Illustration for article titled The Grim Reality Behind Dwindling Female Populations

Several readers wrote in to tip us to a fascinating article in today's Toronto Star, which explores the grim realities behind the dwindling populations of women of all ages in several countries across the globe.

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"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," writes Nicole Baute, who spends the rest of the article exploring the various causes behind the "missing women" phenomenon.

Female infanticide in countries like China has widely been considered one of the causes behind the gender discrepancies in population growth. However, Baute points out a study by Siwan Anderson and Debraj Ray that shows that while infanticide is certainly an issue, the majority of "excess female deaths" comes much later in life. As Anderson notes: "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. But what we found is that the majority are actually later."

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Those "later" deaths can be attributed to a number of factors: poor access to health care for women, high suicide rates, HIV and AIDS, and dowry-related murders (which, Burke notes, are marked as "injuries.") Women are treated as second-class citizens whose worth often has a monetary price, and when that price gets too high, they are quickly disposed of. "If you're interested in gender discrimination," Anderson says, "it's really one of the starkest measures of discrimination, because it's women who should be alive, but aren't."

How Did 100,000,000 Women Disappear? [Toronto Star]

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DISCUSSION

Is this really all the fault of men? My mom, who grew up in India, doesn't trust any men, since she grew up in an exceeding crappy home, in which her father didn't care for her and her brother was valued above her and her 4 sisters. But she puts a lot of blame on other women for perpetuating this kind of vicious, misogynistic behavior that keeps other women down. After all, it was her own mother and my aunts who taunted her for having 2 daughters and no sons, and for marrying my father, who isn't the best-looking guy ever, but is really forward-thinking, and more importantly was the only one to move his family to the US (all other sisters are living in traditional families in India). In my mom's family, there are also rumors that an aunt murdered her son's young wife (with the rest of the uncles, who were city bigwigs, covering it up) because the wife was poor and the son was a drunkard who couldn't support the family.

It's easy for me to see that it is out of jealousy, anger, and repression that women treat other women this way—after all, my mother is good-looking, high-earning, and the only one of her generation in the family to go to the US. Why wouldn't everyone hate her? But, she does her best to help her sisters and be there for my sister and me. She can be vicious too, sometimes, as a result of her loveless childhood, but she's chosen to break the cycle. Why won't other women step up?