As India grapples with what seems like a constant barrage of shocking acts of violence against women, one question is asked again and again: Why is this happening?
One answer, some experts say, is India’s gender ratio, distorted by the practice of sex selection in favor of baby boys.
A much-cited 2002 study,“A Surplus of Men, a Deficit of Peace,” by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea den Boer, contends that a gender imbalance in Asian countries, caused by a shortage of marriageable women, results in higher rates of crime, including rape, committed by young unmarried men.
“Internal instability is heightened in nations displaying exaggerated gender inequality, leading to an altered security calculus for the state,” the authors wrote in 2002, and reiterated in a book on the subject. Their conclusions are even more true today, Ms. Hudson said in an e-mail interview.
“Certainly the situation is, if anything, worse in both India and China than it was 10 years ago,” she wrote. “Certainly violent crime against women increases as the deficit of women increases. This will constrain the life chances of females far into the future.”
Right now, the statistics are worrying. India has 37 million more men than women, as of 2011 census data, and about 17 million excess men in the age group that commits most crimes, up from 7 million in 1991.
Violent crime in India rose nearly 19 percent from 2007 to 2011, while the kidnapping of women (much of which is related to forced marriage) increased 74 percent in that time. That’s a marked increase from the five years before 2007, when violent crime actually fell by 2.8 percent, and the kidnapping of women rose by 41 percent.
If the study’s conclusions are correct, India’s problems with rape and other forms of violence against women – recently seen in the gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi, the gang rape of a high school student in Bihar state and the rape of a young woman in Punjab, who committed suicide afterward – may only get worse, given the trend in India’s demographics...
The authors adopted a Chinese term, guang gun-er (“bare branches”), for unmarried men from age 15 to their mid-30s who have limited prospects for employment. This group, which is larger in countries where sex selection is prevalent, usually “commits the preponderance of violence within a society,” according to the report.
In a marriage market where women are scarce and thus able to “marry up,” certain characteristics of young surplus males are easily and accurately predicted. They are liable to come from the lowest socioeconomic class, be un- or underemployed, live a fairly nomadic or transient lifestyle with few ties to the communities in which they are working, and generally live and socialize with other bachelors. In sum, these young surplus males may be considered, relatively speaking, losers in societal competition....“I think it is true that unless the government is willing to enforce its own laws against dowry and sex-selective abortion, not much will change,” Professor Hudson said.