When will this stop?!

Dis­turb­ing news broke out to start the week:

Thir­ty poly­thene bags stuffed with the body parts of female fetus­es and new­ly born babies have been found in a dry well near a pri­vate clin­ic in the east Indi­an state of Oris­sa, police said on Mon­day.

Police sus­pect the body parts — main­ly skulls and bones — were dumped in the well short­ly after birth or abor­tion at the clin­ic in Naya­garh dis­trict, 90 km (55 miles) south­west of the state cap­i­tal, Bhubaneswar. The man­ag­er of the clin­ic has been arrest­ed.

Pri­ma facie seems to indi­cate female feti­cide but we can’t be sure until foren­sic exam­i­na­tions are con­duct­ed,” said B.K. Shar­ma, Orissa’s crime branch inspec­tor-gen­er­al of police.

Police said they searched the well after sev­en female fetus­es, also packed into poly­thene bags, were found dumped in a desert­ed area in a near­by vil­lage a week ago.

Offi­cials said they believed the two cas­es were linked and are part of an orga­nized rack­et involved in female feti­cide.

I usu­al­ly write at least a cou­ple of lines with my opin­ion of a news item, but I’m just shell-shocked into silence with this one.

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  • Mahen­dra,
    What I am about to say is com­pa­ra­bly grue­some:
    This is hap­pen­ing because of Indi­an polit­i­cal and social poli­cies. Abor­tion is legal, but sex deter­mi­na­tion is not. In a prim­i­tive social set­up like ours, this goes against the grain of the great Indi­an ethos, where the male baby is wel­come, and the female is not. Put crude­ly, there is a mar­ket for male babies and none for female ones. The Gov­ern­ment does not recog­nise this right of indi­vid­u­als to chose the sex of their babies. So what do these peo­ple do? Get the sex ver­i­fied in some ille­gal clin­ic, if pos­si­ble, and go for an abor­tion. If not pos­si­ble, they give birth to the babies, and upon dis­cov­er­ing that they are not boys, kill them in cold blood, and dump them.
    By its own right­eous­ness and will to con­trol the choic­es of indi­vid­u­als, the Gov­ern­ment is mak­ing out­laws of ordi­nary peo­ple, and turn­ing them to become crim­i­nals. In try­ing to ban sex deter­mi­na­tion, they are encour­ag­ing female infan­ti­cide and feti­cide.
    The time when an embryo becomes a fetus is around 3 months. Once the abor­tion is done (ille­gal­ly) after this time peri­od, this becomes a mur­der of an unborn human being. Hence it is evil.
    How­ev­er, the very attempt to rec­ti­fy this by ban­ning sex deter­mi­na­tion is idi­ot­ic and prob­lem­at­ic. Let peo­ple free to decide the sex of their babies, and this will great­ly reduce in inci­dence. This is not a prob­lem of the prob­lem itself. This is a prob­lem of the solu­tion.

  • but what about the con­se­quences of that ‚Doc?
    preg­nant women would be queue­ing at scan­ning cen­tres and under­go­ing muti­ple MTPs. Or are u going to lim­it the num­ber of MTPs a woman can go throo before she gets her desired baby?

    please check

  • Sree,
    If a woman has a right to an abor­tion, she has the right to choose which one to abort: male or female. Obvi­ous­ly, for any right think­ing indi­vid­ual, this is repug­nant to want only males, but every indi­vid­ual has the right to be wrong. This is a con­se­quence of eco­nom­ic back­ward­ness engen­dered by years of social­ism. You won’t find this in more mod­ern soci­eties. In most coun­tries in the world, you can check the sex of the embryo freely (hell, you can do it over the inter­net). You can’t and shouldn’t stop peo­ple from decid­ing how they want their fam­i­lies to be.…if they want all male fam­i­lies, the hell with them!

  • Hav­ing gone into that thread with all its com­ments, I guess I am in a minor­i­ty of ONE. So the chances of my being cor­rect is infin­i­tes­i­mal­ly high­er! 🙂
    Mahen­dra, what you start­ed out with in that blog was a false premise: once an egg is formed by fer­til­i­sa­tion, it does not acquire rights. That right is acquired after 12 weeks of preg­nan­cy, whence it is known as a fetus (and not a zygote or an embryo). Feti­cide is moral­ly, med­ical­ly, and legal­ly wrong. Abor­tion is not.
    For the first time, I find myself sur­prised to dis­agree with M!

  • Oh, now I find that the blog Sree referred to was not by Mahen­dra. I was mis­led by the pen image in the tem­plate!

  • Same here , Ram. I felt I was at shocking.wordpress when I saw this blog 🙂

  • Ramana…
    Its not a mat­ter of the woman hav­ing ‘rights’.
    But its reper­cus­sions on the soci­ety in the long run.

  • Sree,
    Oh, come, come!! All this social engi­neer­ing is a col­lec­tivist mind­set (where an elite bunch of politi­cians and bureau­crats with their left-lib­er­al thinkers plot on a graph all our col­lec­tive lives and how we should live) and, basi­cal­ly, hog­wash. We have all been brought up with this brain­washed from school, that the mai-baap sarkar will decide to do all the good and make every­one good. To make oth­ers good, the State needs con­trol over its peo­ple: don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t go to church, don’t gam­ble, don’t watch this movie, don’t read that book.…Totalitarianism has its roots right here, in this phi­los­o­phy. ‘Reper­cus­sions’: at least babies won’t be slaugh­tered and stuffed in plas­tic bags!

  • Sree: I tend to agree with Ramana — “soci­ety” doesn’t over­ride a woman’s right to sex-selec­tive abor­tion. That would be a clas­sic case of col­lec­tivism, where indi­vid­ual rights are oblit­er­at­ed.

    If the “soci­ety” believes gen­der imbal­ance is bad, it should cre­ate the cul­ture that will reverse the trend, not abro­gate indi­vid­ual rights to itself (mean­ing gov­ern­ment).

    1. I still dis­agree with you — though not like on the oth­er blog, but the exact oppo­site. I do not think a foe­tus has rights. For an exact def­i­n­i­tion and dis­cus­sion of what I believe in this regard: see this ARI arti­cle.
    2. So you advo­cate legal­iza­tion of sex deter­mi­na­tion tests in India! You say this will reduce female infan­ti­cide. It is a very inter­est­ing and con­trar­i­an opin­ion, and you’ve put me into “unqui­et” mode again! 🙂

  • Hi Mahen­dra and Ram…

    and you’ve put me into “unqui­et” mode again! //
    same here . I am not able to agree with Ram but I unable to come up with a good solu­tion either.

    How can we legalise sex deter­mi­na­tion tests?
    Even if the ethics or lack of it is set aside , what would be the plight of women ?
    Anoth­er cru­el­ty met­ted out by hus­bands and in-laws !
    under­go­ing mul­ti­ple MTPs.
    There are still a lot of ppl who accept ‘fate’ when there is lack of facil­i­ty. If that becomes freely avail­able there’d be pan­de­mo­ni­um .

    Instead of babies going into plas­tic bags..more women would go into body bags.

  • Ah well. Lots of seri­ous com­men­tary I see. And since, it has been con­clu­sive­ly proved that Mahen­dra is my twin broth­er who just hap­pened to be trans­port­ed back in time due to a freak worm­hole, it was only to be expect­ed that I wrote a post about the same news item at the same time. The key dif­fer­ence though is that mine has absolute­ly no grav­i­tas what­so­ev­er 🙂

  • Mahen­dra,

    I was also shocked into silence by this, but I am more con­cerned by the tac­it agree­ment with the prin­ci­ples that under­lie this prob­lem shown by the com­men­tors who believe the answer is to allow sex deter­mi­na­tion tests. Repro­duc­tive rights are intend­ed to allow women con­trol over when and how they become preg­nant. They are not a means to make base dis­crim­i­na­tion against women (even in-vit­ro) more palat­able to a giv­en soci­ety. And even if I grant that every indi­vid­ual has the right to be wrong; soci­ety has a right and respon­si­bil­i­ty to stand against those whose actions vio­late the bounds of rea­son­ably eth­i­cal behav­ior.

    It is not o.k. for a fam­i­ly to pref­er­ence male chil­dren, not in any way. I know that pol­i­cy is tricky. I under­stand the his­to­ry which under­lies these par­tic­u­lar issues. But the only way to stop this kind of behav­ior is to edu­cate the chil­dren. To teach them, by our actions, that every­one has worth. And that the male, sole­ly by virtue of being a male, does not have high­er moral val­ue than the female. Not as an adult, not as a child, and not in the womb.

  • Aika­ter­ine: thanks for vis­it­ing. I agree that “soci­ety has a right and respon­si­bil­i­ty to stand against those whose actions vio­late the bounds of” what it con­sid­ers “rea­son­ably eth­i­cal behav­ior” — words not in quotes insert­ed.

    The inser­tion is the rea­son I think mak­ing a law against it is cross­ing the line and step­ping on indi­vid­ual rights. The def­i­n­i­tion of what con­sti­tutes rea­son­able eth­i­cal behav­ior has changed and evolved through­out mankind’s his­to­ry. It has tak­en us cen­turies to get to a point where we now under­stand, val­ue, and respect indi­vid­ual rights (to var­ied extents). We can­not afford to step back­wards. I reit­er­ate my response to Sree in com­ment #9 above. How­ev­er, even if I’m against mak­ing it a law, I still think soci­ety should cre­ate the cul­ture that brings about the req­ui­site bal­ance of gen­der in this sit­u­a­tion.

    That’s why I ful­ly and whole­heart­ed­ly agree that the way to bring about the bal­ance is through edu­ca­tion. Through teach­ing, through our actions, and so on. Also, the counter response needs to be equal­ly strong: we should “shun” those who indulge in such prac­tices, and ostra­cize them.

  • Mahen­dra,
    No. I don’t think you can bring in edu­ca­tion in iso­la­tion. It always comes pig­gy back over eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty. So, you have to cre­ate a soci­ety where peo­ple can become rich, or at the least, escape pover­ty. Then these things will fol­low.
    As far as the ARI arti­cle is con­cerned, that is in con­text to the right of an unborn ver­sus the right of the moth­er. Here, I made a dis­tinc­tion between an embryo (which is an evolv­ing mass of cells up to 12 weeks of age) and a fetus which now has devel­op­ing organs. Because it is con­sid­ered to be akin to a human being (with its head, limbs and oth­er organs) it is con­sid­ered ille­gal and immoral to kill it. In those sit­u­a­tions where the mother’s life is at stake, its right has to be sub­sidiary to the mother’s right to life.

  • Aika­ter­ine,
    Soci­ety has no right to gov­ern over fam­i­ly and indi­vid­ual relat­ed issues. By what right can a soci­ety tell a woman which chil­dren to have or not to?
    You said “Repro­duc­tive rights are intend­ed to allow women con­trol over when and how they become preg­nant. “. There are no spe­cial rights called repro­duc­tive rights. There are indi­vid­ual rights, which can vary in spe­cif­ic appli­ca­tions, but are essen­tial­ly the same in prin­ci­ple. You know, I agree with your feel for the issue, but then you CANNOT gov­ern oth­ers’ choic­es. If they want males, let them.
    Social Engi­neer Sree, if this is allowed to hap­pen, the sex ratio will be dis­tort­ed (with few­er females), and the mar­ket demand will be for females. Then peo­ple will kill male fetus­es, and then we will all shout that male feti­cide and sex deter­mi­na­tion should be banned.….

  • Mahen­drap -

    And thank you, as well, for stop­ping by mine. I am glad to have stum­bled upon your lit­tle piece of the web. I like the debate here.

    Talk­ing about indi­vid­ual rights is nice, in the­o­ry. It is impor­tant to remem­ber the the con­cept of an indi­vid­ual right only makes sense if there is an ‘autonomous indi­vid­ual’ to whom those rights can be attached. An indi­vid­ual capa­ble of not only mak­ing deci­sions with­out the influ­ence of any­one or any­thing else; but also act­ing on an indi­vid­ual right with­out out­side influ­ence. And that type of auton­o­my does not exist. Our sense of self is intrin­si­cal­ly tied to oth­ers, whether it is fam­i­ly, friends, pets, nature — what­ev­er. We do not exist in a vac­u­um, we are not autonomous. An ‘Indi­vid­ual Right’ as the­o­ry is inter­est­ing to debate, but it does not exist.

    You make a very good point about counter response- shun­ning and ostra­ciz­ing those who engage in the prac­tice of sex deter­mi­na­tion. But all laws have their gen­e­sis in just such actions. Law is, in a very real way, the tool by which advanced indus­tri­al soci­eties shun and ostra­cize peo­ple who vio­late the norms which a soci­ety holds in high regard. As an out­sider, one of the ways I can judge what is impor­tant to a giv­en soci­ety is to look at struc­ture and con­tent of their laws. Law out­lines which behav­iors a soci­ety feel are wor­thy of dis­dain.

  • I hit sub­mit by mis­take. I was just going to fin­ish up by say­ing that:

    You are appalled, right­ly, by this type of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion. As are many of your fel­low coun­try­men. I would think that you would want to bring the full weight of soci­etal pres­sure to bear on those who dis­crim­i­nate against the female. And your laws are the most effec­tive vehi­cle through which to accom­plish that.

  • Ram­bodoc,

    Soci­ety, by def­i­n­i­tion, gov­erns fam­i­ly and indi­vid­ual issues. Every­thing you do, every­thing you buy, every­thing you think is gov­erned in one way or anoth­er by the soci­ety in which you were raised and now live. Law is just the process of putting the most impor­tant moral rules on paper and fund­ing a police force to enforce those rules.

    So, you can argue that this par­tic­u­lar moral con­cern is not wor­thy of being made law. But you can­not argue that soci­ety has no right to gov­ern the indi­vid­ual. Again, by def­i­n­i­tion, soci­ety gov­erns the indi­vid­ual.

  • Ram­bodoc: I nev­er said edu­ca­tion in iso­la­tion will work. I agree that eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty is required. But that by itself, with­out a cul­tur­al change through edu­ca­tion, will not help — so the idea was just to empha­size the edu­ca­tion aspect, not con­sid­er it in iso­la­tion. “Hence the most dis­turb­ing fact is that the more pros­per­ous states have wider imbal­ance of sex ratio.” — is anoth­er find­ing.

    I still dis­agree with you regard­ing “rights” of a fetus. “Rights, do not per­tain to a poten­tial, only to an actu­al being. A child can­not acquire any rights until it is born”, to quote Rand her­self. The health of the moth­er is irrel­e­vant. For anoth­er illus­tra­tive descrip­tion of what I’m say­ing see this arti­cle.

  • Aikaterene:

    I think we’ve entered the clas­sic “Indi­vid­u­al­ism vs. Col­lec­tivism” debate here, and I am an indi­vid­u­al­ist. An indi­vid­ual does live in a social con­text, but indi­vid­ual rights exist not just in the­o­ry but in prac­tice as well. The extent to which a soci­ety is civ­i­lized is deter­mined by the extent to which it respects indi­vid­ual rights. While soci­ety has every right to moral­ly con­demn what it con­sid­ers immoral, that doesn’t mean it always should be con­vert­ed into leg­is­la­tion.

    It is anoth­er aspect alto­geth­er, that in many cas­es, cul­tur­al con­dem­na­tion works, where leg­is­la­tion doesn’t.

  • Ram­bodoc:

    Com­ing back to the orig­i­nal top­ic: “if this is allowed to hap­pen, the sex ratio will be dis­tort­ed (with few­er females), and the mar­ket demand will be for females. Then peo­ple will kill male fetus­es.”

    Many experts argue and it is now gen­er­al­ly con­ced­ed that this does not hap­pen at all. In fact, there are sev­er­al dan­gers that have been actu­al­ly observed and doc­u­ment­ed: increase in angry young unmar­ried men increas­es over­all crime in the soci­ety, rape and abuse cas­es increase, sex traf­fick­ing of women increas­es, and so on. The econ­o­mist sup­ply-demand the­o­ry doesn’t apply in this case. Unfor­tu­nate­ly. Sigh.

  • Mahen­dra,
    The arti­cle says:“Fetuses and embryos are not actu­al human beings; they are poten­tial human beings. They have no rights until they exist apart from the moth­er, i.e., at birth. This is not to con­done the moral­i­ty of arbi­trar­i­ly delay­ing an abor­tion until the last months of pregnancy–when the fetus is approach­ing human­ness.”
    I am not sure this con­tention is bio­log­i­cal­ly ratio­nal. A fetus of even 24 weeks, and more like­ly 28 weeks, is like­ly to sur­vive on its own. It is not mere­ly a poten­tial human being. It is almost as much a formed human being as a new­born baby. It can, for all we know (and I am not very sure at this point in time), hear sounds, and feel pain (more unsure). It def­i­nite­ly moves like a new­born baby. How can we not give it the sta­tus of a new­born baby? It is only when the age of via­bil­i­ty is not reached (and that is con­sid­ered at 28 weeks), that you can say it is only a poten­tial, and not a real human being with its own rights. So I guess I stand at odds with the Objec­tivist school in this respect.

  • Mahen­dra,

    Thank you for tak­ing the time to respond.

    The extent to which a soci­ety is civ­i­lized is deter­mined by the extent to which it respects indi­vid­ual rights.”

    I would argue that a bet­ter and more real­is­tic mea­sure of the lev­el of civ­i­liza­tion in a giv­en soci­ety is the well-being of the cit­i­zens who make it up. Amer­i­ca was found­ed on the con­cept of indi­vid­ual rights, and we are just now begin­ning to see how flawed that the­o­ry is. It is a the­o­ry which makes sense to men, more than women. Which is inter­est­ing in this con­text.

    It is anoth­er aspect alto­geth­er, that in many cas­es, cul­tur­al con­dem­na­tion works, where leg­is­la­tion doesn’t.”

    You have a very good point here. And; espe­cial­ly if this is very much the case in India, then it might make more sense to keep this out of the law books; until the law becomes just as good — if not bet­ter — than cul­tur­al con­dem­na­tion.

    It is easy to say the we have been reduced to the indi­vid­u­al­ism vs. col­lec­tivism debate and right that off as irrel­e­vant. How­ev­er, it real­ly is not. So much social dis­crim­i­na­tion stems from the male dom­i­nat­ed ide­al of the indi­vid­ual. In fact, in soci­eties that do not have a con­cept of the indi­vid­ual, dis­crim­i­na­tion — of all forms — is unheard of. It is, unfor­tu­nate­ly, cen­tral to this and many oth­er issues.

    I will leave you guys to con­tin­ue debat­ing this top­ic. And I look for­ward to read­ing more of your arti­cles. Thank you for the con­ver­sa­tion.

  • Ram..
    I was won­der­ing if the sug­ge­sions u were putting forth are prac­ti­cal.
    That an indi­vid­ual should have absolute rights in all aspects of his life and the state’s inter­fer­ence shd be min­i­mal.
    I was think­ing what would hap­pen if laws against dowry , har­rass­ment and domes­tic vio­lence was also striked out. I mean , one can demand dowry and if anoth­er wants to give , its their look out.
    But I think these kinds of argu­ments are based on assump­tions that peo­ple are capa­ble of tak­ing the right deci­sions.
    But sad­ly ‚not all are edu­cat­ed or inde­pen­dent. These laws defen­ite­ly help the poor­er sec­tions of the soci­ety. Though I have not come across any infan­ti­cide case , I see women com­plain­ing about ‘har­rass­ment’ fre­quent­ly . I am also hap­py to say that just a small ‘talk’ with the hus­bands would set things right. That is only because of the threat of crim­i­nal charges.
    The rich may cir­cum­vent Law , ‘buy’ it or go for an expen­sive com­pro­mise , but atleast for the low­er stra­ta , the Law helps.

  • As far as my knowl­edge of law goes, I thought it is sup­posed to pro­tect the rights of indi­vid­u­als, and not effect proac­tive­ly what a few babus think is good for oth­ers. In cas­es where force is effect­ed in instances of dowry or sati or pre­ven­tion of wid­ow remar­riage, these are jus­ti­fi­ably cas­es where the law should step in.

  • That was meant for you, Sree!

  • Hi all

    Lots of debate on the issue. What I find dis­turb­ing here is Rambodoc’s argu­ment and the dilem­ma which he leaves in oth­ers mind who have com­ment­ed here.

    Abor­tion is legal, but sex deter­mi­na­tion is not. In a prim­i­tive social set­up like ours, this goes against the grain of the great Indi­an ethos, where the male baby is wel­come, and the female is not.” — Ram­bodoc

    Has he got it total­ly wrong from the begin­ning or is it me? If I under­stand the log­ic cor­rect­ly, then abor­tion is legal, for the pur­pose of over­com­ing the unin­tend­ed preg­nan­cy when it is not con­ve­nient for the par­ents to raise the baby for var­i­ous rea­sons irre­spec­tive of the sex of the baby. Sex deter­mi­na­tion is not legal, because it will lead to enor­mous gen­der imbal­ance in the soci­ety like India where male baby is more pre­ferred for the rea­sons which most of us are aware.

    Soci­ety has no right to gov­ern over fam­i­ly and indi­vid­ual relat­ed issues. By what right can a soci­ety tell a woman which chil­dren to have or not to?” — Ram­bodoc
    But the soci­ety has the respon­si­bil­i­ty to fore­see the issues which will crop up if it doesn’t act in time to main­tain the gen­der bal­ance! Just the way soci­ety fore­sees the pop­u­la­tion cri­sis and rec­om­mends birth con­trol and not to have more than two kids. Next I guess Ram­bodoc would argue Society/Govt. rec­om­men­da­tion on birth con­trol is vio­la­tion of indi­vid­ual rights! (although its quite a dif­fer­ent issue)

    If they want males, let them.
    Social Engi­neer Sree, if this is allowed to hap­pen, the sex ratio will be dis­tort­ed (with few­er females), and the mar­ket demand will be for females. Then peo­ple will kill male fetus­es, and then we will all shout that male feti­cide and sex deter­mi­na­tion should be banned…..” -Ram­bodoc

    this sounds imma­ture to me… this is not a Stock mar­ket, RBI takes a mea­sure today and you see its impact in a week or a month. These steps will have its impact on gen­er­a­tions to come.

    I real­ly won­der why the debate is not focus­ing on the gen­der inequal­i­ty as its root cause and appro­pri­ate mea­sures to be tak­en in rela­tion to female infan­ti­cide?!

    I see nature has designed the sex ratio as 1:1 which has led to the shap­ing of the soci­ety in which we live in. If nature has designed the sex ratio as 1:2orX (be it male of female)then bigamy or polygamy would be legal. I find it strange if one wants to allow sex ratio dis­tor­tion under the name of indi­vid­ual rights, since as a soci­ety we are inca­pable of rec­ti­fy­ing root evil of gen­der inequal­i­ty.

    Its like say­ing I am very much con­cerned about indi­vid­ual rights and least both­ered about gen­der inequal­i­ty, it doesn’t even mat­ter if my son/daughter or grandson/granddaughter lives in a soci­ety with a sig­nif­i­cant gen­der imbal­ance and asso­ci­at­ed social issues. (I have just record­ed my views here. Thanks)

  • I didn’t know that a post that end­ed in shell-shocked silence would lead to a pro­lif­ic debate. This is the first time I’m get­ting so many com­ments on a post, so please for­give me if I’m not han­dling it well. By the time I’ve thought about what to write and start writ­ing, there’s anoth­er com­ment being post­ed!

    First, let me sin­cere­ly thank you for mak­ing this a plat­form for a won­der­ful exchange of ideas. I like the fact that my read­ers are focus­ing on issues, not per­son­al­iz­ing the debate, and engag­ing in a mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion. My grat­i­tude to all of you. Thiru — thanks for vis­it­ing and con­tribut­ing — feel free!

    Sec­ond, let me try to stream­line the debate. Except Ram­bodoc, every­one else (includ­ing me) agrees that soci­ety has to do *some­thing* to address the gen­der imbal­ance. The sug­gest­ed mech­a­nisms to do so are under debate (leg­is­la­tion vs. social/cultural, indi­vid­ual rights vs. soci­ety, etc.), but we all agree that the gen­der imbal­ance needs to be addressed. Ram­bodoc argues that legal­iz­ing sex deter­mi­na­tion tests may skew the gen­der imbal­ance fur­ther, but he believes that the sit­u­a­tion will reach a tip­ping point after which the trend will reverse. (And Ram­bodoc: the foetus/baby dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion with respect to indi­vid­ual rights is also some­thing I would like to ‘agree to dis­agree’ with at present and leave it aside.)

    Rambodoc/Others: please cor­rect me if I’m fun­da­men­tal­ly wrong in the sum­ma­ry above. If there are minor edits you wish to make, let it aside for the sake of a more focused dis­cus­sion.

    So with this sum­ma­ry: what will *real­ly* hap­pen if we let the gen­der imbal­ance get worse? Unfor­tu­nate­ly, no nation has had the courage to exper­i­ment. Sex deter­mi­na­tion tests were legal in South Korea and when the gen­der imbal­ance reached alarm­ing lev­els, they were out­lawed. Will a worse gen­der ratio ever empow­er women?

    The Nation­al Pop­u­la­tion Sta­bi­liza­tion Fund says:

    No. India remains a high­ly patri­ar­chal soci­ety where women are mar­gin­alised and denied devel­op­ment ben­e­fits. In some dis­tricts with low sex ratios, the adverse impact is already vis­i­ble with many men not being able to find wives. Prac­tices like polyandry are being report­ed, as also “bride price” and “bride sell­ing” under which women are “bought”/ “sold” for a price. Thus, in the pre­vail­ing social con­text, a fur­ther fall in num­bers will only lead to increased vio­lence against women and denial of rights rather than empow­er­ment.”

    A paper “Abnor­mal sex ratios in human pop­u­la­tions: Caus­es and con­se­quences” has an over­all neg­a­tive view like that I described in com­ment #21 above, but also lists some sur­pris­ing pos­i­tives. How­ev­er, I am inclined to weight the neg­a­tives more than the pos­i­tives (as do the authors), but again this is all spec­u­la­tion.

    Does any­one know of sex deter­mi­na­tion tests being legal in a coun­try and what the con­se­quences were? Any oth­er thoughts/ideas on this core top­ic of debate?

  • Thiru, Mahen­dra, Sree and all unsus­pect­ing read­ers,
    Please get one thing straight:
    The women:men sex ratio in India is one of the LOWEST in the world (mean­ing there are few­er women than men). AND the rea­son for this is NOT, repeat NOT, sex deter­mi­na­tion and female feti­cide or selec­tive abor­tion of female fetus­es. These are extreme­ly minis­cule in per­cent­age as a cause of this phe­nom­e­non. So what is the main cause? It is the fact that FEMALE MORTALITY IN INDIA IS MUCH, MUCH HIGHER THAN MALE MORTALITY. (empha­sis added, not meant to be con­strued as shout­ing). And, that, guys and girls, is the real rea­son. Females don’t get ade­quate and time­ly treat­ment, you under­stand?
    The pre­ven­tion of sex deter­mi­na­tion Act came out in 1994. Since that time, the sex ratio in chil­dren is becom­ing more and more skewed in favor of males. So what is the pur­pose of this Act? For­get for a moment the con­cept of indi­vid­ual rights, just who is ben­e­fit­ed by it? Not the oppressed woman, not the tax pay­ers (who are pay­ing for every­thing, ulti­mate­ly), and not the female babies who are get­ting mur­dered.
    The real ben­e­fi­cia­ries are the fem­i­nist groups (who can keep shout­ing about anoth­er issue), the shady clin­ics that par­tic­i­pate in this trade, and the police and politi­cians who prof­it from the grease involv­ing the ille­gal­i­ty of this mul­ti-crore busi­ness.
    Sex deter­mi­na­tion is avail­able, as I said before, via the inter­net. In all free coun­tries, you can do it. No prob­lem. If you need any proof that all of you are wrong (in that the issue is over­all pros­per­i­ty, health infra­struc­ture build­ing, and mod­erni­sa­tion to over­come the stu­pid gen­der bias), then con­sid­er WHY this sex ratio is going from bad to worse in spite of all your laws. On top of that, female feti­cide is increas­ing. Why?

  • That was meant for you, Sree! //
    yeah…got it , Ram 🙂

  • Hi Mr.Ramdoc and read­ers

    I believe your response still hasn’t changed any facts.

    Of course that is a fact.For sta­tis­tics one might read this blog post by Kavi­ta N Ram­das (CEO of Glob­al Fund for Women). A short excerpt from the blog…(check here)

    “India is one of the few coun­tries where males sig­nif­i­cant­ly out­num­ber females, an imbal­ance that has increased over time. The birth of a girl is viewed as a mis­for­tune, and son-pref­er­ence leads to a fright­en­ing pat­tern of neglect and active dis­crim­i­na­tion. Iron­i­cal­ly, the increased pros­per­i­ty of the Indi­an mid­dle class has only deep­ened the trend as ultra­sound tech­nol­o­gy is used to per­form sex-selec­tive abor­tions. The deaths of young girls in India exceed those of young boys by over 300,000 each year, and every sixth infant death results specif­i­cal­ly from gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion. Of the 15 mil­lion girls born in India each year, near­ly 25 per­cent will not live to see their 15th birth­day.” Kavi­ta N Ram­das (CEO of Glob­al Fund for Women)

    Ram­bodoc says — “And, that, guys and girls, is the real rea­son. Females don’t get ade­quate and time­ly treat­ment, you under­stand?”
    I could not fol­low what he is try­ing con­vey…

    Ram­bodoc con­tin­ues — ” The pre­ven­tion of sex deter­mi­na­tion Act came out in 1994. Since that time, the sex ratio in chil­dren is becom­ing more and more skewed in favor of males. So what is the pur­pose of this Act?”

    Does he meant to con­clude the Act led to skew­ing of ratio in favor of male or the Act is inef­fec­tive? and so we need to get rid of the Act?

    Above all if I am wrong, let us see what the Nobel Lau­re­ate Amartya Sen had report­ed on this issue based on his study (check here)

    a short excerpt from his essay in Front­line issue from the past…

    “Natal­i­ty inequal­i­ty: Giv­en a pref­er­ence for boys over girls that many male-dom­i­nat­ed soci­eties have, gen­der inequal­i­ty can man­i­fest itself in the form of the par­ents want­i­ng the new­born to be a boy rather than a girl. There was a time when this could be no more than a wish (a day­dream or a night­mare, depend­ing on one’s per­spec­tive), but with the avail­abil­i­ty of mod­ern tech­niques to deter­mine the gen­der of the foe­tus, sex-selec­tive abor­tion has become com­mon in many coun­tries. It is par­tic­u­lar­ly preva­lent in East Asia, in Chi­na and South Korea in par­tic­u­lar, but also in Sin­ga­pore and Tai­wan, and it is begin­ning to emerge as a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant phe­nom­e­non in India and South Asia as well. This is high-tech sex­ism.” — Nobel Lau­re­ate Amartya Sen.

    I bring here these infor­ma­tions just to get our­self clar­i­fied of the pre­vail­ing true sit­u­a­tion based on facts.
    Thanks to Mahen­dra for pro­vid­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty.

  • You know, I said I would not post again. But here I am.

    First, Keep talk­ing Thiru.You are mak­ing very valid points that need to me be made.


    The sug­gest­ed mech­a­nisms to do so are under debate (leg­is­la­tion vs. social/cultural, indi­vid­ual rights vs. soci­ety, etc.),”

    Indi­vid­u­al­ism vs. col­lec­tivism is not a mech­a­nism for change, it is a belief sys­tem which under­lies the way you view every­thing relat­ing to the soci­ety in which you live. The words ‘indi­vid­ual rights vs. soci­ety’ are very dan­ger­ous to use. You can believe that humans are not autonomous, and still use the imag­i­nary con­cept of indi­vid­ual rights to help ratio­nal­ize eth­i­cal val­ues — which is not bad — as long as you remem­ber that they are ideals and should not trump all oth­er views (i.e. col­lec­tivism).

    So, the only sug­gest­ed mech­a­nisms up for argu­ment are leg­is­la­tion vs. social/cultural.

  • Thanks for the arti­cle, Thiru.
    Your extracts were very selec­tive. The fig­ures in your quote are about child mor­tal­i­ty, not female feti­cide. There are an esti­mat­ed 35/37 mil­lion women dead (1986 fig­ures of Amartya Sen). How many female feti­cide cas­es are record­ed every year?
    Over­all, I think you can come to the con­clu­sion you want, but my argu­ment against sex deter­mi­na­tion pre­ven­tion is fun­da­men­tal­ly philo­soph­i­cal. And bol­stered by real­i­ty. I think any fur­ther expla­na­tion from me wouldn’t real­ly ben­e­fit you as you seem to have a prob­lem under­stand­ing my lan­guage.

  • Mahen­dra,
    I have linked this post to this blog.

  • Thanks for the response, Ram­bodoc.

    Yes the fig­ures were indeed on child mor­tal­i­ty (dis­sect­ing female child mor­tal­i­ty, which is rel­e­vant to the point you brought up here and in rela­tion to gen­der imbal­ance) and of course not on FEMALE FETICIDE which is like ask­ing for a sta­tis­tics on the num­ber of pre­mar­i­tal sex in a con­served soci­ety like India (bear with me for the strong anal­o­gy).
    “I think any fur­ther expla­na­tion from me wouldn’t real­ly ben­e­fit you as you seem to have a prob­lem under­stand­ing my lan­guage.” — Ram­bodoc

    Yes indeed I do have prob­lems in under­stand­ing your lan­guage. At the most I can respect your fun­da­men­tal­ly philo­soph­i­cal argu­ment, but agree to dis­agree with it. Thanks Mr. Ram­bodoc.

    Thanks Mahen­dra, aika­ter­ine and all, had a good explo­ration on the issue!

  • Ram­bodoc -

    I will say this, and then leave you guys alone to con­tin­ue the debate. Large­ly because I do not think that I have more to add. It is clear to an out­side read­er that Thiru did not have a prob­lem under­stand­ing your lan­guage. Please do not write off the impor­tant points that they had as some sort of lan­guage issue. Your argu­ments are flawed, not your lan­guage.

  • If child mor­tal­i­ty is large­ly respon­si­ble for the gen­der imbal­ance, and female foeti­cide is not, then are sex deter­mi­na­tion tests real­ly that detri­men­tal to soci­ety? I do not find any­one answer­ing this point of Ram­bodoc either.

    We’re not the only ones engaged in this debate, as this Indi­an Express col­umn more than a year ago shows:

    What if aware, lit­er­ate Indi­an women, who are not nec­es­sar­i­ly influ­enced by their fam­i­lies, con­scious­ly seek to give birth to male chil­dren by exer­cis­ing their right to abor­tion? Here we con­front one of the biggest conun­drums in this debate: a woman’s right to abor­tion — a cru­cial right that has been the cen­ter­piece of many a fem­i­nist strug­gle the world over — mil­i­tates against the right of the girl child to exist, which is again a cru­cial social and fem­i­nist con­cern. How do we rec­on­cile these two rights? Or, more to the point, is it pos­si­ble to rec­on­cile these two rights? Inci­den­tal­ly, the ques­tion was raised by fem­i­nist schol­ar, Zari­na Bhat­ta, dur­ing a pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion between Amartya Sen and Martha Nuss­baum last month. Both the Nobel lau­re­ate and inter­na­tion­al­ly renowned pro­fes­sor of ethics found it dif­fi­cult to come up with a neat answer to it.

    Since the social­ly desir­able does not trans­late seam­less­ly into the per­son­al­ly desir­able we would, at some point, have to grap­ple with the issue of per­son­al choice. Obvi­ous­ly change can­not be forced at the per­son­al lev­el, and laws can only go so far. All we can do is attempt to change the fac­tors that dic­tate such a choice by work­ing to improve the social sta­tus accord­ed to our daugh­ters, through assured school­ing, health­care, employ­ment opp­por­tu­ni­ties, and sub­stan­tive legal equal­i­ty.”

  • Mahen­dra…

    The solu­tion Ram sug­gests is more like jump­ing from the fry­ing pan to the fire. We may not have female infan­ti­cide , but we will have more num­bers of women under­go­ing mul­ti­ple MTPs. I think I am repeat­ing myself 🙁

    //All we can do is attempt to change the fac­tors that dic­tate such a choice by work­ing to improve the social sta­tus accord­ed to our daugh­ters, through assured school­ing, health­care, employ­ment opp­por­tu­ni­ties, and sub­stan­tive legal equal­i­ty.” //
    Now that would be a step in the right direc­tion.

  • mahen­drap wrote:

    … the ques­tion was raised by fem­i­nist schol­ar, Zari­na Bhat­ta, dur­ing a pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion between Amartya Sen and Martha Nuss­baum last month. Both the Nobel lau­re­ate and inter­na­tion­al­ly renowned pro­fes­sor of ethics found it dif­fi­cult to come up with a neat answer to it.

    Too bad that the ques­tion was put to two per­sons who are com­mit­ted to engi­neer self’s to cre­ate soci­eties as they think ought to be. The answer is quite sim­ple. A woman’s right to abor­tion does not con­flict with “the right of the girl child to exist”. A woman’t right to abort the fetus, male or female, that she car­ries, is absolute and inalien­able. It is her pre­rog­a­tive, and hers alone, to car­ry and nour­ish it to full term or not. A girl child’s right to exist is absolute, too, just as that of a male child. No one, except her/himself, has the right to kill or maim her/him.

    “What if aware, lit­er­ate Indi­an women, who are not nec­es­sar­i­ly influ­enced by their fam­i­lies, con­scious­ly seek to give birth to male chil­dren by exer­cis­ing their right to abor­tion?”

    What if aware, lit­er­ate Indi­an women, who are not nec­es­sar­i­ly influ­enced forced by their friends, con­scious­ly seek to pierce their tongues, lips, and more? Of course, they can!

  • Dear Ratio­nal Fool,
    Your com­ment box­es are not work­ing for me. There is a ques­tion mark in place of a ver­i­fi­ca­tion code. But you have a great thought-blog going, I must say!

  • The Ratio­nal Fool & Ram­bodoc: it is clear that you’re advo­cat­ing the right of Indi­an women to have access to sex deter­mi­na­tion tests. What you seem to be uncon­cerned about (to oth­ers, not to me) is what will hap­pen as a result — the gen­der imbal­ance.

    It has been com­ment­ed time and again, that access to sex deter­mi­na­tion will result in a gen­der imbal­ance. It also has been pro­mot­ed by Ram­bodoc and sup­port­ed by myself that sex deter­mi­na­tion is not the real rea­son that is con­tribut­ing to the gen­der imbal­ance.

    So what is the debate all about?

  • Mahen­dra,

    What is the opti­mal sex ratio? Towards what objec­tive? Zero pop­u­la­tion growth? +1%? -1%? What about cou­ples who choose not to have any baby or 27 babies? What about men and women who decide not to mar­ry or delay mar­riage? Are you going to let a bunch of bureau­crats, sit­ting in Del­hi med­dle with these very per­son­al choic­es?

    If the idea is to deter sex dis­crim­i­na­tion and restore some bal­ance in the sex-ratio in the short-term, there are oth­er less intru­sive meth­ods avail­able , for exam­ple, tax-cred­its or tax-breaks for hav­ing female babies. I am not advo­cat­ing these, for I have not thought through their impli­ca­tions; just using them for illus­tra­tive pur­pose. Besides, I am a zero or bare min­i­mal tax advo­cate 🙂

  • Besides, I am a zero or bare min­i­mal tax advo­cate ”
    Seems to be a meet­ing place of sim­i­lar thoughts!

  • The opti­mal sex ratio is 1:1. The objec­tive is not relat­ed to pop­u­la­tion growth, but to gen­der equal­i­ty. It is seen every­where that an adverse­ly low female:male ratio leads to dis­em­pow­er­ment of women. And no, I’m not for let­ting bureau­crats decide any­thing relat­ed to per­son­al choic­es. You can see in all the com­ments above that I’ve vig­or­ous­ly defend­ed indi­vid­ual rights and opposed any kind of leg­is­la­tion in this regard!

    In fact, I don’t know if I’m for any kind of gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence in the mat­ter, as I believe this is pri­mar­i­ly a cul­tur­al and social issue, that will not be solved with­out a change in the mind­set of peo­ple. There­fore, I think I may be opposed to any ‘less intru­sive’ method too — since gov­ern­ment encroach­ment on indi­vid­ual rights is very dan­ger­ous.

    The oth­er com­men­ta­tors in this forum are advo­cat­ing strong gov­ern­ment involve­ment, includ­ing leg­is­la­tion, with­out which they think noth­ing much can be achieved. Also, they’re opposed to legal­iz­ing sex deter­mi­na­tion tests as they think this will wors­en the prob­lem.

    So over­all, I’m very much with you, as I said before. Now, I’ll turn it over to the oth­ers.

  • I took the time to read all of the above com­ments. There are sev­er­al con­fused per­spec­tives being thrown around.

    First, Thiru and Aikaterine’s views are utter­ly invalid–not just false. Indi­vid­u­al­ism is a not a con­coct­ed social con­struct; it is a philo­soph­i­cal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the onto­log­i­cal order of things: one can have no soci­ety or speak of any as such with­out first iden­ti­fy­ing the exis­tence of indi­vid­ual human beings.

    Regard­ing Aikaterine’s mys­ti­cal ref­er­ences to how we are all inex­tri­ca­bly (some­how) con­nect­ed to one anoth­er, there is a con­fu­sion of the meta­phys­i­cal­ly giv­en ver­sus the man-made. Iden­ti­ties such as father, moth­er, broth­er, hus­band, wife, etc. (exam­ples Aika­ter­ine cit­ed) are *man-made* con­structs of psy­cho­log­i­cal identity–they are not the essen­tial defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of indi­vid­ual men. You can either assume such an iden­ti­ty or shrug it off; but you can­not deny your meta­phys­i­cal­ly giv­en iden­ti­ty (i.e., essen­tial nature) as an indi­vid­ual con­cep­tu­al (i.e., think­ing) human being. You have no choice about the fact that you have a con­cep­tu­al con­scious­ness, but you have the choice whether to think or not.

    Any­way, I won’t go into all of that more.

    Regard­ing the issue of this post: I agree that gov­ern­ments have no busi­ness leg­is­lat­ing on the sex ratio or the right to choose abor­tion. Fur­ther, every par­ent has the right to have babies of what­ev­er gen­der. To that end, I do advo­cate planned preg­nan­cies, includ­ing allow­ing par­ents to choose the sex and oth­er genet­ic traits of the fetus. All of these actions have no crim­i­nal ele­ment in them, since a crime is a vio­la­tion of rights. Now, infanticide–which is killing a baby who is born–is a crime, and it is at this point that the gov­ern­ment should step in and prosecute/punish the crim­i­nals; this requires no new and unique leg­is­la­tion per­tain­ing to preg­nan­cies or infan­ti­cide.

    And no, I don’t believe edu­ca­tion is not the key to resolv­ing this mat­ter.

  • Typo. I intend­ed to say: I don’t believe edu­ca­tion is the key to resolv­ing this mat­ter.

    My apolo­gies.

  • Ergo -

    What is a “meta­phys­i­cal­ly giv­en iden­ti­ty”. That ter­mi­nol­o­gy does not make any sense, unless you are equat­ing meta­physics with a god or god-like object and not the philo­soph­i­cal study of meta­physics. Are you mean­ing to say some­thing like “God giv­en iden­ti­ty”? If that is the case, and ignor­ing any argu­ments relat­ing to God or Gods being a human con­struct, your state­ment is still non­sen­si­cal.

    We are talk­ing about the ide­al of an autonomous indi­vid­ual self vs. a self tied to oth­ers. I will grant you that we are phys­i­cal­ly indi­vid­ual beings, but that is not the argu­ment we are ref­er­enc­ing. And I can assure you that both views are valid in their own way. My ref­er­ences are not “mys­ti­cal”, they are held by many philoso­phers and are seri­ous­ly debat­ed with­in the aca­d­e­m­ic com­mu­ni­ty — as are Ram­bodoc and Mahendra’s. Fur­ther, we can talk about and have soci­eties in which we do not iden­ti­fy an autonomous indi­vid­ual self. In point of fact, there are cul­tures in the world right now who do not have a con­cept or a word for “I”. Their only con­cept of self is a “we”.

    Both ideals (the ‘autonomous indi­vid­ual self’ and the ‘self tied to oth­ers’) are con­structs of the human psy­che. They are mod­els that we use to elu­ci­date our ‘selves’. The ques­tion is not whether one is right or wrong, valid or invalid, those are irrel­e­vant terms in this con­text. The ques­tion is which one describes the ‘self’ best.

  • Aika­ter­ine,

    Although this is not the thread to pur­sue this line of argu­ment, I’ll offer my response.

    Meta­phys­i­cal­ly giv­en” refers to nec­es­sary facts of real­i­ty (as opposed to con­tin­gent or cre­at­ed facts of real­i­ty) For exam­ple, that we are con­cep­tu­al beings is a meta­phys­i­cal­ly giv­en fact (i.e., essence of man qua man); that we build sky­scrap­ers is a con­tin­gent or cre­at­ed (i.e., man-made) fact of real­i­ty.

    Regar­ing “autonomous indi­vid­ual self” ver­sus “self tied to oth­ers,” for rea­sons giv­en in my pre­vi­ous com­ment, the “self tied to oth­ers” is a contingent/created fact of real­i­ty, that can be either accept­ed or shrugged off and whose moral sta­tus needs to be eval­u­at­ed and sub­se­quent­ly reject­ed or accept­ed.

    Fur­ther, meta­phys­i­cal­ly, there is no oth­er “self” oth­er than and pri­or to the indi­vid­ual self. This is one of the many self-evi­den­cies that bear the mag­ni­tude of an axiom (although it is not an axiom prop­er). The oppo­site of indi­vid­ual self is the col­lec­tive self; how­ev­er, the col­lec­tive self is a con­tra­dic­tion because the con­cept “self” is hier­ar­chi­cal­ly depen­dant on the con­cep­tu­al dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of indi­vid­ual enti­ties, in this case, con­scious enti­ties, i.e., human beings.

    There­fore, for you to even make the hypo­thet­i­cal argu­ment that there are non-indi­vid­ual selves or “self tied with oth­ers”, you would have to pos­tu­late the exis­tence of a col­lec­tive con­scious­ness that has the aware­ness of col­lec­tive selves–i.e., a con­scious­ness of itself that is dif­fer­ent from the indi­vid­ual con­scious­ness of itself.

    If you argue that there is col­lec­tive con­scious­ness, then you must answer: 1) how many col­lec­tive con­scious­ness­es are there? 2) what num­ber of indi­vid­u­als does it take to con­sti­tute a col­lec­tive con­scious­nesss? 3) if indi­vid­u­als con­sti­tute col­lec­tive con­scious­ness, then do the con­sti­tut­ing indi­vid­u­als them­selves have con­scious­ness? 4) if con­sti­tut­ing indi­vid­u­als do not have con­scious­ness (a con­tra­dic­tion of an axiomat­ic premise), then how and from where does con­scious­ness arise at the col­lec­tive lev­el? 5) if con­sti­tut­ing indi­vid­u­als *do* have con­scious­ness (an axiomat­ic premise), then it must be an attribute of indi­vid­u­als not col­lec­tives; in which case, where is the con­scious­ness of col­lec­tives located?–In some super­nat­ur­al fir­ma­ment in ether?

    There­fore, the indi­vid­ual self is the only type of self there is/there can be–by log­i­cal neces­si­ty, i.e., it is a meta­phys­i­cal­ly giv­en fact.

    Now, I’d like to point out a weak­ness in the method of your argu­ment. You point to some­thing that *is* and argue that there­fore it *ought* to be.

    You point to real cul­tures that exist “right now who do not have a con­cept or a word for “I”. Their only con­cept of the self is a “we.” And this your basis to doubt (or reject) to meta­phys­i­cal­ly nec­es­sary con­cept of the indi­vid­ual self, i.e. “I”.

    Just because there exists peo­ple who are irra­tional, who refuse to be ratio­nal, does not mean that their actions are jus­ti­fied or that their irra­tional beliefs are valid.

    Anoth­er weak­ness in your method of argu­ment is the appeal to author­i­ty; in this case, you state philoso­phers who are appar­ent­ly “wrestling” or “grap­pling” with the issues of indi­vid­ual self ver­sus col­lec­tive self. First­ly, philoso­phers can (and most pre­dom­i­nant­ly are) wrong. Sec­ond, this par­tic­u­lar notion of the “col­lec­tive self” has been large­ly dis­card­ed by con­tem­po­rary philoso­phers. Third, what a philoso­pher says or does does not make a fact a fact.

    Mahen­drap, sor­ry for this mas­sive detour! 🙂

  • Aika­ter­ine, nice to see you back from your trip, and Ergo, wel­come to this post!

    Regard­ing the dis­pute in the above two com­ments, I have absolute­ly no doubts. I am com­plete­ly with Ergo. And no need for any apolo­gies — feel free to con­tin­ue the debate as long as it is delin­eat­ed from the main top­ic.

    Ergo: Thanks for tak­ing the time to go through all the com­ments. How­ev­er, there are some issues or ques­tions left unan­swered in my mind and thus pos­si­bly still unad­dressed. They are as fol­lows:

    1. Moral­i­ty of Feti­cide: Ram­bodoc and I dis­agree about feti­cide. While he says: Feti­cide is moral­ly, med­ical­ly, and legal­ly wrong”, I say it is not.

    2. You did com­ment on the moral­i­ty of sex deter­mi­na­tion tests, by say­ing you do advo­cate them, and that they do not con­sti­tute a crim­i­nal act, but did not com­ment on the pos­si­ble reper­cus­sions it may have, espe­cial­ly in a coun­try like India.

    3. By say­ing some­thing is not the key to resolv­ing the mat­ter, you’re implic­it­ly acknowl­edg­ing that there is an issue that needs res­o­lu­tion. But you do not offer any alter­na­tive keys. You have writ­ten on your blog:

    Irra­tional ideas and destruc­tive premis­es such as altru­ism, col­lec­tivism, and mysticism–that are the caus­es of evils such as female infan­ti­cide and cor­rup­tion in the state–cannot be fought at the con­crete lev­el or coun­tered by brute force. It has to be inval­i­dat­ed, uproot­ed, and elim­i­nat­ed at the core, i.e., at the lev­el of each individual’s mind and phi­los­o­phy.”

    Now, if edu­ca­tion is not the way to inval­i­date, uproot, and elim­i­nate at the core each individual’s mind and phi­los­o­phy, what is the way? By edu­ca­tion, I do not mean it in the lit­er­al sense of aca­d­e­m­ic edu­ca­tion via schools and col­leges, but in the true mean­ing of it: An instruc­tive or enlight­en­ing expe­ri­ence that can hap­pen in a mul­ti­tude of ways.

    I’ve also respond­ed in my com­ments above that edu­ca­tion is not the only way, but one of the impor­tant ones, even if it’s not the only one (as I think this issue needs to be tack­led on sev­er­al dif­fer­ent lev­els). If edu­ca­tion is not one of the ways to resolve this issue, what is?

  • Mahen­drap,

    This issue is ter­ri­bly com­plex and requires the under­stand­ing of a great body of under­ly­ing inter­con­nect­ed prin­ci­ples. I’ll try as briefly as I can to give a decent frame­work.

    1) To say that an enti­ty has no rights is not to say that the enti­ty should be slaugh­tered, killed, or dis­posed off reck­less­ly or wan­ton­ly.

    2) Rights are moral prin­ci­ples that per­tain *only* to action–specifically, to free­dom of action. Life is a process of self-gen­er­at­ed action; thus, right to life is the right to *act* towards self-preser­va­tion and self-sus­te­nance.

    3) Rights are moral prin­ci­ples that are applic­a­ble to only human beings since only humans are moral beings; fur­ther, “indi­vid­ual right” is a redun­dan­cy (albeit a nec­es­sary redun­dan­cy) because only indi­vid­u­als can have rights; groups have no rights oth­er than and beyond those of its con­sti­tut­ing indi­vid­u­als.

    3) One man’s rights impos­es only a neg­a­tive oblig­a­tion on oth­ers to not vio­late his rights. No one’s rights can ever con­flict with each oth­er. Thus, one entity’s right to life can­not con­flict with anoth­er entity’s right to life.

    4) Rights can­not exist where force exists. Thus, crim­i­nals have lim­it­ed to no rights; for exam­ple, I can kill a crim­i­nal in self-defense if he threat­ens my life.

    5) Since rights per­tain to actions, and some actions are beyond the abil­i­ties of young infants and chil­dren, the vol­un­tary par­ent (who chose to have chil­dren) or vol­un­tary legal guardians are entrust­ed with the respon­si­bil­i­ty of admin­is­ter­ing the right­ful actions of their chil­dren.

    Giv­en the above, a fetus has no rights because it is not an indi­vid­ual but a part of its host; it lives not as an indi­vid­ual enti­ty but as a part of an enti­ty; parts of enti­ties have no rights (e.g., hands, liv­ers, kid­neys, etc.)

    If a fetus were grant­ed the right to life, it would con­flict with the exist­ing and actu­al rights of an actu­al, indi­vid­ual, inde­pen­dent, moral, enti­ty, i.e., moth­er. Remem­ber that Rights among indi­vid­u­als do not con­flict. In the face of a con­tra­dic­tion, one of the premis­es is wrong. Since it is false to deny that the moth­er has the right to life, the premise that the fetus has a right to life must be false.

    If a fetus had the right to life, then it would cre­ate an *active* oblig­a­tion on the moth­er to sus­tain the life of the fetus inside her and admin­is­ter legal oblig­a­tions on behalf of the fetus *against* her own wish­es, i.e., by force and not vol­un­tar­i­ly. Rights can­not exist under force and do not cre­ate *active* or pos­i­tive oblig­a­tions or duties on peo­ple. This is anoth­er con­flict aris­ing due to faulty premis­es.

    Final­ly, to say that a fetus has no rights is not to per­mit wan­ton and reck­less slaugh­ter of fetuses–that would be immoral albeit not ille­gal. It should not be ille­gal to kill and eat ani­mals or con­duct ani­mal fights as a sport, although it is immoral and patho­log­i­cal­ly depraved to find plea­sure in wan­ton killing of ani­mals or enjoy­ing the bloody sport. All crim­i­nal acts must be legal­ly pun­ished; all immoral acts must be vocif­er­ous­ly con­demned and not tol­er­at­ed. Abort­ing a fetus is not a crim­i­nal act (although, if done wan­ton­ly, reck­less­ly, and repeat­ed­ly, it becomes grounds for moral con­dem­na­tion); killing a female infant child (infan­ti­cide) is a crim­i­nal act that should be pun­ish­able by law.

    Regard­ing edu­ca­tion: Thanks for rais­ing my quote from my blog. Notice I said that infan­ti­cide is not the cause but one of the effects of bad ideas. When I said that edu­ca­tion is not the key to resolv­ing this mat­ter, I referred to this mat­ter of female infan­ti­cide. Try­ing to edu­cate peo­ple on the mat­ter of not com­mit­ting this crime (of killing a female infant) is the same thing as try­ing to edu­cate peo­ple on the mat­ter of not com­mit­ting any oth­er crime–it’s not par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive and crimes will con­tin­ue to be per­pe­trat­ed. The rea­son is that edu­ca­tion deals with ideas; it advo­cates cer­tain ideas and com­bats oth­er ideas. You can use good ideas to com­bat bad ideas, but not good ideas to com­bat a crime. Edu­ca­tion is not a con­crete tool to deal with imme­di­ate, con­crete issues.

    The response to crime (this crime or any oth­er crime) is not edu­ca­tion but swift, con­crete, and real pun­ish­ment. Edu­ca­tion, inso­far as it hap­pens, should be a sup­ple­men­tary approach to a strong rights-pro­tect­ing sys­tem of law enforce­ment.

    In terms of uproot­ing the causal ideas that lie at the root of infan­ti­cide and oth­er such acts, here edu­ca­tion is key to com­bat­ing those causal bad ideas. Since ideas have real con­se­quences, com­bat­ing bad ideas will have pos­i­tive con­se­quences over time in that con­text. Thus, just as one should not com­bat altru­ism or col­lec­tivism with a prison sen­tence but with the ideas of ratio­nal ego­ism and indi­vid­u­al­ism, one should not com­bat crime with ide­o­log­i­cal reori­en­ta­tion (edu­ca­tion) but with swift and con­crete pun­ish­ment.

    Regard­ing leav­ing Indi­an free to choose the sex of their chil­dren, free­dom of choice does not guar­an­tee ratio­nal choic­es; but the lack of this guar­an­tee does not jus­ti­fy vio­la­tion of that free­dom, because that would iron­i­cal­ly albeit log­i­cal­ly make ratio­nal choice, lead­ing to more dis­as­trous con­se­quences like unwant­ed preg­nan­cies, infan­ti­cide, crim­i­nal­iza­tion of inno­cent cit­i­zens, etc.

  • It’s real­ly late at night, my mind’s slight­ly fog­gy, and I’m mak­ing some sil­ly typo­graph­i­cal errors. My last para­graph should read:

    Regard­ing leav­ing Indi­ans free to choose the sex of their chil­dren, free­dom of choice does not guar­an­tee ratio­nal choic­es; but the lack of this guar­an­tee does not jus­ti­fy vio­la­tion of that free­dom, because that would ironically–albeit logically–make ratio­nal choice impos­si­ble, lead­ing to more dis­as­trous con­se­quences like unwant­ed preg­nan­cies, unwant­ed chil­dren, female/male infan­ti­cide, crim­i­nal­iza­tion and incar­cer­a­tion of inno­cent cit­i­zens, etc.

  • Ergo:

    Thanks for tak­ing the time to respond and explain. There are no more doubts in my mind.

    I was refer­ring to edu­ca­tion not in the con­text of infan­ti­cide but in the con­text of the irra­tional over­whelm­ing pref­er­ence of Indi­ans for a male child. For infan­ti­cide, swift pun­ish­ment should be the only response! But thanks for mak­ing the dis­tinc­tion explic­it­ly clear — that I think was lack­ing in the above com­ment thread.

    Last­ly, I must admit that you and Ram­bodoc have con­vinced me that sex deter­mi­na­tion tests should be made legal. If we under­stand that it is the right of par­ents to choose the sex of their child, then whether it is a ratio­nal or irra­tional choice is imma­te­r­i­al. If we negate this free­dom of par­ents, like we do today, it makes ratio­nal choice impos­si­ble, and leads to greater unde­sir­able effects, as we’re see­ing today. This is a major shift in think­ing for me, a par­a­digm change if you will, hence it still has to sink in. Thank you both!

  • Mahen­drap, I’m very glad to see that you are ratio­nal­ly eval­u­at­ing the facts and log­ic of the mat­ter for your­self and arriv­ing at an hon­est con­clu­sion. Notice how some peo­ple main­tain a pre­dis­po­si­tion to a belief and then seek to defend it in every con­vo­lut­ed way pos­si­ble, as opposed to arriv­ing at (or dis­card­ing) a belief after hon­est eval­u­a­tion.

    I for­got to add anoth­er point about the legal ban on sex deter­mi­na­tion tests. Allow­ing the gov­ern­ment to step in and replace indi­vid­u­als as the agent of choice in the sex of their child retards the individual’s abil­i­ty to make ratio­nal and moral deci­sions in the mat­ter, in which case, impart­ing edu­ca­tion is point­less: the rea­son is, if the gov­ern­ment assumes the role of mak­ing moral deci­sions, then why both­er get­ting one­self edu­cat­ed in the mat­ter of decid­ing what are right and wrong choic­es? Why both­er try­ing to fig­ure out with your own mind the ratio­nal and moral course of action? Thus, the effect of edu­ca­tion is under­cut by the intro­duc­tion of enforced moral­i­ty: edu­ca­tion is ide­o­log­i­cal reori­en­ta­tion, but where there is no avail­able choic­es of ide­olo­gies (because of legal restric­tions in moral actions) there can be no reori­en­ta­tion from one ide­ol­o­gy to anoth­er.

    Some time ago, I wrote a post explain­ing how the legal enforce­ment of moral­i­ty (even if the moral­i­ty is objec­tive­ly valid, valu­able, and utter­ly nec­es­sary) coun­ter­acts the inten­tion of law and is in itself an immoral act:

    If an indi­vid­ual has no rea­son to hold a val­ue oth­er than because it is man­dat­ed by law, then he will also have lit­tle or no knowl­edge of how to pur­sue and main­tain that val­ue nor any incen­tive to dis­cov­er the rea­sons; in oth­er words, he will not know what is a vir­tu­ous life and how to lead it nor will he care to learn of it. He will seek fur­ther man­dat­ed guid­ance in the realm of virtues, thoughts, and actions. This breed­ing of intel­lec­tu­al lazi­ness entrusts the job of think­ing to oth­ers; thus, man comes to believe that phi­los­o­phy and ethics are removed from and uncon­nect­ed to his life because he is only con­cerned with the mun­dane con­cretes of his dai­ly life.”

    Read it entire­ly at: http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2007/06/27/enforcing-moral-values/

  • Ergo:

    Hat’s off! I had com­plete­ly missed that “effect of edu­ca­tion is under­cut by the intro­duc­tion of enforced moral­i­ty”.

    I have stud­ied and observed the ill-effects of the attempts to out­law pros­ti­tu­tion, euthana­sia, and sui­cide. All such attempts have only aggra­vat­ed the prob­lem in the first place. These are very real exam­ples I knew, but I did not apply it in this case.

    Has mak­ing sui­cide ille­gal helped us save lives? No. Peo­ple will still try to kill them­selves, irre­spec­tive of the law. Now I can see where Ram­bodoc was com­ing from all along, when he was point­ing out that sex deter­mi­na­tion will not stop by mak­ing it ille­gal.

  • I think in all the blogs, good and excel­lent, that I have been to, this com­ment thread has been the most inter­est­ing, and sus­tained!

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