Did the west help create the current sex-selection crisis in many states of India?

AS HE walked into the maternity ward of Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan Hospital in Delhi on his first day at work in 1978, Puneet Bedi, a medical student, saw a cat bound past him “with a bloody blob dangling from its mouth.” “What was that thing—wet with blood, mangled, about the size of Bedi’s fist?” he remembers thinking. “Before long it struck him. Near the bed, in a tray normally reserved for disposing of used instruments, lay a fetus of five or six months, soaking in a pool of blood…He told a nurse, then a doctor, I saw a cat eat a fetus. Nobody on duty seemed concerned, however.” Mara Hvistendahl, a writer at Science magazine, is profoundly concerned, both about the fact that abortion was treated so casually, and the reason. “Why had the fetus not been disposed of more carefully? A nurse’s explanation came out cold. “Because it was a girl.”

Sex-selective abortion is one of the largest, least noticed disasters in the world. Though concentrated in China and India, it is practised in rich and poor countries and in Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim societies alike. Because of males’ greater vulnerability to childhood disease, nature ensures that 105 boys are born for every 100 girls, so the sexes will be equal at marriageable age. Yet China’s sex ratio is 120 boys per 100 girls; India’s is 109 to 100.

The usual view of why this should be stresses traditional “son preference” in South and East Asia. Families wanted a son to bear the family name, to inherit property and to carry out funerary duties. Ms Hvistendahl has little truck with this account, which fails to explain why some of the richest, most outward-looking parts of India and China have the most skewed sex ratios. According to her account, sex-selection technologies were invented in the West, adopted there as a population-control measure and exported to East Asia by Western aid donors and American military officials.

The ultrasound and other technologies that identify the sex of a fetus started out as diagnostic devices to help people with sex-linked diseases, such as haemophilia, conceive healthy children. They were greeted rapturously in America in the 1960s. “Ultrasound Device Takes Guessing Out of Pregnancy” ran one headline. “Control of Life: Audacious Experiments Promise Decades of Added Life” ran another.

But 1960s America was also a period of growing concern (hysteria, even) about population in developing countries. Policymakers, demographers and military men all thought rapid population growth was the biggest single threat to mankind and that drastic measures would be needed to rein it in. One such figure was Paul Ehrlich, whose book, “The Population Bomb”, became a bestseller in 1968. Mr Ehrlich pointed out that some Indian and Chinese parents would go on having daughter after daughter until the longed-for son arrived. If, he argued, they could be guaranteed a son right away, those preliminary daughters would not be born, and population growth would be lower. Sex selection became a tool in a wider battle to stop “overpopulation”.

But how did an obsession of Western policymakers turn into the widespread practice of destroying female fetuses in Asia? Partly, argues Ms Hvistendahl, through aid. The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations gave over $3m to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the 1960s, helping it to pioneer India’s first amniocentesis tests, initially for genetic abnormalities and later for identifying fetal sex. India at that time was the World Bank’s biggest client, and the bank made loans for health projects conditional on population control.

The other day, I glanced over this review of the book “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men”. The review itself raises some chilling statistics (2.75 abortions in Seoul per live birth in 1977, conditional loans from WB to India on population control measures – out of which ultrasound became a big tool, etc.) and the book seems at least worth reading to give another perspective to the traditional view that the problematic gender balance in India is caused by cultural / religious factors alone.

Read the full review here: http://www.economist.com/node/21525348# .

Interesting reading: NGOs in China — Social Edge

An interesting overview of NGOs in China – would love to read more about this, anyone have articles to share?



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Qufu & Ji’nan

This is an old blog post from my travel blog for my China trip in 2006.

So, last week-end I spent some time sightseeing on my own. I started my trip at 7 am by going to the bus station in Caoxian. The system of long distance buses in China is a bit anarchic, to say the least. As far as I’ve understood the system works like this: The bus stations are independently owned and provides a service of giving managers of buses access to the bus stations facilities.

The stations sell tickets (to most of the buses that depart from the station – though not all, there always seem to be exceptions)
and allows the owners of buses to park their buses in their garages. This is of course done for a fee, which requires a system of at least two or more inspectors to see how many people are on the bus, first before the bus leaves and then at the bus station enterance/exit.

So, which destinations that are actually serviced depends not on the “station” as such, but rather on the managers of the buses that traffic this station. Initially when I arrived they simply said “no sorry, this is just a bus that passes Caoxian and you cannot buy any tickets to Qufu from here” (even though I’d been there explicitly asking for buses the other day). 

Anyhow, a few minutes later we did actually find a bus that went to Qufu in the very same station, though the tickets for this bus could not be bought through the station’s ticket service but were bought directly on the bus (and thus, “there is no bus to Qufu”).

Once I’d finally found a bus a 5 hour trip to Qufu was in front of me. During the trip I met a nice Fujianese girl who was out traveling for business, she told me that Shandong wasn’t at all as beautiful as Fujian and that Qingdao didn’t have any weather to talk about in comparison to Ximen. I found myself almost starting to defend my “home province” :).

We got dropped off maybe 5-10 km outside of Qufu and (surprisingly enough!) the bus manager of the bus from Caoxian actually made sure not only that we had a connecting bus, but he also paid for it! I was stunned…

Generally, if you travel with a long distance bus in China you can (if your destination is not the end destination) to be dropped off just about anywhere around your destination (since the manager of the bus usually doesn’t want to pay fees for low-traffic bus stations). It’s also quite acceptable to request to be dropped off somewhere along the way, just say where you think would be a good place to be dropped off in town (as long as it doesn’t require a detour) and the bus driver will be more than happy to let you off there.

Right, enough about buses!

Qufu was very pleasant.. I basically saw the three main sites 1) Confuscius’ temple 2) The Kong family home 3) Kong Lin, the burial site of the Kong family. The temple was magnificent, murky and old with gnarled trees growing inbetween the  many temples dotted around the site. Many parts actually felt really old, a feeling I don’t always get with Chinese sights. The Kong family home wasn’t quite worth the money, most of the houses you could only peak in to and they weren’t in very good shape. Even the garden, which the guidebook touted as the high point of the visit, wasn’t really much to brag about. Much better was Kong Lin, Kong Lin is a forrest of about 100,000 trees with about an equal amount of graves, dating back from Confuscius and his son’s mounds in 500 BC up to the very day I was there (one of the Kong family distant, deceased, relations arrived in a white car as I was heading up to the cemetary).

Everywhere you went through the great, lush forrest surrounded by tall walls you found graves of varying age, it was great. I spent probably about 4 hours walking around the forrest.

The interesting part about all these sights was that the Chinese tourists who came, they only went directly for the main attraction, be it Confuscius’ mound or the main temple at Confuscius’ temple. These places were crowded and generally uncomfortable, but as soon as you went a bit off to the sides of the main attraction and looked at other things you were practically alone! I saw about 10 ppl in Kong Lin after having left the Confuscius mound!

From Qufu I went onwards to Ji’nan (Shandong provincial capital), and arrvied Saturday night. Ji’nan seemed to be a pretty standard urban chinese city. It didn’t have that many sky scrapers though and most of it’s architecture was based on low sprawling buildings. It’s crammed in between the Yellow river and the Tai Shan mountain range and therefore it’s not especially compact but laid out very far on a horizontal axis.

The area where my hotel was (somehow a central “old” area) at night mostly hosted an impressive array of weird entrances providing some kind of unnamed service as well as hotels you rented by the hour. Nedless to say I wasn’t really interested in any of this. Sadly though, I was getting a bit tired after the long walks I had done in Qufu the other day so I took it easy and strolled around looking at the beautiful chinese mosque in the Huizu (muslim) area, the springs that now doesn’t do much “springing”, the 1000 Buddha mountain as well as Daminghu (a lake in the city centre). On my way up to 1000 Buddha mountain I met a nice guy from Hunan and we spent most of the day strolling around in Ji’nan and Daminghu.

So, after another 5 hour bus trip I finally returned, tired as I don’t know what, to Caoxian late Sunday evening.

One thing that is a bit tiring about not travelling with a Chinese companion is that you always have to think wheter or not the things you buy, or the taxi driver, or the hotel or anyone else is trying to charge that little extra just for, well, being a foreigner :). Good thing is I have a sufficient amount of Chinese vocabulary to be able to convince the person that I will not pay this or that much. For example, in Ji’nan one of the taxi drivers insisted on not putting the taxameter on (eventually I paid the minimum start 3km fee + 2 yuan, not cheap but at least not a blatnat rip-off), in Caoxian the taxi driver from the station tried to charge me 12 yuan for a trip form the bus station to home – a trip that should maximum cost 4 yuan. Eventually I paid him 5 yuan, and so on…

This was all from me now 🙂 Next week-end is my last in China and I’ll be going to Henan province to see Kaifeng and Shaolin temple with Jianglei.

Tai Shan

This is an important post from my travel blog from my China trip in 2006.

6990 steps + km of walking + 1545 m mountain (well, almost) + 30-35 degrees celcius = one tired & sweaty Linus… But eventually I made it all the way up to the peak of China’s holiest of holy mountains, Tai Shan.

Me, Rosie and her “brother” (acutally real, that is on father’s side, cousin) Long took the bus from Caoxian early in the morning to Tai’an, the city on the foot of Tai Shan and after 5 hours or so we found ourselves standing at the base of the looming mountain. We had filled our backpacks with water and supplies and we had our experienced Tai Shan climber, Rosie, equipped with a map of the summit.

Climbing Tai Shan is basically divided into two sections, one section up to “Midway Gate to Heaven” and one section up to “South Gate to Heaven”. The first bit I found was pretty comfortable, even though my t-shirt got completely soaked by all the sweat (my body really doesn’t know how to handle this heat ;)). The other section was OK up to we had about 1600 steps left and the “Ladder to Heaven” began (the incline become steeper and steeper) my energy started to wear out and every step was a challenge. Eventually though, with the help of some expensive Red Bull (€1 a can!) and some gathering of motivation from a group of soldiers we met I made it up all the way,

The Tai Shan area is truly beautiful and quite unspoiled by man (Tai’an being pretty clean for a chinese city) and there were no heavy air pollution, as could have been. The scenery on the way up goes from being spectacular views to lush forest to 1000 year old temples to beautiful calligraphy, within a few hundered steps or so.
Tai Shan is probably the largest open-air exhibit of calligraphy, with each and every famous person, read royal, priests or Mao, (dating back a few thousand years) putting their mark by having a poem, short word-game or notice inscribed onto a stone on the way up. These range from small inscriptions just by the way to a great big ones high up on cliffs. Of course, the meaning and the puns were all lost on me (not being able to read classical chinese) but I could enjoy an alternate, uinofficla exhibition – the one of funny english translations. For some reason, they can never really get it right (that is, they never hire professional translators) and tourist signs, maps, etc .etc. always have some of the most funny english translations (see my photos for some great examples).
I would greatly have regretted not taking the pain-staking walk up as this is when you can really appreciate all the nature, the calligraphy and the temples. Going up by the cable car takes about 8-10 minutes and, sure, it gives you a nice glimpse of it all but not at all the experience you get from walking up (also, not to be forgotten not getting the “yes, I did it!”-feeling).

Anyhow, when we arrived the summit was pretty much covered in clouds and fog and there was maybe 5-10 metres of visibility. Finding a hotel, though, was easy as all of them had people out in the “streets” trying to get you to stay at their comfortable place!
I had one in my guidebook which seemed reasonably well-priced and shortly we bumped into a person from that very hotel. With the others away talking about prices regarding another hotel I used my excellent Chinese to not only ask for the price but also haggle a bit and get it down even further (40 yuan – I was pretty proud!). The printed price in the hotel was 550 yuan but the price we eventually got was 200.

A must-do when visting Tai shan is at least to try and see the sunrise, so as good tourists we were up at 4:30 am, donned our rented surplus army coats and joined the tired army of people trying to climb the last hundered steps to the summit in the twilight. This mornin, though, prooved to ber as foggy and cloudy as the night before and no sunrise appeared. I didn’t mind, but the fog made the summit much less interesting than the way up.

Short notice… the chinese seems to have chosen “Mount Tai Shan” as the official translation for “Tai Shan”. The only problem is that “Shan” itself means mountain (that is “Tai mountain”).

Living with water-shortage (and some bats)

This is an imported post from my travel blog for my China trip in 2006.

In this part of China there’s a shortage of water, probably due to the fact that a lot of the water is diverted to agriculture and industry. The way that they have “solved” it around here is simply to only have the water turned on during certain times of the day. For example, during morning until 9 am, during lunch hour and during evenings until 22-23. The rest of the day it’s not possible to flush the toilet, to take a shower or even to wash your hands. Of course, the people living here have found a good way to handle the problem. In every bathroom I’ve been in they have a big plastic container for water (maybe 30-40 litres) which they fill up during the times that we have water.

Naturally, living with water shortage certainly has a big affect on our daily lives. Dad usually tells me you shui le, you shui le, xi zao (meaning “now we have water, now we have water, go shower!”), I’ve also more than once heard when eating out that we should hurry home so that we’ll have time to shower before there’s no more water. This situation has also made me realized just how much water I use.. it gets painfully apparent when you have to manually fill the toilett with water from the water container and you can see the litres of water just draining away…

Though, rest assured that I’m getting my body’s need for water covered – by the amount of water melon you eat here there is no risk of dehydration :).

As a final note on water – in the situation that China is facing with water shortage etc. it is of course quite interesting that there is an abundance of tea and soft-drinks (coca cola) available everywhere.. perhaps in some cases directing some of the water from the industry to farming (which apparently has been hit hardest by water shortage) wouldn’t be such a bad idea…

Another quite meaningless thing I’ve notcied here in the last few weeks is the amount of bats.. in Sweden you’ll be lucky if you see one or two during late summer evenings, but here they’re everywhere. Down by the lake a few days ago I probably saw about 50-60 bats swarming around munching on flies and mosquites, and they get to it early here, just when it’s starting to get dark… well that was all about bats 🙂

Tomorrow I’ll start my lessons, I’ve begun preparing and planning and i’ve got a reasonable idea on how to work with it during the next couple of weeks. Hope it all works out.. This week-end, I and Jianglei will go to Tai Shan, the holiest of holy mountains in China, hopefully I’ll return with some spectacular pictures of temples and mountain-tops.



This is an imported post from my travel blog for my China trip in 2006.

Yesterday I had dinner with Dad and Mum Wang since the sisters both were invited out to different friends around town. We chit-chatted about this and that – me in broken Chinese, they in very slow putonghua (though Mum can’t really speak without using elements from her dialect). Dad told me that when he was a child, in Caoxian (he grew up her), he used to heard goats and there had been nothing to eat – not until Mao Zedong came and got the country in shape did they get something to eat, they told me that Mao Zedong was the greatest and that there weren’t even anyone to fill the second place.
Dad has also quite clearly marked his position on the Taiwan issue… He once told me that if I wanted to work in China, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong were all good places to go, and when (hard to translate to English, but this is in chinese a specification of a time just as certain as “yesterday” or “next month”) China and Taiwan reunions I’ll also be able to go work there (of course another interesting perspective – for me it’s quite easy to go there, but no regular Chinese citizens are permitted to visit Taiwan).

I’ve hopefully started a new routine, yesterday as well – to go bicycling with Dad. Since it was the day off and I was a bit bored (actually, I didn’t know I had the day off until Lily at about 4 pm came in and told me) he asked me if I’d like to go bicycling with him. He is certainly a very fit 60 year old man, having been in the army for 16 years he now keeps his body in shape by early morning bicycle rides. If someone knows the good bicycling trails here it certainly is Dad!

Anyway, we went on a tour around the outskirts of the city where massive factories (mostly foreign owned) produce amongst other things clothing. Apparently, so Dad told me, many of the workers are japanese and korean and many of the
factories are foreign owned. Dad knows so many people around town, you can clearly see that he was somewhat of a big-shot before (working as a government official), he knows the laobans (managers) of many of the factories and I can see many people respect him (including the police!).

This afternoon we went out again, this time he showed me a place or school where they did caligraphy, we also went and looked at one of Caoxian’s finest indusries, the milk plant… we looka-looka at a lot of cows and he told me that this Shandong milk was exported as far as Shanghai! Then we went on to a lake and indeed we saw some proper nature sights (before I came here Jianglei or Rosie told me that Caoxian had a lot of nature sights!), the lake was actually quite pretty with only a few plastic bottles… We had some watermelon and relaxed in the breeze and the rustling of leaves while watching different kind of birds feeding on the fish (he told me the name of the birds in Chinese but I can’t remember it now), on our way home I also spotted a type of bird I remember drawing in fifth grade which I drew because I had read that it was very rare in Sweden. Strange the things you remember…

Previously I’ve told Mom that I wanted her to teach me some chinese cooking, so earlier today me and Mom made dumplings, or baozi. She showed me the technique for making them pretty but mine weren’t quite as nice as hers – more practice is needed I believe! We made the boiled variant called, . Though Dad said he didn’t quite like them since there wasn’t any meat in them – he often says “Why don’t you eat meat? If you don’t eat meat you won’t grow strong!” – he told me that when I get home and make baozi for my parents I should put pork or beef in them!

That’s it for now… in Caoxian not much is happening, I’m mostly going around town with the sisters or reading at their place. I still, though, have no control over my schedule :).

Chinese children

This is an imported post from my travel blog for my China trip in 2006.

… truly amazes me. They are like little buddhas, sitting there all quite and contemplative without bothering their parents the least bit. How is this possible? Mårten and I have been going around spotting them over and over again and we are baffled by them over and over again. These are not like western children, they’re not even like a well-behaved western child. They simply sit, calm, still, quite, obedient and look at what his happening around them with an expression that can only be interperted as if they’re quietly medidating on the meaning of life.

The other night we were even at a dinner a, for a child, boring, long dinner. A dinner during which the parents did such terrfying things as wanting the child to pose with foreigners. Allthewhile the child was completely calm and quite. How
many parents could say that their 2-3 yr child would be have like that?
I’ve been trying to ask my friends here what the magic key to this behavoiur might be – but they haven’t really given
us a satisfactory answer.. they’ve been saying things like “well, you know, it’s the Confuscian way”. I doubt many 2-3 year olds care about the Confuscian way enough to last through a dinner….