"Discrimination against girls anywhere in the world is a social ill and human rights violation, which must be stopped. Girls, like boys, deserve equal love, equal opportunity and equal rights."
- UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.
The normal sex ratio at birth ranges from 102 to 106 males per 100 females. However, ratios much higher than normal - sometimes as high as 130 - have been observed, especially in countries where technologies make it possible for families to determine the sex of a foetus.
This issue is an increasing concern in some South Asian, East Asian and Central Asian countries where more than 100 million girls are 'missing'. Skewed sex ratios in those countries will have long-lasting social and demographic impacts.
This issue was flagged more than 15 years ago at the International Conference on Population and Development. The Programme of Action from that meeting, which guides UNFPA, calls on governments to "eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girlchild and the root causes of son preference, which results in harmful and unethical practices regarding female infanticide and pre-natal sex selection."
UNFPA has been at the forefront in bringing attention to the issue - starting in China and India but now also in other countries - and working with other United Nations agencies, including WHO, UNICEF, OHCHR and UN Women, as well as civil society, to address it.
Governments should give priority to developing programmes and policies that foster norms and attitudes of zero tolerance for harmful and discriminatory attitudes, including son preference, which can result in harmful and unethical practices such as prenatal sex selection, discrimination and violence against the girl child and all forms of violence against women, including female genital mutilation, rape, incest, trafficking, sexual violence and exploitation.
--Paragraph 48, Key Actions for the Implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action.
Several major media have over the years reported on the initiatives UNFPA has taken or supported against son preference and sex selection, in accordance with the Programme of Action of the 1994 Cairo International Programme on Population and Development. Adopted by consensus, the Programme recommends the elimination of "all forms of discrimination against the girl child and the root causes of son preference, which results in harmful and unethical practices regarding female infanticide and prenatal sex selection." A sampling of the coverage is linked here.
|Ending Gender Imbalances Must Remain International Priority, Says UNFPA's Asia-Pacific Director|
|Bruce Campbell's interview on BBC in October 2010|
Pre-natal sex selection in India (a fact sheet)
|Sex Ratio at Birth, Imbalances in Viet Nam|
|Population & Development in Viet Nam: Towards a New Population/Reproductive Health Strategy 2011-2020|
|Timeline of UNFPA Actions|