Pro-life lobbyists were disappointed this week at the United Nations (U.N.) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) when the United States withdrew its resolution recommending the elimination of sex selection abortions and female infanticide. The non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives had spent the first week of CSW working to garner support for the resolution that was co-sponsored by South Korea, a nation that has been successful in curbing the practice. Surprisingly, two nations that are negatively affected by the practice (China and India) were leaders in pressuring the U.S. to withdraw its resolution. They were joined by other nations – most notably Mexico, the European Union, Canada, and most surprisingly, Costa Rica.
While China and India openly opposed the resolution, the other nations followed a typical U.N. strategy of “piling on;” they added addendums and inserted language that made passing the resolution counterproductive. The U.S. withdrew the resolution.
The opposition to the U.S. resolution flies in the face of the U.N.’s condemnation of “pre-natal sex selection” as a violation of human rights. It also contradicts the stance taken by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) which argues that violence against women begins “quite literally” in the womb. Other U.N. documents label sex selection abortions as “violence.” One publication states, “Some females fall prey to violence before they are born.”
As I mentioned last week, one of the most compelling aspects of the 51st CSW has been the focus on the “missing girls.” Throughout the U.N. building were posters, brochures and books about the “missing girls.” The U.N. estimates that “at least 60 million girls” who would otherwise be living are “missing from various populations as a result of sex-selected abortions or neglect.” Side events held in the Church Center across the street from the U.N. featured accounts of the impact on those nations where sex selection abortions and female infanticide are widely practiced. Among the predictable ramifications are the disparities in the male-female populations.
India tops the list for performing sex-selection abortions (called feticides) and female infanticide. Experts claim that the number of feticides in India is growing. Indira Patel, a global expert on harmful cultural, traditional and religious practices, said this week that 96 percent of aborted fetuses in India are female. Some experts claim that there are nearly two boys born for every girl since 20 million female fetuses have been aborted over the last ten years. Patel quotes families who justify their decision by saying, “Better to pay $38 for an abortion now than $3800 for a dowry later on.” A Delhi-based NGO reported, “Thousands of female infants are murdered in their mother’s wombs or are born to die; the justification is that a girl child is better dead than alive in a society which views her as a financial burden.”
China has announced that it will criminalize sex-selection abortions. Given the looming shortage of females, Chinese researchers have predicted that there will be 40 million unmarried men in mainland China by the year 2020. Experts report that such a surplus of unmarried men will, inevitably, mean more violence, including war, kidnapping and rape. Indeed, China has seen a sharp rise in violent crime over the past decade.
Other crimes also accompany shortages of women in nation states. China is a major destination country for sex trafficking in part because of the shortage of marriageable women there. Pakistan and Afghanistan have significant numbers of sex-selection abortions, but the problem is not yet having the impact that it is having in China and India. In addition to sex trafficking, there is a rise in bride trafficking Korean men, for instance, are finding brides in Vietnam.
Those nations that were successful in getting the resolution off the floor may have saved face, but it would have been far more important to save their girls.