Sex-Selective Abortions in India

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Abstract

Provisional estimates from the 2001 census of India, which showed unusually high sex ratios for young children, have sparked renewed concern about the growing use of sex-selective abortions to satisfy parental preferences for sons. According to the 1998–99 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-2), in recent years the sex ratio at birth in India has been abnormally high (107–121 males per 100 females) in 16 of India's 26 states. Data from NFHS-2 on abortions, sex ratios at birth, son preference, and the use of ultrasound and amniocentesis during pregnancy present compelling evidence of the extensive use of sex-selective abortions, particularly in Gujarat, Haryana, and Punjab. The authors estimate that in the late 1990s more than 100,000 sex-selective abortions of female fetuses were being performed annually in India. Recent efforts to expand and enforce government regulations against this practice may have some effect, but they are not likely to be completely successful without changes in the societal conditions that foster son preference.

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