Many women worldwide have no rights when it comes to reproduction, have little or no voice concerning their lives, frequently go hungry, suffer abuse at the hands of the males, and do not have access to education—which has a direct correlation to the number of children a woman bears. These facts have profound implications with respect to the exploding human population.
For example, while women in all countries are eager to decide how many children they bear and when, many insurance companies will not pay for contraceptive care for women but are willing to pay for Viagra, a relatively new and costly drug to treat penile dysfunction. Could it be that the people making those decisions are mainly men—the patriarchy at work?
The patriarchy is definitely at work in many poor countries, where women have to mitigate powerlessness by having children, especially male children to provide justification for their existence. In a world dominated by men, the possibility of being deserted, the early death of a husband, or of divorce, causes women have children in order to protect themselves in their later years and to define their social roles.
In Nigeria, for example, ceremonies celebrate the birth of a woman’s child. Among some tribes in Kenya, a woman who has many children is lauded at her death, while the body of sterile women is fed to the hyenas and vultures.1 In some parts of India, the bias against female babies is such that a woman who does not bear a son may be burned to death. There, and in other countries throughout Asia and in Israel, male children are preferred because a son brings with him social stature, the ability to carry on the family name, support his parents in their old age, and inherit the family property—thus maintaining the patriarchy.2
The desire for male children is such that hundreds, if not thousands, of physicians in India travel the country with ultrasound machines to determine the sex of unborn children, which is, of course, a way of selecting for males. Although such use of ultrasound was supposedly prohibited in 1994, the population census shows a disproportionate number of males, which indicates that female fetuses were routinely aborted. Evidence indicates that, in 2001, there were 927 females to every l,000 males as opposed to 962 females per every 1,000 males just 20 years before. Should a girl be born, however, the mother is likely to suffer harassment and abuse because girls are comparatively worthless.3
And there is yet another double standard women must bear, that of birth control. Despite the proven fact that a vasectomy for men is far less complicated and safer than is tubal ligation for women, most men refuse to even consider getting one, despite the fact that recovery is quick and onerous after-effects are rare. Men refuse because they fear a lack of sperm in their semen during ejaculation will damage their virility and sex drive—their masculinity. So, sterilization overwhelmingly falls on women, especially poor women. In India, for example, the government is “pulling out all stops” in its nationwide campaign to limit the number of children born. Because the men refuse the have vasectomies, coercive techniques are used on couples, such as monetary incentives, increasing access to water and housing, gifts, and sightseeing trips in order to pressure the woman to be sterilized.4
When, I wonder, will women—all women—be granted the right to protect their own bodies from the wonton intrusion (both religious and physical) by that segment of the world’s men who still deem themselves superior to their female counterparts? In thinking about reincarnation, it would be just for these men to experience their next physical life as women and thus reap the denigration they so willing sow today!
1. Mary Ann Glendon and Mary Haynes. 1999. Putting Fertility First. The New York Times. October 20, 1999.
2. Susan Sachs. Indians Abroad Get Pitch on Gender Choice. The New York Times. August 15, 2001.
4. Celia Dugger. Relying on Hard and Soft Sells, India Pushes Sterilization. The New York Times. June 22, 2001.
Text © by Chris Maser 2012. All rights reserved.
This blog is excerpted from my 2004 book THE PERPETUAL CONSEQUENCES OF FEAR AND VIOLENCE: RETHINKING THE FUTURE. Maisonneuve Press, Washington, D.C. 373 pp.
If you want more information about this book, want to purchase it, or want to contact me—visit mywebsite.