Wed, May 23, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Correcting the gender imbalance

By Chiang Sheng 江盛

Given that we are living in what should be an age of gender equality, the ratio of men to women should be 1:1. Now, is this the way things are naturally, or is it a reflection of human imagination? According to the Bureau of Health Promotion (BHP), the male to female birth ratio should be below 1.06:1. Is this correct? If the ratio is above that figure, then does that mean that more female fetuses are being aborted? This is clearly what the BHP thinks, because last week it announced that the number of newborns had greatly increased, reaching more than 71,000 between January and last month. Also, worryingly, the gender ratio was 1.074:1 and it suspected this imbalance was because 468 abortions of female fetuses had been carried out.

Over the past few years, the BHP has often talked about the imbalance in Taiwan’s gender ratio and it has even issued documents prohibiting obstetricians from informing pregnant women of the sex of their fetus. It was only public anger that prompted the bureau to declare it had issued the wrong documents.

Apart from the BHP constantly using administrative orders to threaten doctors and pregnant women, the legislature has amended the law by banning abortions based on the sex of the fetus. The bureau says that between 4,000 and 5,000 female fetuses are aborted in Taiwan annually, but to this day not one case has officially been found. Even more laughable is that when the gender ratio dropped from 1.09:1 to 1.079:1 last year, the BHP proudly announced that it had saved the lives of 993 female infants by launching a Year of the Dragon movement to save female fetuses.

There has been quite a lot of research conducted on the human gender ratio. Mortality rates are higher for men than for women in all age groups, largely because more men die as a result of murder, war and accidents than their female counterparts.

The scientist Dame Jane Goodall observed that young male chimpanzees living in the wild fall out of trees four times more often than females, and within the human species, more boys than girls end up in emergency rooms. In the US, six times more men are involved in murders than women, while 3.5 times more men die in accidents than women. As a result, the proportion of women to men tends to increase with age. In Germany, for example, the male to female gender ratio for those aged over 65 is 0.7:1 and in the US it is 0.72:1.

The current global gender ratio is 1.01:1 and that is also what statistics from the Ministry of the Interior show. Most data on the gender ratio come from the US’ CIA and from the UN. Wikipedia also hosts some information on the topic. There are also big differences in the kind of information available on the gender ratio and such data must be checked to avoid any misinterpretations.

According to US data for the years 1970 to 2002, the gender ratio also varied according to ethnicity. The ratio was 1.05:1 for Caucasians, 1.04:1 for Hispanics, 1.03:1 for African Americans and Indians and 1.07:1 for those of Chinese and Philippine ancestry. In Western Europe, statistics from 2001 showed that the ratio was 1.04:1 in Belgium and 1.07:1 in Switzerland, Portugal, Italy and Ireland. Another US study covering a 62-year period showed that the average gender ratio at birth was 1.06:1, but reached 1.07:1 for some age groups. It also showed that the rate can sometimes reach as high as 1.11:1 among those aged under 15 and over 40. This study also showed that in some years, the gender ratio at birth among those of Hawaiian, Philippine, Chinese, Japanese or Cuban ancestry can reach as high as 1.14:1.

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