Sex Imbalances at Birth

Current trends, consequences and policy implications

No. of pages: 88

Publication Date: 2012

Author: Christophe Z. Guilmoto

Publisher: UNFPA Asia and Pacific Regional Office

This report offers an updated review of the various facets and the latest trends and differentials in sex selection in Asia. It includes a set of recommendations to combat gender discrimination and prenatal sex selection at the national and regional level.

Education, urbanization and economic development have significantly improved opportunities for Asian women and girls over the last two decades. Yet, this has coincided with a fall in the proportion of girls among children in many countries. The decline, caused to a large extent by an increase in prenatal sex selection in the past 20 years, is leading to an alarming demographic masculinization. This intensifying gender imbalance will have an adverse impact at many levels on men, women and families over the next half century.

Prenatal sex selection leads to distorted levels of sex ratios at birth, which today range between 110 and 120 male births per 100 female births in many countries, as against the standard biological level of 104-106. Birth masculinity as measured by the sex ratio at birth reaches levels above 120 or 130 in some specific regions, pointing to the intensity of son preference and gender discrimination there. Meanwhile, post-natal sex selection – measured by excess deaths among female infants and young girls – has not yet disappeared from several countries, reflecting the continuing discrimination against and neglect of female children.

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