Owing to positive feedback from the previous article review post, I decided to do it again. This week’s article, The Bedroom State, was published in Foreign Policy in the May/June 2012 issue. The article provides examples of governments all over the world that are actively trying to promote, prevent and influence various types of sexual activity. The examples are far from exhaustive and has an air of Western condescension, but is interesting nonetheless. If you have any other examples of your own, feel free to share them in the comments section below.
Across Asia, a combination of social policy, modern technology, prejudice and economic incentives are compelling parents to abort millions of unwanted female fetuses. The problem is most notable in India, where the use of ultrasound to determine sex is technically illegal, and China, where decades of the one-child policy have encouraged families to keep aborting until they get a son. Hundreds of millions of bachelors unable to find a suitable partner spells disaster.
I never would have guessed that Iran is home to the second highest number of sex-change operations in the world. More than two decades ago, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa authorizing the practice for “diagnosed transsexuals”. Since then, many young gay men have resorted to such surgeries in order to legally have relations with men – keep in mind that homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran. According to Hojatol Islam Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, the cleric responsible for sex reassignment, a sex change is no more sinful than “changing wheat to flour to bread.” This would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.
Paying people to stop AIDS
In Malawi, where more than one in ten people are HIV positive, people were paid to get tested. The cash incentives increased the number of people getting tested. “This makes a significant difference because sexually active, HIV-positive people who know their status are three times more likely to purchase condoms and thus prevent the further spread of the disease.” Another study posits that young women, who were randomly selected to receive between $1 and $5 per month, were more likely to attend school and avoid sex with older men. Throwing money at a problem may help after all.
How driving destroys virginity
The Saudi government famously bans women from driving, arguing that permitting such mobility would constitute an “end of virginity”. Women drivers would apparently “provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, and divorce” and lead to a serious shortage of virgins in the kingdom – Allah forbid.
Cash (and refrigerators) for babies
Russia, which is experiencing one of the most dramatic population declines in the world, has opted to pay people to have kids. For a while, the government was paying women almost $10,000 to have a second child and President/Prime Minister/President again Putin has pledged over $53 billion to boost birthrates. In one province, the government encouraged all employers to give a “family communication” holiday to facilitate the baby making, 9 months before Russia Day. Those lucky women who were able to deliver on Russia Day were awarded various prizes including fridges, washing machines and…a new car!!!
Boobs? No thanks
The only country experiencing a more dramatic population implosion than Russia is Japan where a new term, herbivore, has come to denote the sexually indifferent young men who are more concerned with fashion and hobbies than women and career. And given that the Japanese hate immigration more than the Tea Party, the population decline is more pronounced there than probably anywhere else.
Catholicism, machismo and marriage equality
In 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American Country to recognize and perform same-sex marriages. Since then there has been a competition among the region’s tourist hubs to attract LGBT clientele. Mexico City has also legalized same-sex marriages but Rio de Janeiro can boast that a quarter of all its tourists are gay.
State sponsored matchmaking
If you would have guessed that the uptight government of Singapore would be a bad facilitator of institutional romance, you would be correct. The government’s efforts to promote marriage and families through dances, wine tastings, cooking courses, cruises, and romantic movie screenings have failed. According to the CIA World Fact Book, Singapore has the lowest fertility rate in the world.
The great firewall
We already know that the Chinese government is active in blocking Facebook, Youtube, Google Maps and so many other sites on the internet, but they are also active in preventing online pornography. So much so that the state offers cash rewards to informants who rat out agents of online pornographic material. Interestingly, on the anniversary of the Tienanmen protests of 1989, tens of thousands of porn sites were unblocked. I suppose a lot of frustrated young men stayed indoors that day.