I’m reviewing Unnatural Selection, the recent book by Mara Hvistendahl about female sex selection resulting in 160 million missing women. It’s equal parts fascinating and depressing. I could easily cut and paste the whole book into a blog post. But here’s just one part in the section about how the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations were enthusiastic promoters of population control in India, alongside the Population Council, staffed by an American, Sheldon Segal, who likewise supported sex determination “as an effective method of population control.” (Segal is also the inventor of Norplant, the contraceptive implant.)
The Emergency [started on June 25, 1975] as the period came to be known, affected all areas of life in India, crippling the economy and scaling back civil liberties. But it was an especially blean era for reproductive rights. Health officials in Indira Gandhi’s administration saw an opportunity to force drastic measures on Indians who had previously resisted birth control. The task of overseeing the gruesome campaign fell to Indira’s son Sanjay Gandhi, who held no official political title. He wasted little time in announcing a massive effort to sterilize poor men. Widespread sterilization was an idea that had been introduced to India by Western advisers, but Sanjay Gandhi ratcheted it up to an unprecedented scale. At first his mother’s government rewarded men who consented to vasectomies. Before long, however, Sanjay Gandhi was issuing quotas so high that local officials could meet them only by dragging men to the operating room—typically a makeshift camp that had sprung up practically overnight. (Nearly two thousand men died from botched operations.) In some areas, police surrounded villages in the middle of the night and apprehended all the men. In others, they combined sterilization with slum clearance, razing whole neighborhoods and robbing men of both their reproductive ability and their homes at the same time. Protestors were killed. The scale of the campaign, which was memorialized by Salman Rushdie in the novel Midnight’s Children, is striking, given that many Americans today remain unaware of its existence. By the time democratic rule was restored, 6.2 million Indian men had been sterilized in just one year—fifteen times the number of people sterilized by the Nazis. (pp. 87-88)
Many Americans remain unaware of this, and many Canadians too, including me.
The review will follow when it’s published. Getting into the realm of massive understatements, suffice to say that “population control” has wreaked a lot of havoc in nations across the globe, including as one outcome, missing women at a devastating scale.by