Resources on Gender-biased sex selection

Gender-biased sex selection has emerged since the early 1990s as a widespread practice in parts of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region and now constitutes a significant challenge to the countries affected.

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NEW DELHI: Fears on the rampant use of pre-natal sex determination technology in rural areas have been confirmed with census data indicating that child sex ratio (CSR) fell far more sharply in villages than in urban areas in the last decade. According to provision data on population, though the urban CSR is far worse than that in rural areas, the fall in CSR in rural areas is around four times than that in urban areas.

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India’s 2011 census revealed a growing imbalance between the numbers of girls and boys aged 0–6 years, which we postulate is due to increased prenatal sex determination with subsequent selective abortion of female fetuses. We aimed to establish the trends in sex ratio by birth order from 1990 to 2005 with three nationally representative surveys and to quantify the totals of selective abortions of girls with census cohort data.

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The results of the 1990 census in China showed that the country’s sex ratio at birth (SRB) was 111.3 boys to 100 girls, which caused concern amongst national researchers and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. From1991, after the 1990 census results became available, UNFPA became the very first international agency to raise the issue of sex ratio imbalance in China, which was considered a taboo among Government officials at that time.

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This study is aimed at identifying the incidences, causes and determinants of pre-natal sex selection in four of the eight districts of Nepal (as well as Kathmandu) that had high sex ratios for the population below 1 year of age in the 2001 census. In addition, the study examined the situation in three border routes connecting Nepal with major towns in India.

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For more than 100 years, the Indian census has shown a marked gap between the number of boys and girls, men and women. This gap, which has nationwide implications, is the result of decisions made at the most local level—the family.

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The phenomenon of ‘missing women’ is well-established in many Asian countries, including India. In India, while the 2001 census showed a slight increase in the overall population sex ratio, which rose from 927 females per 1000 males in 1991 to 933 in 2001, the proportion of girls to boys as captured by the sex ratio of those 0-6 has continued to decline, falling from 976 in 1961 to 927 in 2001.

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In Nepal, as in many Asian countries, son preference is very strong, due to the country’s longstanding patriarchal social structure. According to the 2001 census, sex ratios (computed as the number of males per 100 females) for those younger than 1 year of age were over 106 in seven districts in the Tarai plains and one hill district. This study subsequently aimed to identify the incidences, causes and determinants of pre-natal sex selection in four of these eight districts. Three of the four districts (Dhanusha, Parsa, Kapilbastu) lie in the Tarai belt bordering India, while the fourth district (Gorkha) lies in the central hills. In addition, the study examined the situation in three border routes connecting Nepal with major towns in India, and in Kathmandu Metropolitan City, to assess the availability and accessibility of pre-natal sex-selection technologies in these areas.

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This report of the global meeting on Skewed Sex Ratios at Birth: Addressing the Issue and the Way Forward, held in Viet Nam in October, provides an overview of the meeting and delves into some key trends, determinants, consequences and responses on the issue.

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This joint interagency statement reaffirms the commitment of United Nations agencies to encourage and support efforts by States, international and national organizations, civil society and communities to uphold the rights of girls and women and to address the multiple manifestations of gender discrimination including the problem of imbalanced sex ratios caused by sex selection.

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