Selective abortions killed 22.5 million female foetuses in China, India

Abortions lead to gender ratio distortions in 12 Asian and European countries

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Wednesday 17 April 2019

Abortions based on sex selection have led to larger-than-thought variation in sex ratios, reveals a global study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The natural gender ratio for humans is 100 female babies to 105 male babies. But this ratio has been distorted due to abortions, finds the study conducted across 202 countries. While specifically focusing on how selective abortions by women impact the sex ratio, it focuses on 12 Asian and European countries which favour male babies.  

22.5 million females missing in China and India

Nearly 23.1 million females are missing due to sex-selective abortions in 12 Asian and European countries finds the five-year study. The study has revealed the largest differences in gender ratios from China and India. China currently has approximately 11.9 million missing females and India has approximately 10.6 million missing females

China had the worst sex ratio in 2005; less women to produce babies

The sex ratio in China was worst in 2005 where approximately 100 female bables were born in comparison to 118 male births.  Even though China lifted a law prohibiting more than one child per couple, population growth has continued to stagnate due to the lack of women to produce babies. 

Overall, sex ratio in India has declined from 903 in 2007 to 898 in 2018, as per Niti Aayog.

10 other countries with skewed sex-ratio

The other countries identified with sex ratio imbalance (SRB) were Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Montenegro, Taiwan, Tunisia and Vietnam.

What led to sex-selective abortion

Preference for sons and improved technology for prenatal sex diagnosis, along with declining fertility level are the three main factors that led to sex-selective abortion said the study citing a United Nations study. Legal medical abortion for several weeks after onset of pregnancy has also been misused. 

Fertility fell to low levels around the world that resulted in a “squeezing effect”. Sex-selective abortion is a way to avoid large families while still having a male child. Necessary conditions for the occurrence of sex-selective abortions include a large tolerance for induced abortion from both the population and the medical establishment, available techniques for early sex detection, and legal medical abortion for several weeks after onset of pregnancy.

An up-to-date systematic analysis for the SRB — one of the most fundamental demographic indicators — for all countries over time using all available data with reproducible estimation method is urgently needed.  So, this global assessment of natural variations in the sex ratio at birth done using a new estimation method must be considered while estimating population in the future for effective policy and programmes said University of Massachusetts Amherst biostatistician Leontine Alkema , associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, who led the study.


Sex ratio at birth in 2017 and the number of missing female births during 1970-2017

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories

India Environment Portal Resources :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.