Photo by David Swanson: IRIN
An account from the BBC about Britain's unwanted girls made me remember I intended to write this post. The BBC story tells of a woman who travelled to India when she was pregnant with her fourth child, having already had three daughters. She found a gynaecologist who agreed to abort the foetus because it turned out to be a girl. This was in spite of the fact that in India it is illegal to have a scan to find out the sex of a foetus, and sex selective abortion has been illegal since the 1980s. According to the woman, she is far from alone. You can listen to a broadcast on the subject from the BBC's Asian Network Service, I think for the next week. There is another report from the BBC about the Oxford study which has revealed an estimated 1,500 girls missing from the UK from 1990 to 2005.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has a number of reports on the issue.
They suggest that the easing of family planning rules in China is easing the pressure on having sons, and there are fewer abortions. The reasons for the imbalance are complex but fundamentally stem from a patrilinear family structure and a traditional culture. The greatest imbalance is in rural areas. A pdf summary for China.
In VietNam there is a strong son preference for similar reasons to China. At the moment the rations are not severely skewed but the country is thought to be in the same position as China was 10 years ago. The availability of technology makes pre-natal sex selection possible. A pdf summary for Vietnam.
In India, by contrast, the highest prevalence of sex selection is in urban areas but it is nevertheless caused by the same patriarchal desire for a son. It is particularly prevalent in north west India. A pdf summary for India.
In Nepal sex selection is not currently a major issue but the proximity of north west India has made information about and access to sex selection services easy to obtain. A pdf summary for Nepal.
In Pakistan there is a similar problem but it is less well documented. As an IRIN report states though, it goes beyond pre-natal sex selection. Girls are often neglected, less well-fed and less likely to receive medical attention. Many more girls than boys will die before the age of five.
There is a list of sex ratios by age group by country from the CIA.