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Monday, November 03, 2003

More on Female Infanticide

I'm afraid, I think Atanu is still wrong. As I said in my last post, I do not think even for a moment, that Atanu (or for that matter Prashant) condone discrimination against women. But I still think their argument is horribly and dangerously wrong. It is logically flawed and it ignores evidence.

In his rejoinder to my post Atanu writes:

My position is that the fact is that some people value female children less than male children. This is a lamentable fact but a fact nonetheless. I did not dictate that people value girls less. I am taking that as given and (at least for the present) unalterable fact. Breast beating may feel good but will do little to alter that fact. Altering that fact would be an end that all right-thinking people devoutly wish for. It may take a few generations. Until then, what is the most humane way to deal with the problem. Do millions of unwanted girl children have to suffer inhuman neglect? Can society protect the rights of children with as much gusto as the protection of foetuses? Which is the lesser evil: the aborting of female foetuses or the terrible fate of an unwanted girl child?

Atanu sets up a false choice. Infact aborting the female foetuses and the terrible fate are two sides of the same coin. You can't get rid of one without getting rid of the other. Does Atanu truly believe that aborting the female foetus will improve the lot of the girl child?

Well there is no evidence. The EPW article I linked to made it quite clear that the reality of gender relation in Punjabi society for the last 100 years were much more complex that Atanu is prepared to concede. He simply ignores all externalities. Also read Kaushik's post for a more complicated but more complete picture.

For example, the declining sex ratio might manifest itself in more complicated ways than Atanu imagines. There was an article in Outlook a few months ago about "brides" (read sex slaves) being bought from Eastern India by relatively wealthy Jat farmers of Haryana.

Perhaps, in some sufficiently long run the declining sex ratio would be more evenly spread accross India due to human trafficking. Therefore the price of brides would increase in Eastern India and price the Jat farmer out of the market. But by then maybe Burmese girls would be avaliable and the merry circle of life can continue. Or maybe other externalities would muddy Atanu's faith in the price mechanism.

In any case, Atanu should try and tell that to the frightened teenager whose is being sold to the Jat farmer who will use her for a few months and the chuck her out.

So do I have a dear solution. Nope but then I do not believe in dear solutions--only liberitarians do. The solution is education, empowerment, employment. To quote Mr. Rumsfeld its the, "long hard slog".

In addition, as Kaushik (and an excellent article by Prof Sen a few years ago) points out, most of the of the discrimination girls face occurs in more subtle and harder to detect forms--for example parents spend less money on their nutrition, healthcare, education etc. Outright murder is still relatively rare.

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