News / Asia

UN Warns Gender Imbalances Growing in Asia

Mothers cuddle their babies as they undergo medical checkup at Cainta Town Hall at Cainta township, Rizal province east of Manila, Philippines, October 8, 2009.Mothers cuddle their babies as they undergo medical checkup at Cainta Town Hall at Cainta township, Rizal province east of Manila, Philippines, October 8, 2009.
x
Mothers cuddle their babies as they undergo medical checkup at Cainta Town Hall at Cainta township, Rizal province east of Manila, Philippines, October 8, 2009.
Mothers cuddle their babies as they undergo medical checkup at Cainta Town Hall at Cainta township, Rizal province east of Manila, Philippines, October 8, 2009.
BANGKOK — A U.N. report on gender imbalances says the continuing preference for boy children, especially in India and China, is leading increasing numbers of families to use prenatal sex selection.  Researchers warn that the phenomenon is gaining favor in more countries.

The new United Nations Population Fund report says gender selection practices are showing signs of increase in Southeast Asia, as well as Bangladesh and Afghanistan and Eastern European states of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and Montenegro.

The report, released to coincide with an Asia Population Conference, says practices of sex selection have resulted in an alarming trend of “demographic masculinization” in regions and will adversely impact communities for at least five decades.

The selection of boy children has been driven by local cultures, access to medical ultrasound technology and official government policies limiting numbers of children to families.

The report says, "In 2010, researchers estimated the gender gap at around 117 million women “missing” - mostly in China and India. Researchers say that could mean by 2030 in those two countries there may be 50 percent more men than women among single people seeking to marry."

The report’s author, Christophe Guilmoto, a senior fellow at the Paris-based Center for Population and Development, says policy planners must focus on addressing the excess of male births in communities over the coming decades.

“These men will be young adults and they will find themselves outnumbering women. So of we consider that they were traditionally - especially in like India and China - expected to marry - then they will have a serious problem," he said. "They will what we call “marriage squeeze” and it will directly impact the probability or the ability of men to marry and especially men of lower socio-economic background.”

China is the major contributor to the growing imbalances with very high levels of boy children exceeding girls in Anhui, Fujian and Hainan provinces. The report says, in several areas, the sex ratio of second-tier births far exceeds normal levels with proportion of male births representing two thirds in some rural areas. Guilmoto says communities will face wide ranging problems.

“We’re talking about several millions of people as I say pile up on the marriage market. Millions of men who are unable to marry and we see them already in Shanghai, in cities in Eastern China and for whom it is very difficult;  but we are going to see big time in 10 years with no comparison with what we see today,” Guilmoto added.

In India, while gender disparities are lower than in China because of higher fertility rates, the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh all report above average gender imbalances.

Arpita Das, from the Mumbai-based International Institute for Population Sciences, says Indian women undergoing repeated abortions seeking a boy child, also place their health at risk - even infertility.

“In India, the sex ratio is very distorted and may be this is the reason for sex selection abortion; and if women [undertake] two or three abortions for the sex selection they my face the problem of their own fertility,” she said.

Deepti Singh, also from the Mumbai-based Institute says it has been a tradition for Indian women to favor a boy child.

“If they are having one girl child, then they really don’t want to go for another girl child, just because of son preference," explained Singh. "They want a boy because of traditional practices, because we have a tradition in India, boys should be born in a family. So this is the main reason for repeated induced abortions and especially if it’s a girl.”

Although abortion is legal in India, many women of poor background may seek a termination by non-registered health workers because of cost involved.

But speakers at the conference say wealthier urban women may undergo repeated terminations in a bid to have a boy child for status.

Singh says the practice of sex selection has continued in India, despite being banned. She says India’s tradition of a dowry for the husband’s family, despite being illegal, is another reason for women to end a pregnancy.

“Most of the sex selection abortions, we have to stop sex selection first of all which is actually banned but not really. This is a very important thing, but poverty is the one of the main reason because the dowry system is very prominent in India," Singh stated. "So people should be educated and poverty should be alleviated from this system.”

Guilmoto, from the Center for Population and Development, says the looming gender imbalances could hasten the breakdown of the current rigid social hierarchies preventing marriages between people of differing backgrounds and classes.  

“Obviously, the marriage market will have to open up further. In India the strict caste regulation for marriage will have to go, the dowry system also prevailing in India will probably have to go because why would you pay to get married to a man when there is already a shortage of women? So it’s pure economics,"

Guilmoto says current traditions of family in regions - such as family name, inheritance rules, divorce rights - will also need to adjust as men are unable to marry or marry later in life.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid