Sunday, July 22, 2007

The end of dowry

Sex discrimination in Asia, married with technological sex selection of fetuses, is going to have unintended consequences. In the Boston Globe:

While India has had several women in positions of power -- most notably Gandhi and her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, who was elected to the more powerful position of prime minister in 1966 -- women still face rampant discrimination.

Many Indian families regard daughters as a liability because of a tradition requiring a bride's family to pay the groom's family a large dowry of cash and gifts. As a consequence, their education is often neglected, and many don't get adequate medical treatment when ill. If they are widowed, they are considered a burden on their children or families and face even more discrimination.

International groups also estimate that about 10 million female fetuses have been aborted in India over the last two decades as families show a widespread preference for sons.

There's already a significant surplus of males in India - and in the rest of south and east Asia. What will the future bring? A few predictions:
  • Emigration - an additional reason, but not by any means the only one
  • Exogamy
  • The end of dowry, though probably not its reversal - there's still to much economic discrimination
  • A larger supply of potential suicide bombers
  • War, the last refuge of surplus males

No one can change the demographics. Is there anything anyone can do to mitigate their ill effects?

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