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Gilli Smyth

Where Are All the Women?

Commentary on the 1997 United Nations Report on the Status of Women

December 1997

It says that " there are 46 million missing women", - globally, but mainly in the Far East Asia, China and India. What a weird statistic, it would sit in Charles Fort's collection of fact as a bizarre abberation. The meaning? Statistically?

When the "natural" rate is considered - for every 100 boy babies that survive birth and infancy, there are 107 girls, who for some reason are less likely to be miscarried or stillborn. Perhaps because all foetuses are female when first conceived, but out of the X chromosome some (males) develop the Y, leading to slightly greater fragility.

Against the natural odds, therefore, in China for example there are only 94 girl survivors for every 100 males. 13 out of every 100 therefore" vanish", (unborn or just born). The availability of modern technology has accelerated the silent process.

Where have they all gone? All those who would have been girls?…
They live on in our consciousness as part of us, wannabe girls, has been babies…..little feet clattering through the aeons…

There are reports of thousands of "wifeless" Chinese men joining the army to escape lonely lives, bereft of all those lost wives, lovers, sisters, daughters….

In some places women do not legally have " human rights" to survive, only "cultural rights" which may or may not allow them to. One of the high points of the 1995 Beijing conference was passing a resolution that women should have "human rights". However at least five countries refused to ratify this.

What will happen in 50 years time when babies can easily be created in laboratories if in the meantime this disproportion is not rectified. How will the world cope with increasingly male populations, apart from increasing the size of armies, propelled by paranoia and sexual frustration?

When Western men say things like "women have it too good", or "the pendulum has swung too far". I wonder. Are they really thinking about all women? For the few who "have it too good", or abuse power, like Margaret Thatcher, there is a counter weight of millions who make the balance pretty heavy. And a lot of us, men and women, are in the middle, trying to make sense of why such things happen, trying to keep our own balance, trying to make some sort of difference and not be "accessories after the fact".

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