Preferences for Boys and Girls in South Korea, China, India and Nepal

Topics: Abortion, Family, Demography Pages: 6 (2737 words) Published: May 1, 2010
Preferences for boys and girls in South Korea, China, India and Nepal The studies of gender bias in several developing countries in Asia have received wide attention over the past two decades. Demographers have noted worrying trends in sex ratio at birth in some of the most populous countries in Asia; South Korea, China, India and Nepal are the most markedly countries. One of the measures of agreement that has been recognized in this phenomenon among these four countries is the traditionally-and-culturally-rooted of son preference. Son preference has several features that illustrate the inclination of the male sex in contrast to the female sex resulting numerous differences in preferences of boys and girls in the societies of these four countries. The features of son preference are based on socio-cultural, socio-economic and institutional factors in South Korea, China, India and Nepal, and consequently, have formed an imbalance in the countries’ sex ratios mainly due to female infants mortality. South Korea was one of the first countries to represent the trend of son preference. This is mainly due to Confucian influence that is acutely embedded in the populace, whereby the eldest son of the most recent male ancestor must lead family rituals. The family “dies” if there were no sons being born (Westley & Choe 2007). Since pre-industrial South Korea, a person’s access to power, social status and economic opportunities depended heavily on their gender, lineage and their position within that lineage. Chung & Gupta (2007) described that a number of the lineages in South Korea had formed into larger super ordinates lineage or in other words can be referred to as “clan”, where some joint properties are held and utilized to support ancestor worship rituals and to help lineage members in need. Therefore, it was a primary duty to bear sons to ensure the continuity of a family’s lineage. On another note, son preference played a role in terms of a socio-economic view when the South Korean governments had subsequently reinforced the Confucian traditions in a series of authoritarian policies in order to maintain social and political stability. For example, the Family Law stipulated that family headship must be held by men in the line of the eldest son, inheritance should be through male line, women should be transferred to their husband’s family register upon marriage and children are belonged to the father’s lineage even in the case of divorce (Chung & Gupta 2007). {draw:frame}

_Figure 1.0: Trends in sex ratio at birth and total fertility rate, South Korea, 1980-2003 (Westley & Choe 2007)._ In addition, ultrasound equipment was first mass-produced in the country in the mid-1980s. Therefore, the introduction in technologies to determine the sex of unborn fetuses combined with the widespread of abortion availability made it possible for couples that wanted a son to selectively abort female fetuses. In 1990, as seen in Figure 1.0, the sex ratio indicated that nearly two boys were born at this birth order for every girl (Westley & Choe 2007) resulting in an increase of sex ratio at its highest peak in South Korea. Similarly as South Korea, son preference became visible in China since it is another Confucian-practiced country. The people held beliefs that a person’s empowerment relies on their lineage and the lineage is solely traced through the male. Therefore, failure to produce a son is considered tantamount to extinction of the family line (Almond 2005). Furthermore, the influence of son preference has been historically and traditionally strong in the country where it can be reflected in this ancient Chinese song quoted; "When a son is born, Let him sleep on the bed, Clothe him with fine clothes, And give him jade to play... When a daughter is born, Let her sleep on the ground, Wrap her in common wrappings, And give broken tiles to play..."- Book of Songs (1000-700 B.C.) (Baculinao 2004). {draw:frame}


References: Almond, D, Edlund, L & Milligan K (2005) ‘Son preference and the persistence of culture’. Downloaded from as at 25 November 2009.
Baculinao, E (2004) ‘China grapples with legacy of its ‘missing girls’, MSNBC
Westley S.B. & Choe M.K. (2007) ‘How Does Son Preference Affect Populations in Asia?’, Asia Pacific Issues, No. 84, East West Center.
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