How can we cure sexism? Limit the supply of women

By Caitlin Moran. This is an extract of Times2 (THE TIMES, 03/04/06):

Last week in India a doctor and his assistant were each jailed for two years for offering the sex-selection abortion of a female foetus. While I’m not a rabid fan of abortion — I personally think that, in relation to post-conception contraception, society needs to be working towards a solution where someone can press a magic button and fairies make it all better — there does seem to be a flaw in the logic of the Indian legislation.

Abortion in India is legal. If Indian, or indeed any, women are entitled to have an abortion because they don’t want to have a child at all, why shouldn’t they be allowed to have an abortion because they don’t want to have a specific kind of child? Once you’ve legalised first trimester termination, does it really matter why you’re doing it? It’s a bit like saying it’s OK to chop down a tree to make a shelf out of it, but, for some reason, not a bench.

Women have abortions because they feel — for any number of reasons — that they can’t give the child enough love and attention, and that its life would be, on balance, rubbish. Although there may be medical arguments against it, sex selection in a misogynistic culture makes perfect practical sense — it would take a more optimistic mother than me to bring a girl into the world of limited options, repression and drudgery that is northern India.

I’ve never understood any argument against early abortion, to be honest. Given the always-grim statistics on all manner of child abuse, surely we should be in favour of anyone sensible enough to say, “Er, actually, if I have this child, I’m going to go mad, and the child would be neglected, furious and damaged”?

Anyway, this is all by-the-by. While the Indian authorities have now jailed their first sex-selection abortionist, it’s going to do little to alter the general statistics in India, where the national gender ratio is 927 women to every 1,000 men; dropping down as low as 793 women to every 1000 men in wealthier states, such as the Punjab.

Sex-selection abortions — illegal, and often dangerous — are still a massive fact of Indian culture. Because of the dowry tradition, a baby girl is viewed as an economic burden. Additionally, her economic worth is lost after marriage, as she then becomes part of her husband’s family.

Campaigners claim that the first step towards raising the status of women in India will be the eradication of sex-selection abortion, which the Indian Medical Association estimates might run as high as five million terminations a year.

Personally, I disagree. I think the best way to raise the status of women in India would be to legalise sex-selection abortion, and allow as many of them as are requested. Without wanting to be all Margaret Thatcher about it — I haven’t got the hair for it, and the thought of breast-feeding Mark Thatcher alarms me deeply — market forces can be the resolution of many cultural problems.

As a child of capitalism, the first thing market forces have taught me is that, if a commodity should suddenly come into limited supply, its value will rise. Observe the Birkin handbag: so few are made that the waiting list is two years long, and people will pay up to $80,000 (£46,000) for a special edition.

Consider, now, if there were a two-year waiting list for Indian women. Those 1000 men would soon be duking it out for those 793 ladies. Indeed, it may well be that, in order to get married, dowries would have to be paid to the bride’s family, just to interest her in a man.

On finally getting his $80,000 woman, the man would then be doing the marital equivalent of polishing his wife every night with protective dubbin, and putting her on a special peg in the hallway. He wouldn’t use her to carry a wardrobe up a hill any more.

You only have to see how the obverse case is proved in Britain, and with a much smaller demographic disparity. There are currently 30.3 million women in Britain, and 28.9 million men. Even this tiny ratio tilt is enough to alter society radically — basically, any man who is heterosexual, can tell the difference between “up” and “down” and who isn’t a murderer can have his pick of the ladies. They will tolerate him reading Nuts, earning £1m more than them over the course of his lifetime, doing only 40 per cent of the housework and 30 per cent of the childcare.

Indeed, the man-drought is so bad that, as they head into their late thirties, many of my female friends are getting desperate enough to seriously consider a bisexual who’s got a pretty firm grasp of “up”, at least, and has killed one person, but only in the heat of the moment.

Sex selection, then, is the unexpected cure for a misogynistic society. The only surefire way to stop men being sexist pigs is to limit severely the supply of women. Then, biology will take over with an admirable briskness and effectiveness, and do in three weeks what a decade-long government educational programme would struggle to do — make society treat women with a little bit of respect, courtesy and equality.

And, of course, once you’ve established one generation of feminist men, the chance that their daughters will be seeking, in turn, to abort their baby girls is minimal.