LONDON, UK, Tue Mar 15, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - An analysis of sex-selective abortion in China, India and South Korea by Dr. Therese Hesketh of the UCL Centre for International Health and Development points to significant societal repercussions of the practice. According to Hesketh, these include increased violence and crime due to a 10% to 20% imbalance between the number of males and females born in these countries.
Dr. Hesketh and fellow researchers observed that in normal human populations the sex ratio at birth (SRB) is about 105 males born to every 100 females. However, with the advent of ultrasounds that enable sex-selective abortion, the sex ratio at birth in some cities in South Korea climbed to 125 by 1992 and is over 130 in several Chinese provinces.
“Because of China’s huge population, these ratios translate into very large numbers of excess males. In 2005 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,” the authors wrote.
In India, similar disparities exist, with sex ratios as high as 125 in large areas of the country.
“A consistent pattern in all three countries is the marked trend related to birth order and the influence of the sex of the preceding child,” stated the authors. “If the first child is a girl, couples will often use sex-selective abortion to ensure a boy in the second pregnancy, especially in areas where low fertility is the norm.”
The authors cite a large study in India that showed that for second births with one preceding girl the SRB is 132, and for third births with two previous girls it is 139, whereas sex ratios are normal where the previous child was a boy.
“In China this effect is even more dramatic,” the authors noted, “especially in areas where the rural population are allowed a second child only after the birth of a girl, as is the case in some central provinces.”
Dr. Hesketh said that the societal implications of a preference for boys and the resultant sex-selective abortion of girls mean that a significant percentage of the male population will not be able to marry or have children because of a scarcity of women.
“In China, 94% of unmarried people aged 28 to 49 are male, 97% of whom have not completed high school, and there are worries the inability to marry will result in psychological issues and possibly increased violence and crime,” the authors pointed out.
The authors considered the implications of the surplus of men who are unable to marry in societies where marriage is regarded as virtually universal, and where social status and acceptance depend, in large part, on being married and creating a new family.
“A number of assumptions have been made about the effects of the male surplus on these men,” the researchers explained.
“First, it has been assumed that the lack of opportunity to fulfill traditional expectations of marrying and having children will result in low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to a range of psychologic difficulties. It has also been assumed that a combination of psychologic vulnerability and sexual frustration may lead to aggression and violence in these men.”
“There is good empirical support for this prediction,” the authors stated. “Cross-cultural evidence shows that the overwhelming majority of violent crime is perpetrated by young, unmarried, low-status males. Because they may lack a stake in the existing social order, it is feared that they will become bound together in an outcast culture, turning to antisocial behaviour and organized crime, thereby threatening societal stability and security.”
The authors point to the expansion of the sex industry and human trafficking as another consequence, citing a study by JD Tucker published in the AIDS Journal, titled “Surplus men, sex work and the spread of HIV in China.”
“Realization of the potentially disastrous effects of this distortion in the sex ratio has led governments to take action. There are two obvious policy approaches: to outlaw sex selection and to address the underlying problem of son preference,” Dr. Hesketh said, adding that policy makers in China, India and South Korea have taken some steps to address the issue, such as instituting laws forbidding fetal sex determination and selective abortion. However, only in South Korea have these laws been strongly enforced.
“To successfully address the underlying issue of son preference is hugely challenging and requires a multifaceted approach,” stated the authors, noting that “despite the grim outlook for the generation of males entering their reproductive years over the next two decades, there are encouraging signs,” such as reports of declining sex ratio imbalances in some areas of the three countries studied.
“However, these incipient declines will not filter through to the reproductive age group for another two decades, and the SRBs in these countries remain high. It is likely to be several decades before the SRB in countries like India and China are within normal limits,” concluded the authors.
The full text of the study, titled, “The consequences of son preference and sex-selective abortion in China and other Asian countries” was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and is available here.