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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs