Is ignorance really bliss? On June 17 The Guardian ran this article,
In 1979 China signed a $50m four-year deal with a UN body designed to help it control its spiralling population through family planning. It was the largest foreign aid package Beijing had accepted in almost 20 years.
But the funds became entwined in China’s one-child policy that was just taking hold, and instead of sponsoring an education drive for small families, the money was used to pay for posters in Chinese villages proclaiming “You can abort it! But you cannot give birth to it.”
The story of the complicity of the UNFPA, the UN’s main population agency, in the tyranny of China’s forced abortion policy is just one of the examples given in a book that explores western involvement in what has become a modern scourge: sex selection.
Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl charts how the trend towards choosing boys over girls, largely through sex-selective abortions, is rapidly spreading across the developing world.
While the article highlights some excellent points, Mara Hvistendahl was unhappy with her books misrepresentation. This is perhaps due to the fact that the UNFPA responded with their own letter refuting the claims of the original article. On July 20, Hvistendahl wrote the following:
I did not argue, furthermore, that the United Nations Population Fund was complicit in these abortions – rather that the agency provided $50m in funding ahead of the one-child policy’s unveiling, and then looked the other way when foreign press reports made clear that forced abortions were occurring. There is a difference between outright funding an injustice and ignoring injustice once it occurs.
UNFPA responded to the article with a letter contesting my supposed claims (Sex selection, China, and human rights, 25 June). The letter may not have been necessary had the article veered more closely to the message of my book.
Sex selection is an important issue, perhaps the most impacting issue on the female population to date, and I just hope that authors and reporters aren’t feeling intimidated because the agencies they’re reporting on are so well financed and multinational. It’s always frustrating to be misquoted, but especially when you just might get a letter from one of the largest agencies in the world.by