March 5, 2024

No halt to Asian sex imbalance

The problem of sex imbalance in Asia continues to make the news. At the Fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, a demographer said that if the sex ratio at birth had been natural in the region, there would have been 163 million more girls in 2005.

, "In 2005, six Asian countries reported a severe sex-ratio imbalance, with levels for children above 108: India, South Korea, Georgia, Azerbaijan, China and Armenia." He foresees big changes in Asian family structures, with many men remaining unmarried, and women’s status declining "due to the simultaneous increase in pressure to marry, higher risk of gender-based violence, rising demand for sex work and the development of trafficking networks." Furthermore, the simple fact that there are fewer women in democratic countries will make their voices weaker in policy-making.

Although preference for males is traditional in Asian societies, the radical change in the sex ratio is basically due to the legalisation of abortion, the availability of ultrasound machines, and a compliant medical profession. Guilmoto observes: "Moreover, the acts are conducted under medical control, and may be relatively safe so long as the abortion is performed by trained practitioners; the method subsequently looks more "modern" and "rational" than traditional methods [of gender-cide]."

Intriguingly, India’s neighbour, Pakistan, does not have a sex selection problem. Abortion is illegal there and ultrasound technology is uncommon. But the main reason is religious. "One cannot ignore that such deeds [selective abortions] are considered sinful with great misfortune befalling those who commit such deeds. One of the commonest teachings of Prophet Mohammad, with which all Pakistanis are familiar, relates to not burying daughters alive (a practice in Arabia before the advent of Islam)," told the IPS news service.