Here is my TIME.com column on the recent rape-murder of an Indian medical student and Asia’s “missing girls”:
(And I’m happy to say that Andrew Sullivan picked me up again here.)
The horrific gang rape and murder of a 23-year old medical student in New Delhi may seem unrelated to fundamental demographic forces, but it isn’t. The public outcry following the victim’s death from catastrophic internal injuries has rightly focused on calls to reform India’s criminal justice system. Yesterday, five men were formally charged and the case is being put on a fast track set up in the wake of the incident to handle crimes against women, in contrast to the years of delay rape victims often face.
But behind the angry protests is an even deeper story: the preference for male babies in India and much of the world may be at the root of this senseless violence.
Growing evidence suggests that in countries like India and China, where the ratio of men to women is unnaturally high due to the selective abortion of female fetuses and neglect of girl children, the rates of violence towards women increase. “The sex ratio imbalance directly leads to more sex trafficking and bride buying,” says Mara Hvistendahl, author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. A scarce resource is generally considered precious, but the lack of women also leaves many young men without marriage partners. In 2011, the number of cases of women raped rose by 9.2 percent; kidnapping and abductions of women were up 19.4 percent. “At this point, we’re talking correlation, not causation. More studies need to be done….[But] it is clear from historical cases and from studies looking at testosterone levels that a large proportion of unmarried men in the population is not a good thing,” says Hvistendahl…