Saturday, June 6, 2009

100 million 'missing women'

How did 100,000,000 women disappear?
Toronto Star: In India, China and sub-Saharan Africa, millions upon millions of women are missing. They are not lost, but dead: victims of violence, discrimination and neglect.

A University of British Columbia economist is amongst those trying to find them -- not the women themselves, who are long gone, but their numbers and ages, which paint a sad and startling picture of gender discrimination in the developing world.

The term 'missing women' was coined in 1990, when Indian economist Amartya Sen calculated a shocking figure. In parts of Asia and Africa, he wrote in the New York Review of Books, 100 million women who should be alive are not, because of unequal access to medical care, food and social services. These are excess deaths: women 'missing' above and beyond natural mortality rates, compared to their male counterparts.

Women who are dead because their lives were undervalued.

Around the world boys outnumber girls at birth, but in countries where women and men receive equal care, women have proved hardier and more resistant to disease, and thus live longer. In most of Asia and North Africa, however, Sen found that women die with startlingly higher frequency... By 2005, the United Nations produced a much higher estimate for how many women could be 'missing': 200 million.

From her office at UBC, economics professor Siwan Anderson has been crunching numbers to try and understand why so many women are dying. 'If you're interested in gender discrimination, it's really one of the starkest measures... because it's women who should be alive, and aren't.'...

'Previously, people had thought that they (the missing women) were all at the very early stages of life, prenatal or just after, so before four years old,' Anderson says. 'But what we found is that the majority are actually later.' Female infanticide has been endemic in India and China for some time, which she says led researchers to assume that it was the source of all the missing women. But the truth is much more complicated.

Once she and Ray broke down the numbers by age group, they found that the majority of excess female deaths came later in life: 66 per cent in India, 55 per cent in China and 83 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.
Image source here.