Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rising Asia — but not for everyone

First of all, a warm welcome to all the new readers of my blog. You know who you are.

If your interests extend past the tip of your nose, odds are you've heard reports about the rise of Asia, how the 21st century belongs to Asia, etc., etc. DBS Bank in particular takes this tone, with one ad in regular circulation here giving the not-so-subtle message that the time of WASPy supremacy is over.

Regardless of whether you think it's good or bad, the fact that the majority of economic growth in the foreseeable future will come from Asia is pretty undeniable. You'd think this would be a good thing for most everyone involved, especially the women. A rising tide lifts all boats, after all, and women just about everywhere could do with a lift from their current second-class status.

Unfortunately, some people see gender rights as a zero-sum game that they have no interest in losing.
One person was killed in southwest Bangladesh Sunday as police fired on hundreds of madrassa students protesting at government moves to ensure equal property rights for women, officials said.
Police said the protesters marched through the city chanting slogans against the government's move to ensure equal property rights for women in the Muslim majority country.
Small Islamic groups have been staging sporadic protests since the government announced its plan, arguing that it goes against the Koran, Islam's holy book.
Bangladesh, whose population is 90 percent Muslim, has a secular legal system but in matters related to inheritance and marriage Muslims follow sharia law.
Sharia as practised in Bangladesh's inheritance law generally stipulates that a woman would inherit half of what her brother gets. Women's groups have long protested against the disparity and demanded equal rights.
Islamic groups led by firebrand cleric Mufti Fazlul Haq Amini have called a nationwide strike on Monday to press home their demand.
Because someone wrote something in a book a long time ago and said he was inspired by The One True Divine Entity, we should be allowed to oppress women in perpetuity. Seems perfectly logical to me. I'm sure these men only have women's best interests at heart.

Of course, at least Bangladesh has women to oppress. Indians will apparently only be happy when their country is one big sausage hang.
The problem of India's "missing girls" has been put under a harsh spotlight by new census data showing the ratio of female to male children at its lowest level since independence in 1947.
According to the latest national headcount, there are now just 914 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six, down from a ratio of 927 for every 1,000 a decade ago.
Despite India's steady economic rise in the past 10 years, the figures show the social bias against having girls remains as strong as ever, with illegal sex-selective abortions facilitated by cheap ultrasound technology.
"The figures should make us think 100 times before we call ourselves citizens of a progressive nation," said Delhi University social scientist Gitika Vasudev.
It doesn't seem to add up, if you think about it. If everyone gets their wish and has male babies, where will all the little Indians come from? Of course, expecting logical actions from cultures whose social mores come from superstition is foolhardy, especially in a country where astrology is officially a science.
Married women in India face huge pressure to produce male heirs who are seen as breadwinners, family leaders and carers when parents age.
Girls are often viewed as a burden to the family as they require hefty dowries to be married off.
India has a long history of female infanticide -- of girls suffocated, poisoned, drowned or left to die. More common now, thanks to technological advances, is the abortion of female foetuses, or "female foeticide" -- a simple, cheap and difficult to police process with ultrasound tests costing as little as $10.
It's just a problem with the lower classes, though, right? Educated people making a decent living couldn't possibly engage in such a practice, could they?
There had been hopes that the growing affluence produced by India's rapid economic rise would help erode long-held prejudices, but some analysts say it has actually reinforced them.
"It's a misconception that English-speaking, suave, rich Indians do not use sex determination tests," said P.M. Kulkarni, a demography expert at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.
"Shockingly, some rich Indians believe they have a right to choose whether they want a boy or a girl," Kulkarni said. "Society has to change, mindsets have to change, attitudes need to change to save the girl child."

I've said it before, but I'll keep saying it as long as it's relevant. Given the way things are going, that will be a while.
I am something of a moral relativist; I know that cultures differ, and what is art in one place would be a grave insult in another. That’s OK, because people are different.  
But if you take half your population and relegate it to second class, forbid them from learning, don’t let them participate fully in society, then there is no relativism in my book. You’re wrong, and you’re stupid.

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