Sex selection: the systematic elimination of girls

Reprod Health Matters. 2002 May;10(19):184-8. doi: 10.1016/s0968-8080(02)00029-0.


In strongly patriarchal societies, where the cultural and economic value of sons is at a premium, son preference manifests itself in many ways, ranging from differential allocation of household resources, medical care and neglect of girl children to female infanticide. With the increasing availability of ultrasound in the mid-1980s sex determination followed by sex-selective abortion began to become widespread as well. The following paper introduces this Roundtable and discusses the following questions: Is sex selection a part of women's right to free choice and control over their reproduction? What is the role of the medical profession? Are all manifestations of sex selection equally unethical? Are there solutions? Do the solutions themselves pose new ethical dilemmas? Following this paper, four respondents put different points of view on sex selection as a gender-based preference for a pregnancy; progress in getting the Supreme Court of India to implement a 1994 law regulating the use of antenatal diagnostic technology; why sex selection should be available as a form of reproductive choice; and why sex selection may be empowering for women and justify their actions in the short run, given the demands on them. All agree that only improved status for women and girls will reduce the demand for sex selection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced
  • Bioethics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prejudice
  • Sex Determination Analysis
  • Sex Preselection*
  • Sex Ratio
  • Social Dominance