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Sex-selective abortions may have stopped the birth of 23 million girls

Category: Gender in the world 
2019-04-19

A huge analysis of worldwide population data suggests sex-selective abortions have led to at least 23 million fewer girls being born. The majority of these “missing” girls are in China and India.

Many societies value sons over daughters. As people around the world increasingly have fewer children, there has been a rise in families choosing to abort female fetuses in an effort to have at least one son.

Normally, 103 to 107 boys are born for every 100 girls. But an analysis has found evidence of an unnatural excess of boys in 12 countries since the 1970s, when sex-selective abortions started becoming available.


In every nation except Vietnam, the team found that the skew in sex ratios is returning to normal. This seems to be true even in China, which the analysis says accounts for 51 per cent of the missing female births. In 2005, 118 boys were born in China for every 100 girls, but by 2017 this had dropped to 114. “Whether the downward trend in China continues remains to be seen,” says Chao.

Birth gender ratios have already returned to normal in Georgia, South Korea and Hong Kong. But Chao’s team found that the fall in excess boys in India – which the analysis suggests accounts for 46 per cent of the missing girls – is only slight. With 12 million girls born each year compared with 7 million in China, reducing the rate of sex selection in India is crucial for ending the practice worldwide, says Sabu George of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies in New Delhi.

 

 

Fengqing Chao of the National University of Singapore and her colleagues synthesised birth data from 1970 to 2017 from 202 countries, using a modelling method that filled gaps in countries with poor statistics. During this time period, they found excess male births had occurred in some years in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Montenegro, Taiwan, Tunisia and Vietnam.

 


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