In the News

21 July 2011

Ending ‘Son Preference’ to Promote Gender Equality

The tradition of inheritance from father to son in many societies coupled with a reliance on boys to provide economic support, to ensure security in old age and to perform death rites are part of a set of social norms that place greater value on sons than daughters.

“There is huge pressure on women to produce sons…which not only directly affects women’s sexual and reproductive lives with implications for their health and survival, but also puts women in a position where they must perpetuate the lower status of girls through son preference," according to a joint statement by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The biologically normal sex ratio at birth ranges from 106 males to 100 females. However, ratios as high as 130 boys for 100 girls have been observed in South, East and Central Asia. Such an imbalance increases the possibility of violence against women. For instance, the lack of women available for marriage in some areas may lead to the trafficking of women for forced marriages from other regions or the sharing of brides among brothers.

A general trend towards declining family size, occasionally fostered by stringent policies restricting the number of children people are allowed to have, is reinforcing a deeply rooted preference for male offspring.

"Women have to bear the consequences of giving birth to an unwanted girl child. These consequences can include violence, abandonment, divorce or even death,” experts from UN agencies noted. Faced with such intense pressure, women seek to discover the sex of a foetus through ultrasound. The discovery of a female foetus can then lead to its abortion.

Read the full story from the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights