New Delhi, Aug. 29: The preference for male babies in India and China has skewed national sex ratios to levels that could spawn increased anti-social behaviour and violence and destabilise society, researchers warned on Monday.
As men outnumber women — the result of selective abortion of female foetuses and the neglect of the health of daughters — “surplus” males will be unable to marry and become marginalised in societies where marriage is nearly universal and accords social status, the researchers said.
In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they said the growing number of men with no marriage prospects will lead to greater levels of antisocial behaviour, violence, and “ultimately present a threat to the stability and security of society”.
India’s sex ratio has dropped from 1,000 men to 945 women in the year 1991, to 927 women in 2001.
The growing practice of sex-selective abortion of female foetuses over the past two decades have led to an estimated 80 million missing females in India and China, said Therese Hesketh, a researcher with the Institute of Child Health, University College London, and Zhu Wei Xing, a co-author from China.
In parts of these two countries, there will be a 10 to 12 per cent excess of young men who will have to remain single.
With a shortage of women in the market, the women will “marry up”, inevitably leaving the least desirable men with no marriage prospects.
“In many communities today, there are growing numbers of young men in the lower echelons of society who are marginalised because of lack of family prospects and who have little outlet for sexual energy,” the paper said.
Previous studies from India buttress arguments that surplus men in society increases severe violence. A study during the early 1980s had showed a link between homicide rates in individual states and the sex ratio in those states — the greater the male-to-female ratio, or the more the men, the higher the homicide rates. A second study last year had shown that this link between sex ratio and murder rates has persisted through the 1990s.
In joint papers published last year, international affairs analysts Valerie Hudson and Andrea Den Boer suggested that when single young men congregate, the potential for more organised aggression is likely to increase.
“These are not surprising predictions. We’ve been anticipating this a long time. But the problems will be very complex in India because of castes and socio-economic groups,” said Puneet Bedi, a doctor in New Delhi who has long been campaigning against female foeticide.
“The so-called ‘least desirable men’ who cannot marry will emerge across castes and socio-economic groups,” Bedi told The Telegraph.
Hudson and Den Boer have suggested that such men are likely to become attracted to military or military-type organisations with the potential to be a trigger for large-scale domestic or international violence. The sex imbalance could even impact regional security because India’s neighbours —Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh — also have skewed sex ratios.