Thursday, January 19, 2006

10 million missing girls & Three men in an ambassador... and more

I came across this article by a friend Santanu Sengupta, which spoke about high frequency of violent crimes in north India as compared to rest of the nation. Being a north Indian myself (well central Indian maybe), my first reaction was to dismiss the idea as an insolent remark, which was aptly reflected by the comment which somebody left on his blog.

But then something happened. I was reading Steven D. Levitt’s Freakonomics, specifically the section where the author Stephen Dubner talks about Levitt’s views on sudden reduction of crime rate in late 90s in the US. He relates the drop in crimes to the legalisation of abortion some 15 years back. According to Levitt, an unwanted child was more likely to turn out to be a criminal for many very apparent reasons. It may sound very crude the way I have put it, but broadly the idea was, the un-born unwanted children, who were more likely to turn into criminals, were just not present there because of legalisation of abortion. I think that made a lot of sense.

Then I came across a news article and a related editorial by M.J. Akbar in the Deccan Chronicle. This is a link to a similar article. The news read that according to a shocking but interesting Canadian study, some 10 million female foetuses have been aborted in India over last two decades. So applying Levitt’s funda, could it mean that among other reasons for violent crimes against women, one possible cause could be lack of females in India? Not just the missing females due to over-all misaligned gender ratio, but more specifically the ones which would have born in the last two decades.

To put in a simple manner, the alleged male criminals who were born in last twenty years or so, just can’t find the females of their age, and as a result commit violent crimes such as abductions, rapes and murders. It is true that newspapers are increasingly carrying more such ghastly stories lately than ever.

To delve over the subject little more, why are such crimes more frequent in the northern states (at least according to dada... that blog still nags my thoughts). As a child I distinctly remember a lot of reported infanticides and foeticides in Rajasthan and Tamilnadu. Somehow I even vaguely remember seeing a Doordarshan news feature, newspaper articles and my cousins discussing this subject.

After all, every crime is said to have a motive. Terrorism has roots like oppression of minorities, fanaticism or religion. Murder has motives of money or revenge. Theft, robbery etc. again have monetary motives. But clearly, acts of violence such as rapes mostly don’t have motives of money, religion etc. So could the above phenomenon could be the reason of increased violence against women?

Some questions come immediately to the mind. For one, why does Delhi have so many such cases? I can think of work-related migration in states like Delhi from parts of UP, Rajasthan & Bihar, especially from relatively backward regions, where the practice of foeticide and infanticide still reigns because of parents still consider girl child as a liability.

Why not so in southern states? Afterall foeticide and infanticide was (may be still is) practiced in backward regions in the south. One reason could be emigration. I have seen and heard about huge lots of south Indians in the middle-east and south-east Asia as work force due to labour scarcity. I remember during my one-day stay at Kualalumpur, almost every third person I encountered was from Tamil Nadu or Kerala. Majority of Malaysian Airlines passengers were Indians and it was very apparent that they were potential emigrants. It may just be possible that emigration reduces the crisis if not balancing it out.

What I have written is no thesis or research, but more like a collection of musings. I am sure there are more dimensions to this problem than what has crossed my mind. Violent crimes against women and improper gender ratio are just two facets of the range of problems that this ghastly practice has resulted. I may sound like a feminist here, but in order for a long-term solution to this whole problem, it has to start with women empowerment, both social and economic, so that the parents become less avert to a female child.


Matter of Choice said...

u spelt kerala wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sanjay said...

Hey Anish.. Trust you doing fine. Kerala stands spelt correctly now!!