries. A writer for THE HINDU Business Line, Charan Singh presents a study made in 2000 suggesting that murder rates in India are correlated with female to male ratios, where levels murders are committed when there are a larger proportion of females. It is further argued that “young unmarried men are the main perpetrators of crime worldwide and commit more than two thirds of violent and property-related crimes in China” Lastly, the dependence of parents on their sons for financial support puts stress on young men to provide for the ageing population in both China and India. The population is described as a particularly widowed ageing population, with the majority of elders being female, however the youth being majority of men. It is discussed that “Indian women have historically not owned assets due to the nation’s patriarchal inheritance” in which assets and property have gone to the men in the family. Therefore, it is likely that these widowers will be depending on their sons or grandsons for financial security. Many young men will not have the resources and time to provide for both their elders and the needs of their wives and children and in turn will never start a family because of this.