Bad news on sex selection in new UN studies

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky November 1, 2007
Biopolitical Times
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A series of new studies by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) documents the persistence and spread of skewed sex ratios and sex selection in Asia. According to a regional demographic analysis [pdf], the problem is not confined to India and China. In 2005, South Korea, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia also reported severe sex-ratio imbalances.

The report characterizes this situation, which began to emerge in its current dimensions during the late 1970s, as "a new demographic regime of gender discrimination" - one that has "never before been recorded in demographic history." If the sex ratio in Asia were the same as elsewhere in the world, it says, about 163 million more women would be alive there today.

According to the executive summary,

The ramifications of such an imbalance will not only continue for decades, but will affect an enormous proportion of the Asian population. While men of marriageable age will suddenly find a dramatic shortage of potential brides, it is girls and women of all ages who will truly feel the brunt of this dynamic [from] forecasted increases in gender-based violence, trafficking, discrimination and general vulnerability of women and girls.

Separate studies of Vietnam and Nepal [pdf files] conclude that sex ratios in those countries aren't troubling now, but that the availability of prenatal screening could change that soon.

The reports were prepared by UNFPA for this week's 4th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights in Hyderabad, India. This year the biennial gathering brought together more than 1200 participants from NGOs, governments, funding agencies, the United Nations, and media.

UNFPA, which has recognized sex selection as a facet of violence against women since the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing, has produced a six-minute video on the subject titled Girls Gone Missing in Asia.