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Gender preference leads to imbalance in Asian countries
March 14th, 2011
05:38 PM ET

Gender preference leads to imbalance in Asian countries

A preference for sons in some Asian countries has been well documented for centuries. Now a study suggests the practice has led to significant imbalances in the male/female population in China, South Korea and India that could have long-lasting implications.

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, over the next 20 years, this practice will lead to an excess of males—between 10%-20% in large parts of China and India.

The sex ratio at birth (SRB)—the number of boys born to every 100 girls—is typically 105 males to 100 females. But since the 1980s, the availability of ultrasound technology has spurred sex selection, particularly in countries where males are highly prized.

South Korea was the first to report a high SRB due to sex selection.
By 1992 their SRB was 125. In Northern India, disparities were just as high.

Researchers say in China, the one-child policy has contributed to the
rising SRB. They say the country’s huge population means a large
excess of males. By 2005, China's SRB was 121.

“In 2005 in China, it was estimated that 1.1 million excess males were born across the country and that the number of males under the age of 20 years exceeded the number of females by around 32 million,” said Therese Hesketh, study author and professor, UCL Centre for International Health and Development, London, United Kingdom.

In rural areas of China where a second child is permitted if the first born is a girl, the use of sex-selection abortion to make sure the second child was a boy is common.

The problem with all this researchers say, is that there can be consequences to an imbalanced sex ratio.  Many of these men will not marry or have children in a society where marriage is universal. These men, researchers say, may be psychologically vulnerable and prone to depression, aggressive behavior and violence.

Solutions to the problem, researchers say begin with government-led public education campaigns, reducing sex selection and addressing the long-standing attitudes of son preference. They say while this won’t help reduce the current imbalances, it will help future generations.

These campaigns have led to some reductions in SRBs in South Korea and China. “However, these incipient decline will not filter through to the reproductive age group for another two decades, and the SRBs in these countries remain high,” Hesketh said. “It is likely to be several decades before the SRB in countries like India and China are within normal limits.”

And while China, India and South Korea all have laws that now prohibit fetal sex determination and sex-selective abortions, only South Korea, the study says, strongly enforces that law.


soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Rily

    I've always wondered how the mothers who have these gender selective abortions really feel about it. I can't imagine it doesn't hurt to the core, yet it is still so common a practice. Then the governments make it SO difficult for people from foreign countries to come over and adopt, and that hurts even more people.

    March 14, 2011 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. David Woelke

    I would appreciate some clarification. Last week the Korean news announced that for the first time in its history, females now outnumber males.

    March 14, 2011 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • suzeraine

      Did they specify ages? Females generally live longer, so even if there were fewer born, if they hang around longer...add to that, the older females we'd be talking about were born way before gender selection was possible.

      March 15, 2011 at 01:16 | Report abuse |
    • jose

      yes ,i think this is wrong about korea,now korea is a developed country,is not the same as china and india

      March 15, 2011 at 18:24 | Report abuse |
  3. tensor

    The larger question is, of course, how on earth can any culture prefer males over females, given the last 2,000 of human history.

    March 15, 2011 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • joemck

      I'll tell you why, Cause if women ruled the world, human males would almost certainly be an option at the deli counter. I do mean literally, so we're kind of stuck in place.

      March 15, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
  4. Glen

    Omg. Why argue over this?

    March 15, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Juwi

    The grief experienced by the men who can't find wives is tragic. It's better to follow the natural order of things, and let all babies be born that are conceived. Each one is a unique human being and personality that won't be replicated. Each one deserves to be born, to enjoy life, and experience happiness, after all, aren't YOU glad you were born?

    March 16, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Smug Guy

    I wouldn't mind being the meaty selection for ravenous female over lords. They can work all day while I clean and watch tv or go to the gym to stay nice and firm. I will prepare dinner and massage them while they dine on the fillet mignon I prepared her. Then with all that extra energy I have left I will draw a bath and please my amazon master before she sleeps and after she wakes up. Doesn't sound bad eh fellas? Then we wouldn't have to worry if our amazon female is having an affair with the pool boy, because it will be a pool girl and we will be doinking her. Yay women's lib! ;)

    March 16, 2011 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.