The Planet

Extreme Gender Imbalance Is Changing The Social Fabric Of China And India 

by Penn Collins

April 19, 2018

China and India have too many men.

According to The Washington Post, there are 34 million more men than women among China’s 1.4 billion residents. In India, the discrepancy is more than 37 million.

And in both countries, there are 50 million excess males under age 20.

At face value alone, the gender imbalance seems to leave many heterosexual men without women for partnering and procreation, but the cause and effects of the inequity is more complex.

In China, the gender inequity is the result of the country’s deeply-rooted cultural preferences for male children and the social engineering from the Communist regime of the mid-20th century. China’s one-child policy was enacted in 1979 in response to overpopulation and famine that killed 15 to 30 million people between 1959 to 1961. Yet the state-enforced family planning campaign lead to an unexpected consequence: Some families committed infanticide if they produced a female child rather than a male. While the one-child policy was retired in 2016, its effects continue to reverberate throughout the country today.

India shares China’s cultural preference for male children and heirs, but The Post cites another cause: “The advent of sex-selective technology in the last 30 years, which is now banned but still in widespread practice.”

Both countries are now home to a staggering gender imbalance among their populations. The effects are likely to worsen as the citizens most affected by the discrepancy reaches child-bearing ages themselves.

The issue has been discussed for years, as this video profiles a town of lonely, frustrated men in China with little hope for love or companionship.

The effects of the sexually frustrated male populations have led to increased incidents of both sexual assault and human trafficking. Other issues stem from the disparity, such as increased instances of male depression, especially in small towns, where the populations of which are dwindling due to the gender imbalance.

Cultural family structures in the countries often dictate that unmarried men continue to live at home, creating crowded multi-generational homes that keep the elderly at work later in their lives.

The imbalance may also lead to what Prem Chowdhry, a New Delhi social scientist, considers an upheaval to the concept of masculinity. “People devalue their masculinity. If they remain single, they will be declared not men at all. The basic function of a man in rural society is to have a family and look after that family,” he says.

Until the gender balance is restored in these populations, men could continue to be seen as “bare branches” for failing to expand their family trees.

Share image via Beryl_snw/Flickr.

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Extreme Gender Imbalance Is Changing The Social Fabric Of China And India