Son Preference: Sex Selection, Gender and Culture in South Asia

Son Preference: Sex Selection, Gender and Culture in South Asia

Son Preference: Sex Selection, Gender and Culture in South Asia

Son Preference: Sex Selection, Gender and Culture in South Asia

Synopsis

The preference for male children transcends many societies and cultures, making it an issue of local and global dimensions. While son preference is not a new phenomenon and has existed historically in many parts of Asia, its contemporary expressions illustrate the gendered outcomes of social power relations as they interact and intersect with culture, economy and technologies. Son Preference brings together key debates on the subject by assessing existing work in the field and providing new insights through primary research. The book covers a broad range of social science discussions and draws upon textual and ethnographic material from India. Son Preference will be useful to students, scholars, activists and anyone interested in the issues surrounding gender inequity, sex selection and skewed sex ratios.

Excerpt

Many people with an interest in son preference and sex selection may sufer from what could be called 'foeticide fatigue'. Its symptoms arise out of repetitive images and the index of reports of new discoveries of scanning clinics operating illicit sex-selective business in South Asia or of the disturbing accounts of women having sex-selective abortions either by choice, cultural pressures or under duress. When I use the term 'foeticide fatigue', it is not that I see the issue as being overplayed or excessively discussed. Female foeticide needs to be discussed and debated more, however within a more panoramic lens which would allow for a fuller and more critical analysis and discussion. This should not merely be limited to a debate about 'women' or of the 'menace' of female foeticide, but to the multitude of social processes and institutions that surround the desire for sons. The orthodoxies around how sex selection and foeticide are commonly discussed as a 'social evil' refect the narrowness within which the issue has come to be framed. It avoids the bigger picture of son preference as a foundational ideology of social relations and social reproduction. Moreover, it ignores the more sinister, mundane expressions of son preference that exist within people's everyday lived realities, the images that are transmitted and the gendered values, expectations and aspirations that circulate in society.

This book does not intend to set the record straight in this respect. Tat would be a futile mission for any one person to claim to attempt, particularly in an academic publication. Perhaps this book can be characterized as an expression of my own readings of, and fascination with, son preference. In any case, it refects a personal journey, the origins of which I am unable to precisely pinpoint. My analysis of the social injustices of son preference has shaped who I am in a number of ways and, in this sense, it has been cathartic not only to write about something that I am intellectually interested in, but to express in my own way about something with which I also have an ontological connection. The overarching 'diferent-but-equal' rhetoric, which is so popularly used to justify gender inequality and injustices, not just in the region of Punjab in northwest India, but globally, should not to be taken lightly. Such rhetoric is underpinned by a sophisticated machinery of systemic tools and mechanisms that reinforce delineation, discrimination and diferential expectations of men and women's achievements and life outcomes. The couching of this machinery within a purely cultural frame is problematic and, as such, requires a more penetrating analysis of culture and structure and their dialectical relationship.

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