Japanese want baby girls; Indians choose boys

As parents coordinate their babies' sexes ahead of time, the male-female ratio gets even more skewed.

By Hank Hyena
Published November 18, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Nov. 18, 1999

Pink nurseries are preferred in Osaka, but in Jaipur they're aiming for
blue. Shocking statistics this week reveal that girls have emerged as the
infant-of-choice in Japan, but in India they're victims of feticide (illegal abortion).

"Boys don't listen and are harder to raise," recent mother Yumi Yamaguchi
explains in Monday's Los Angeles Times. "Boys and their mothers seem to
have a weak bond, but mothers and daughters stay close all of their lives."

Yumi carefully monitored her body temperature for an entire year before
she tried to get pregnant. When her daughter Ami was born, she sobbed with

Seventy-five percent of Japanese couples are hoping for a female offspring if they have only
one child, claims a survey published by the National Institute of
Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo. Sex-selection guidebooks
and pH-altering vaginal jellies are flying off consumer shelves to
girl-crazy parents, like Yumi.

Fifteen years ago, the Nipponese public was biased toward boys, but social and
economic pressures on the island's males have helped trigger an
astounding reversal. "It's tough to be a man," Yukio Nakayama, editor of
My Baby magazine, admits. "There's a lot more pressure." The report
claims that Japanese boys are "condemned to endure a take-no-prisoners
educational system, followed by a life sentence as a faceless drone."

Hunger for girl tots is anomalous on the Asian continent, where abortions
of XX-chromosome fetuses are widespread. Significant gender imbalance has resulted in
many nations: China has 118 boys per 100 girls under age 5, Korea has
117 to 100, and Taiwan is 110 to 100.

The female feticide epidemic is strongest in India though, reports
Monday's Agence France Presse. The northern states of Uttar Pradesh,
Rajasthan, Bihar and Haryana have lopsided girl/boy birth ratios of
8-to-10, and one district in Haryana is a scandalous, testosterone-heavy
6-to-10. UNICEF representative Alan Court worries that, "These ratios ...
will create major problems for the next generation, both socially and

UNICEF was the sponsor of a New Delhi rally on Tuesday that protested
sex-selection feticide; the group was accompanied by the Indian Medical
Association (IMA) and 5,000 students and women activists. The
marchers delivered a memorandum to President K.R. Narayanan that demanded a
total ban on gender-related abortions.

Defeating female feticide is a complex task that requires eliminating India's ancient bride-dowry tradition, which guarantees a generous stipend
to a daughter's new husband. Impoverished families that adhere to this
custom regard the birth of a girl as a bankrupting curse that must be
aborted. Perhaps, one wonders, this misogynous situation will only
disappear in 10 years when the male-swollen population finally esteems
women, for their rarity.

Hank Hyena

Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.

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