Topics: Ethics, Male, Roman Empire Pages: 5 (1456 words) Published: March 7, 2013

Infanticide and Sex Selection Past, Present, and Future

James C. Gill

University of Missouri- St. Louis

July 31, 2011


Infanticide is the killing of unwanted babies. It was common throughout the Roman Empire and many countries in the ancient world. In those times infanticide was accepted because it was a way limiting family size that was safe for the mother (“Infanticide common in Roman empire” 2011). More recently sex selection has been a problem in many countries for many years, but will soon be the next major issue for China and India if action is not taken. The cultures of China and India say that males are the preferred gender and sex selection is actively sought out. If parents cannot afford to abort fetuses using sex selection, they resort to infanticide. Why do these cultures believe in infanticide? Why do they believe it is ethical? In this paper I will explain the ethics behind infanticide and sex selection. I will also prove why infanticide and sex selection are not ethical using rule ethics.


Zhang Mei is a 37-year old woman who lives in Suining, China. Her parents sold her into marriage 20 years ago. She describes her husband as gentle, but 15 years her senior, undeniably ugly, and one of the poorest residents of the village. Soon after marriage she was under pressure to have a son. Her first two children were girls and the third was a boy. Her husband complained that it cost too much to educate girls so they were sent to be raised with her parents (Hvistendahl, 2011).

These two girls were lucky to be raised by their grandparents and that they were not killed. But this story shows how gender preference and infanticide has effected Chinese and Indian society. There are not enough women for the number of men, so many women are sold into marriage or even become prostitutes. The sex trade industry is a result of infanticide. Mosher says, “women are trafficked from North Korea, Burma and Vietnam and sold into sexual slavery or to the highest bidder." (Karabin, 2007). Even with women being sold into marriage there are still millions of unmarried men.

Identify the Problem

Infanticide is the killing of unwanted babies. It has been practiced on every continent and by people from different cultural wavelengths. There are many reasons for infanticide, but the two most prominent are poverty and population control. Hunnicutt and LaFree said that there is a positive relationship between income inequality and female infant homicide victimization. Infanticide was tolerated in the Roman Empire because it was their method of limiting the family size (“Infanticide common in Roman empire”, 2011). Equally as bad as directly murdering an infant, female infants are abandoned which gives them no chance of survival. Abandonment, and sex selection is the same thing as infanticide (Carner, 2007).

Analyze the Context

Infanticide is an ethical issue that cannot be easily decided. There are political and cultural differences that have to be taken into account. Culturally, the people of India and China believe that it is right to want a male over a female. But do they honestly think that it is ethical? I do not think so. Dr. Puneet Bedi, a doctor from New Delhi says, “ When it comes to issues like ethics and morality, you can have an opinion, but there is a line which you do not cross. Everybody who [aborts for reasons of sex selection] knows it’s unethical. It’s a mass medical crime.” (Hvistendahl, 2011). Culturally, I think that people have turned a blind eye to ethics because of the ideas about the male sex that has been forced into their heads. Ethics does not matter as long as it follows their values. Politically, there is a problem with infanticide. India has one of the fastest growing economies. It is projected that by 2050, it might overtake the United...
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