Wednesday December 12, 2018

Sex Ratio Tipping towards Men: An Exhaustive Look at Swedish Demographics

Norway swung to a male surplus in 2011, four years before Sweden, while Denmark and Switzerland are nearing a sex ratio of 100

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Sweden. Image source: VOA
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  • A National statistics agency, SCB showed 277 more men than women in 2015
  • European Union population statistics suggests women will remain in the majority in most European countries for decades to come
  • Despite a natural birth rate of about 105 boys born for every 100 girls, European women have historically outnumbered men because they live longer

The natural sex ratio at birth, as presented by World Health Organization, WHO, is 105 boys for every 100 girls. However, predominantly, in the West, women have always been more numerous than men because they live longer. Hence, it came as a surprise in Sweden, when, in March last year, the census highlighted the fact that there were 277 more men than women.

What’s more, the number has since then grown to a massive 12000, which is still not very big compared to 9.7 million, which is the current population of Sweden, but definitely perplexing. Many demographic analysts and population experts, like Tomas Johansson and Frencesco Billari, confess they were not expecting this event to occur so soon.

There is currently an excess of 12 million women in the European Union, which has a population of approximately 500 million as a whole. Eurostat spokeswoman Baiba Grandovska believes, however, that this gap between the number of men and women is likely to narrow in the coming years,  “mainly because of the decreasing gap in life expectancy.” This comes as a result of an overall change in the lifestyle of men as compared to their fathers.

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Increasing awareness of heart diseases, adverse effects of smoking and drinking and more sophisticated medical equipment has encouraged them to modify the way they live. Wealthier countries now offer safer desk jobs as compared to working in mines and the construction business.

In Sweden, particularly, the numbers are going a little crazy. There was an unusual increase in the sex ratio to 108 boys for every 100 girls born in the year of 2014. Beating that increase, the sex ratio is now an absurd 123 boys for every 100 girls among 16-17 year olds, which beats even the sex imbalance in China and India.

sex ratio

Valerie Hudson of Texas A&M University, who released these numbers, attributes this sudden rise in the sex ratio to the sudden wave of refugees, mostly adolescent boys, from Afghanistan, Syria and North Africa that have run away from their war-stricken homes to seek asylum in Sweden. BBC reports that Sweden has received more asylum applications than any other country in Europe -163,000 just last year.

The Scandinavian country also houses immigrant-friendly laws; any underage refugee receives stable housing and financial resources. News like this travels fast and many young men often lie about their age to avail of these services, a matter that has now become a pressing concern. The authorities are debating the application of age determination tests for better screening of underage individuals; however, this is still a sensitive topic in the Nordic country.

Adding to the appealing benefits of being an underage refugee in this country, they also enjoy the right to family reunification, through which the entire family can be brought to Sweden. Experts believe this right may work in favor of improving the sex ratio, as an invitation for the entire family into Sweden may mean that sisters and mothers arrive in Sweden, driving up the number of females.

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Security forces of Sweden fear that the country may not be prepared to adjust to the masculine nature of its society. There is an expected increase in the number of crime against women, somewhat following in the footsteps of India and China. Unsatisfied male bachelors, who may not find spouses in time, have a possibility of propagating harassment cases against women, and that is a scary prospect.

Annick Wibben, of the University of San Francisco dismisses this trail of thought, claiming that the concept of gender equality is so deeply embedded in the Swedish society, that it does not make sense to compare with Indian and Chinese populations. “The way in which masculinity works in different societies needs to be taken into account”, she said.

-by Saurabh Bodas

Saurabh is pursuing his engineering and is an intern at NewsGram. 

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The Attention Shifts To The U.S. As It Strikes Down FGM Law

Looking beyond the Michigan case, Jones said the key to stopping FGM isn’t just legislation but also education.

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FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016.Image source: VOA

When a U.S. district judge last month ruled a federal ban on female genital mutilation unconstitutional, he undercut the federal government and alarmed anti-FGM activists, who hope to eradicate the practice.

The World Health Organization calls FGM, also known as female circumcision, a human rights violation of women and girls, with no health benefits.

Some 200 million women and girls around the world, mainly in Africa, have experienced FGM, the WHO says.

In his opinion, Judge Bernard Friedman called FGM “despicable,” but also “a local criminal activity” that must be addressed at the state level. In enacting a federal law, he said, Congress overstepped.

Now, local lawmakers, advocates and newspapers are calling for state bans that equal or surpass the scope of the federal law that was struck down.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, judge
A badge reads “The power of labor against FGM” is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2018. (VOA)

‘Never again’

The case Friedman ruled on centers around Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency room physician accused of performing FGM on at least 100 girls in Michigan for more than a decade.

Prosecutors have focused their case on nine girls, aged 7 to 12, from three states. The girls allegedly were subjected to FGM with the aid of Nagarwala and seven others, including the girls’ mothers.

Defense attorneys say the procedure amounted to only a “nick” on the girls performed as part of a religious ritual — not FGM. But they also argued in July that the federal law banning FGM is unconstitutional.

State Senator Rick Jones, who represents Michigan’s 24th district, told VOA by phone that he was shocked to learn about Nagarwala’s case and strongly disagrees with Friedman’s ruling.

Last year, Jones became the spokesperson for a package of bills outlawing FGM statewide. The legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Female Circumcision, FGM
The barbaric practice of genitalia mutilation has been banned in developed nations. Wikimedia

Now, Michigan has some of the toughest FGM laws in the country.

Health-care providers convicted of performing FGM face up to 15 years in prison, along with the permanent loss of their medical licenses. Parents who take their daughters to doctors to be cut can lose custody.

The 1996 federal law, meanwhile, stipulated up to five years in prison and fines for medical providers who perform FGM.

“We wanted to send a strong message around the world: Never again bring your girls to Michigan for this horrible procedure,” Jones said.

Across the U.S., 27 states have passed laws banning FGM, many of which have been written in recent years and include penalties that go beyond the federal law, which also criminalizes so-called “vacation cutting,” the practice of taking girls out of the United States to have FGM performed overseas.

News organizations are among those pushing for an expansion of state laws. Last month, the Seattle Times editorial board called for a ban in Washington, one of 23 states yet to outlaw FGM.

FGM
A doctor checks her phone as she poses for a photograph in Mumbai, India, June 8, 2016. The 50-year-old woman defends what is widely considered female genital mutilation within her small, prosperous Dawoodi Bohra community in India. VOA

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times editorial board said all 50 states should ban the “barbaric” practice, in light of Friedman’s ruling.

Religious ritual?

The health-care providers and families involved in the Michigan case belong to Dawoodi Bohra, a Shi’ite Muslim sect based in India with about 2 million followers worldwide.

According to a study published earlier this year, FGM, called khafd in Dawoodi Bohra communities, is widespread in the sect and involves cutting the clitoral hood or part of the clitoris, without an anesthetic, when girls turn seven.

The study, commissioned by WeSpeakOut, an advocacy group focused on eradicating khafd, also found that three-quarters of Dawoodi Bohra women have experienced FGM.

The severity and nature of FGM can vary.

Health-care providers have identified four types of FGM. Khafd involves Type 1 FGM. Other types involve removing all of the external genitalia and narrowing the vaginal opening.

Jones rejects the idea that there’s a religious basis for the procedure, however it’s performed.

FGM
FILE – A counselor holds up cards used to educate women about female genital mutilation (FGM). VOA

“Across the world, this has been practiced by Christians, pagans, Muslims, even a small Jewish sect in Ethiopia,” he said.

“This is not about a religion,” he added. “This is about men attempting to control women’s behavior by this horrible procedure.”

The WHO identifies both short-term and permanent harms associated with the practice. Immediate concerns include severe pain, infections and, in some cases, death. Long term, women and girls subjected to FGM face a range of physiological and psychological complications that can affect menstruation, childbirth and sexual health.

The United States has been unequivocal in condemning the practice, saying “the U.S. government considers FGM/C to be a serious human rights abuse, and a form of gender-based violence and child abuse” on a fact sheet posted to the Citizenship & Immigration Services website.

Education and legislation

Friedman’s November decision is the latest in a series of setbacks for prosecutors.

Nagarwala spent seven months in 2017 in jail before 16 friends posted a $4.5 million unsecured bond, against the pleas of prosecutors, who argued Nagarwala could silence potential witnesses or even flee the country if released.

FGM
KAMELI, KENYA – AUGUST 12: A Masaai villager displays the traditional blade used to circumcise young girls August 12, 2007 in Kameli, Kenya. Maasai are a pastoral group mostly clustered in the Rift Valley. They practice circumcision on both boys and girls during puberty years as a rite of passage to adulthood. VOA

And in January, the judge dismissed charges that Nagarwala and a second doctor, Fakhruddin Attar, transported minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, an offense that carries a lifetime sentence.

Nagarwala still faces conspiracy and obstruction charges that could result in decades in prison.

The trial is now set to begin next April, the Detroit Free Press reported last month. However, the prosecution could appeal last month’s decision, drawing the case out further.

Also Read: Somalia Calls To Outlaw Female Genital Mutilation

Looking beyond the Michigan case, Jones said the key to stopping FGM isn’t just legislation but also education.

“What we have to do is continue to fight this worldwide. This is a global problem,” Jones said.

“It is a violation of human rights,” he said. “And I’m going to continue speaking out worldwide against this horrible, horrible practice that must end.” (VOA)