Confronting Gendercide

girl and kiteIndia and China are not the only countries with lop-sided sex ratios due to sex-selective abortions. Georgia, a former member of the USSR in the Caucasus with a population of about 4.5 million, has a distorted sex ratio at birth of 114 boys to 100 girls. One-third of the 36,000 abortion performed last year in Georgia were for sex selection. The natural ratio is about 105 to 100.

“Those figures really took demographers by surprise. No one had expected sex selection to spread to that area, but as in much of East Asia, the abortion rate is quite high,” Mara Hvistendahl, author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, told Radio Free Europe.

“The new prenatal diagnostic technologies have come in as these countries develop. And the birth rates have also fallen very rapidly in these areas. These are the same trends that we saw decades earlier in East Asia and now they are hitting the Caucasus region.”

Most Georgians are nominally Christian. The head of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, put the topic of gendercide on the national agenda by proposing a ban on most abortions in his Easter homily. “When the country is in such a difficult demographic situation, I think that the government must pass a law banning abortions, with just a small number of exceptions, of course.”

While everyone seems to agree that sex selection is undesirable, solutions get bogged in the abortion debate. None of the officials interviewed by RFE would support a ban on abortion. Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili opposes it, saying that greater prosperity is the best way to reduce sex selective abortion.

However, Mara Hvistendahl is sceptical. “What is actually happening is that sex selection is something that hits first in urban areas, in rapidly developing countries, not in the poorest places in the world. That is why it hit China, that’s why it hit India. And that is why it is now hitting parts of Eastern Europe. And when it hits those countries, it is the elite that takes up the practice first.”

The Caucasus is one of the world’s most volatile regions and demography is a weighty geopolitical issue, especially since Georgia and neighbouring Armenia, whose cultural backgrounds are Christian Orthodox, border on Muslim states. As the English-language Georgia Times points out, “if the trend continues, by 2050 the population of Georgia and Armenia will be approximately equal (and this despite the fact that the demographics in Armenia also leave much to be desired), and the population of Azerbaijan will be 3 times larger than Georgia’s population.”


This article first appeared at BioEdge

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Michael Cook likes bad puns, bushwalking and black coffee. He did a BA at Harvard University in the US where it was good for networking, but moved to Sydney where it wasn’t. He also did a PhD on an obscure corner of Australian literature. He has worked as a book editor and magazine editor and has published articles in magazines and newspapers in the US, the UK and Australia.

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