Indian families selectively aborting girls, says U of T researcher | U of T Research

Indian families selectively aborting girls, says U of T researcher
Eager to have at least one son

New research published Online First and in an upcoming Lancet shows that, in Indian families in which the first child has been a girl, more and more parents are aborting their second child if prenatal testing shows it to be a girl, so they can ensure at least one child in their family will be a boy. These declines in girl to boy ratios are larger in better-educated and in richer households than in illiterate and poorer households, and now imply that most people in India live in states where selective abortion of girls is common.

The research was led by Professor Prabhat Jha of the Centre for Global Health Research, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and colleagues from India, including the former registrar-general of India, Dr. Jayant K Banthia.

The 2011 Indian census revealed about 7.1 million fewer girls than boys aged 0-6 years, a notable increase in the gap of 6-million fewer girls recorded in the 2001 census and 4.2 million fewer girls recorded in the 1991 census. In this study, the authors analyzed census data to determine absolute numbers of selective abortions and examined over 250,000 births from national surveys to estimate differences in the girl-boy ratio for second births in families in which the first-born child had been a girl.

They found that this girl-boy ratio fell from 906 girls per 1,000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005; an annual decline of 0.52 per cent. Declines were much greater in mothers with 10 or more years of education than in mothers with no education, and in wealthier households compared with poorer households. But if the first child had been a boy, there was no fall in the girl-boy ratio for the second child over the study period, strongly suggesting that families, particularly those that are more wealthy and educated, are selectively aborting girls if their firstborn child is also a girl.

Drop in bee pollination confirmed | U of T Research & Innovation

Drop in bee pollination confirmed | U of T Research
Widespread reports of a decline in the population of bees and other flower-visiting animals have aroused fear and speculation that pollination is also likely on the decline. A recent University of Toronto study provides the first long-term evidence of a downward trend in pollination, while also pointing to climate change as a possible contributor.

“Bee numbers may have declined at our research site, but we suspect that a climate-driven mismatch between the times when flowers open and when bees emerge from hibernation is a more important factor,” said Professor James Thomson, a scientist with U of T’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Thomson’s 17-year examination of the wild lily in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado is one of the longest-term studies of pollination ever done. It reveals a progressive decline in pollination over the years, with particularly noteworthy pollination deficits early in the season. The study appears this week in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

HIV still a health concern in Canada, says U of T study

University of Toronto:
Every eight hours, a Canadian contracts HIV

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first diagnosis of AIDS on June 5, 2011, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) partnered with the Social Research Centre (SRC) at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health and national polling firm Strategic Counsel to gauge Canadians’ knowledge and perception of the state of HIV and AIDS in Canada. The study revealed that most Canadians (93 per cent) believe they are knowledgeable about HIV and AIDS, yet only half of those surveyed consider condoms to be very effective in reducing the spread of HIV.

The study indicated that while Canadians who have had two or more sexual partners in the last year are more likely than those with only one partner to have used a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse, the majority - almost six-in-ten (57 per cent) of those with two or more partners still admit that they did not use a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse. "It is clear that Canadians’ attitudes have shifted in the past 30 years, but this hasn’t necessarily affected behavior," said Christopher Bunting, president of CANFAR.

Men are not from Mars, women are not from Venus | U of T Research

Men are not from Mars, women are not from Venus | U of T Research & Innovation

Professor Mari Ruti of the Department of English and Drama at the University of Toronto Mississauga is taking on the self-help industry in her new book The Case for Falling in Love: Why We Can’t Master the Madness of Love—and Why That’s the Best Part. Ruti works at the intersection of contemporary theory, psychoanalysis, continental philosophy and gender and sexuality studies. Her book is written for a mainstream audience and she hopes it will help women and men understand that love is not a game to be won or lost.

The main argument is that the image of romantic love that the self-help industry tries to sell is based on a few misconceptions. The first is the idea that love is a game with winners and losers. The second is the idea that men and women are inherently different so that to make romance work, women need to learn to read the so-called male psyche.


U.N. Approves Resolution Against Anti-Gay Discrimination

U.N. Approves Resolution Against Anti-Gay Discrimination
The United Nations on Friday voted by 23-19 vote with 3 abstentions to approve a historic resolution firmly condemning discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Presented by South Africa, the resolution affirms that member nations' commitments to human rights include combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. It also notes "grave concerns" over violence perpetrated on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The resolution says:

Recalling the universality, interdependence, indivisibility and interrelatedness of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and consequently elaborated in other human rights instruments such as the international Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant core human rights instruments;
Recalling also that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status;
Recalling further GA resolution 60/251 which states that the human rights Council shall be responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in fair and equal manner;
Expressing grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The resolution also determines the following actions:

  • Requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights commission a study to be finalised by December 2011, to examine, in all regions of the world, discriminatory laws, practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and how international human rights law can be used to combat this;
  • Calls for a committee to be created to aid the High Commissioner in "constructive, informed and transparent dialogue" on anti-LGBT laws, and that the panel should also discuss how to continue to follow this issue and implement the recommendations made by the study commissioned by the High Commissioner;
  • Finally, the resolution "Decides to remain seized with this priority issue."
African and Islamic nations who voted against the measure reportedly slammed its passage, with the AP quoting opposition forces led by Nigeria and Pakistan saying the resolution is "nothing to do with fundamental human rights."


Atheist Richard Dawkins Helps Launch New Humanities College in London

Atheist Richard Dawkins Helps Launch New Humanities College in London
Famed atheist Richard Dawkins will be among a group of British academic elites who will launch a new college that will rival top British universities like Oxford.

The New College of the Humanities in central London will offer degrees in English, philosophy, history, economics and law starting from fall 2012. The private college is founded by 14 professors. Richard Dawkins, author of the bestseller The God Delusion, will teach evolutionary biology and a required course on science literacy. Other academics include historians Sir David Cannadine and Niall Ferguson, former Oxford professor of poetry Sir Christopher Ricks and psychologist Steven Pinker.

AC Grayling, a well-known British humanist and atheist, will serve as the college’s first master. He is the author of The Good Book: The Humanist Bible, a manifesto for secular humanists that was published in March 2011.

'Our priorities at the college will be excellent teaching quality, excellent ratios of teachers to students, and a strongly supportive and responsive learning environment,' said Grayling. "Our students will be challenged to develop as skilled, informed and reflective thinkers, and will receive an education to match that aspiration."

Creators of the new institution say it offers a 'new concept' in university education. Students at New College will take core courses in three areas: Science Literacy, Logic and Critical Thinking, and Applied Ethics. In addition to receiving an undergraduate degree in their area of study, students will be granted a Diploma of New College.

Courses will be taught in a staff-student ratio of better than 1:10 and students will receive one-on-one tutorials. But the distinct educational features come with a hefty price tag. Annual tuition at the college costs £18,000 or roughly $29,384, twice the maximum tuition of government-funded universities in Britain.

Backers of the college say that the government cap of £9,000 or roughly $14,692 on the annual tuition of state-funded universities is not sustainable, the Guardian reported. New College will follow a business model that will deliver profits to shareholders that include professors and a group of investors. The college will admit 375 students a year.