EPRSLibrary By / March 20, 2012


Updated on 25 September 2013 The widespread preference for sons is deeply rooted in many cultures. Socio-economic developments, together with…

Image Copyright: attem, used under licence from Shutterstock.com

Updated on 25 September 2013

The widespread preference for sons is deeply rooted in many cultures. Socio-economic developments, together with much greater accessibility of prenatal diagnostics, has resulted, mainly through sex-selective abortion, in a huge gap between male and female populations. According to various estimates, between 160 and 200 million women are “missing”, measured against demographic norms, mostly in Asian countries such as India and China. And this phenomenon is spreading to other parts of the world as well; the Caucasus, Balkans and also Latin American countries are already concerned. There will be many long-term consequences, some of them global. Some scholars point to the risk of social unrest and increased criminality in the regions affected by the deficit in women. Women-trafficking and forced prostitution will also increase. Millions of men unable to find wives in their own countries will be potential migrants.


Unnatural selection: choosing boys over girls, and the consequences of a world full of men / Hvistendahl Mara, Public Affairs, 2011, 314 p.
“Gender imbalance reaches far beyond Asia, affecting Georgia, Eastern Europe, and cities in the U.S. where there are significant immigrant populations. The world, therefore, is becoming increasingly male, and this mismatch is likely to create profound social upheaval.”
This book is available in the EP Library.

UNFPA guidance note on prenatal sex selection / UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund, 2010, 13 p.
The UN Population Fund is looking into the causes and consequences of sex selection and skewed sex ratio, and provides policy recommendations.
Please see as well FAQs on sex selection updated on 15.06.2011, 4 p.


Image Copyright: attem, used under licence from Shutterstock.com

Gendercide – the missing women? / Anu Liisanantti; Karin Beese, European Parliament Policy Department, Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union, 2012, 39 p.
“With a focus on China and India, where skewed sex ratios have been highlighted by the international community and recognised by their governments, this study reviews the key literature exploring the causes, current trends and consequences of sex selective practices.”

When technology and tradition collide: from gender bias to sex selection / Kate Gilles, Charlotte Feldman-Jacobs, Population Reference Bureau, Policy Brief, September 2012, 6 p.
“This brief focuses on the motivations and mechanisms behind the increase of prenatal sex selection; outlines regions and countries that have skewed sex ratios at birth; and explores the negative social, economic,and development effects on individuals, communities, societies, and countries.”

The global war against baby girls / Nicholas Eberstadt, The New Atlantis: a Journal of Technology & Society, 2011, 16 p.
China, Vietnam and India: The author looks at the basic geo-demography of imbalanced sex ratios at birth, its consequences and social implications.

Gendercide? A commentary on The Economist’s report about the worldwide war on baby girls / Dahl Edgar, Journal of Evolution & Technology, October 2010, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p. 20-22, 3 p.
A critical analysis of an article published by The Economist: Gendercide: the worldwide war on baby girls /4 March 2010.

Disappearing daughters and intensification of gender bias: evidence from two village studies in South India / T.V. Sekher and Neelambar Hatti, Sociological Bulletin 59 (1), January – April 2010, pp. 111-133
“Based on a study of two villages from low-fertility regions of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, this paper attempts to understand the factors responsible for the increasing discrimination against girls.”

Longer-term disruptions to demographic structures in China and India resulting from skewed sex ratios at birth / Christophe Z. Guilmoto, Asian Population Studies, 25.03.2010, 23 p.
“This paper presents population forecasts for China and India till 2100. The rise in sex ratios at birth in these countries has been observed to be the longest-running and most pronounced in Asia. The paper is based on different hypotheses on the future evolution of birth masculinity in each of these countries. These hypotheses are derived from an examination of present trends across Asia.”

Stakeholder views

European Parliament

EP report Gendercide: the missing women? (2012/2273(INI)) / Rapporteur: Antigoni Papadopoulou, Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, 2013

EP resolution of 13 December 2012 on the annual report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2011 and the European Union’s policy on the matter / Texts adopted P7_TA(2012)0503, 13 December 2012, Strasbourg
Point 129 in the chapter on women’s rights calls for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, including, most prominently, the gender-selected abortion.

EP resolution Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Development Cooperation / Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0103, Thursday, 13 March 2008, Strasbourg
The EP draws the attention to the Report of the UNFPA on the State of the World Population (2007), according to which there is a global deficit of 60 000 000 women in the world, and that these “missing” females have been prenatally sex-selected, aborted, and infanticised out of existence (see point 37).

International organisations

Sex imbalances at birth in Armenia: Demographic evidence and analysis / Christophe Z. Guilmoto IRD, CEPED Paris, UNFPA, Yerevan 2013, 78 p.
The prenatal sex selection in Armenia and the demographic analysis in the regional context.

Report of the international workshop on skewed sex ratios at birth: addressing the issue and the way forward / UNFPA, 05.10.2011, 48 p.
The workshop, organized by the Ministry of Health of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the United Nations Population Fund, aimed to address the issue of imbalanced sex ratio at birth and evidences geographic trends and country situations in Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans.

Preventing gender-biased sex selection: an interagency statement – OHCHR, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and WHO / World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, 2011, 26 p.
More general information on the WHO page can be found in the chapter on Sex Selection and Discrimination

Prenatal sex selection / Council of Europe, Report, Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, Rapporteur: Ms Doris Stump, Switzerland, Socialist Group, Doc. 12715, 16 September 2011, 19 p. (Recommendation 1979/2011 on Prenatal sex selection)

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action / The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing from 4 to 15 September 1995
In September 1995 the governments participating in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing have adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with the main goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere.
For more documents – please see UN web-page on: Beijing and its Follow-up

UNFPA links collection on Sex ration imbalance with news, updates, media reports on UNFPA initiatives and country specific resources.


Total population by sex in 2013 and sex ratio by country in 2013 (medium variant) / United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables
Population, total and by sex (in thousands) and sex ratio (males per 100 females)

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