A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale.Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India.“I want to find a girlfriend, but I don’t have the money or the opportunity to meet them,” he said.
As the Sanskrit blessing says, “May you be the mother of a hundred sons.” Sometimes it felt to Om Pati like she was the mother of 100 sons. She consoled herself with the thought that she would one day have daughters-in-law to trade stories and share cooking duties. But by the time her eldest Sanjay — now 38 and a cook — reached marriageable age, the practice of families in her area sneaking off to larger cities for an illegal sonogram and then an abortion had taken its toll.Barely recognized, the ramifications of too many men are only starting to come into sight.“In the future, there will be millions of men who can’t marry, and that could pose a very big risk to society,” warns Li Shuzhuo, a leading demographer at Xi’an Jiaotong University.In Dongguan, where the gender ratio is 118 men to 100 women, Li says he has virtually given up hope of finding a girlfriend. Her neighbors in the village were overjoyed for her each time a new baby arrived.He spends his spare time playing games on his phone, or accompanying his co-workers to karaoke or for a foot massage. “Life is boring and lonely.” When Om Pati, a farmer’s wife in the Indian village of Bass, in the state of Haryana, was having children, she actually prayed a sweet-eyed girl bundle would arrive. They rang steel plates so everyone in the neighborhood would know a boy had been born.Bachelors like Li are dismissively branded as “bare branches” for failing to expand the family tree.But as any forester knows, bare branches pose a danger, and not just to themselves.The desperate effort to land a bride Human trafficking. Foreign women are being recruited and lured to China, effectively creating similar imbalances in China’s neighbors. With the increase in men has come a surge in sexual crime in India and concerns about a rise in other crimes in both countries.Harassment of schoolgirls in India has in some towns sparked an effort to push back — but at a cost of restricting them to more protected lives.In the two countries, 50 million excess males are under age 20. Both nations are belatedly trying to come to grips with the policies that created this male-heavy generation.And demographers say it will take decades for the ramifications of the bulge to fade away.