Context is Key

As an international development professional, I was so appreciative of Suchitra Dalvie’s articulation in “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” of the disingenuous placement of sex-selective abortion in the realm of gender discrimination and protection of the girl child. From my experience, there can be a problematic perspective in how the prochoice community from “developed” countries addresses the issue of sex-­selective abortion without a complete understanding of the circumstances under which families make sex­selective choices. Having studied the values that people hold about abortion in various regions of the world, I’ve regions of the world, I’ve learned that it is extremely important to recognize and respect the broader social and economic context in which women and families find themselves. In the Indian context, we see one manifestation of these values in sex-selective abortion. In large parts of Africa, on the other hand, I learned that selective abortion based on disability was commonly accepted, even among those considering themselves antichoice. The reality is that women and families make sex-selective choices for the same reasons that women and families make reproductive choices everywhere in the world: because they have economic, social, moral and/or personal reasons for doing so. To ask an individual woman and family to take responsibility for a societal imbalance in girl children and broader gender discrimination makes no more logical or ethical sense than asking families to take responsibility for ensuring that society has adequate representation of those who will live with life-long malnutrition, those suffering from emotional or physical abuse, those who will die within hours of birth from genetic abnormalities or those who will face racial, caste or ethnic oppression.

Independent Consultant in International Development
Iowa City, IA

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