David Yount: We are just now waking to the worldwide disparity in the numbers of men and women of marriageable age. By a lopsided measure worldwide, there are not nearly enough women available to guarantee a wife to every eligible man who wishes to marry and enjoy the blessings of home and family and the civilizing influence of a spouse.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
What was a truism in English novelist Jane Austen's time is no longer so obvious in our own. As was the case in the 18th and 19th centuries, a suitor's fortune remains a powerful attraction to wedlock, but even money cannot prevail against the cruel forces of supply and demand in today's marriage market.
We are just now waking to the worldwide disparity in the numbers of men and women of marriageable age. By a lopsided measure worldwide, there are not nearly enough women available to guarantee a wife to every eligible man who wishes to marry and enjoy the blessings of home and family and the civilizing influence of a spouse.
Without interfering with nature, a roughly equal number of boys and girls will be born. But parents from poor countries are inclined to consider the birth of a daughter to be a curse. In poor economies girls are not as valuable on the labor market. In many cases they are forbidden to inherit from their parents. Instead, the parents of girls are expected to pay a dowry to the family of the groom.
When she marries, the daughter in poor societies is expected to join her husband's family, rather than support her own parents in their old age.
These are heavy incentives to abort female babies as soon as their gender is known. Ironically, technological advances have made it easier to identify girls before birth, encouraging abortion. Even in the world's poorest societies an ultrasound scan can cost as little as $12 and abortion not much more.
This is a problem that will not go away, but worsens as unmarried men age. In China and northern India more than 120 boys are born for every 100 girls. As The Economist reports, "The cumulative consequence for societies of such individual actions is catastrophic.
"China alone stands to have as many unmarried young men...as the entire population of young men in America. In any country rootless young males spell trouble; in Asian societies, where marriage and children are the recognized routes into a society, single men are almost like outlaws. Crime rates, bride trafficking, sexual violence, even female suicide rates are all rising and will rise further as the lopsided generations reach their maturity."
In Western democracies, the pro-choice movement is intended to raise the status of women. But as abortion is actually practiced in the poorer nations, it amounts to "gendercide" -- the selective elimination of girls.
St. Paul, who chose a celibate lifestyle for himself, nevertheless preached that it is better to marry than burn. A society that honors marriage favors men and women alike. To breed a large male minority whose members are deprived of marriage is to experiment in brutality and lawlessness.
David Yount's latest book is "Making a Success of Marriage: Planning for Happily Ever After" (Rowman and Littlefield). He answers readers at P.O. Box 2758, Woodbridge, VA 22195 and firstname.lastname@example.org.