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In China, India, sex selection means there are too many males

March 14, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
  • Sex selection is used in China to ensure male babies.
Sex selection is used in China to ensure male babies. (Jianan Yu / Reuters )

Sex selection in parts of China and India will produce a 10% to 20% excess in males in the next 20 years, according to a new study.

Many couples in China, India and South Korea prefer sons. This cultural pattern combined with the use of ultrasound technology for sex selection over the past two decades has produced the shift, said the authors of an analysis published Monday in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Assn. In nature, about 105 males are born to every 100 females. However, that ratio has exceeded 130 to 100 in several Chinese provinces. In India, some areas have sex ratios of 125 males to 100 females.

The study showed that birth order is influencing the trend. If the first- or second-born children are girls, sex selection is often used to ensure the third child is male. All of these countries have laws against sex-selective abortion, but the laws are rarely enforced.

The trend is not without major social implications. Many more men will be unable to marry, said the authors of the study, from the University College London Centre for International Health and Development. Violence, crime and psychological problems are expected to rise because of the imbalance. The problem cannot be ignored, they wrote.

"Nothing can realistically be done to reduce the current excess of young males, but much can be done to reduce sex selection now, which will benefit the next generation," they wrote. In China, a public campaign is already underway to promote gender equality and the advantages of having female children. China has also started to relax its one-child policy.

Related: Science little help in lightening load of pregnancy myths

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