Millions of missing girls: from fetal sexing to high technology sex selection in India

Prenat Diagn. 2006 Jul;26(7):604-9. doi: 10.1002/pd.1475.


The morality and acceptability of using prenatal diagnosis for sex selection is being extensively debated around the world as advances in assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and embryology have enabled selective implantation of embryos of the desired sex (George and Dahiya, 1998; Savulescu, 1999; Raphael, 2002; Harris, 2005; Robertson, 2005; Snider, 2005). Sophisticated methods of separation of semen, originally developed for cattle breeding, are being used for human sex selection. Recently, non-invasive methods of fetal sex determination in the first trimester (from 6 weeks) of pregnancy have also emerged (Hahn and Chitty, 2005). Market forces that promote sex selection along with libertarian ideologues have assisted in blurring the ethical limits (Paul, 2001; President's Council on Bioethics, 2003). The widespread misuse of sex selection for eliminating girls before birth in India and among the Indian diaspora needs to be brought into the global 'intellectual discourse'. It is imperative that Western ethicists recognize the genocidal nature of sex selection taking place in certain Asian countries. Even if they believe that these trends will not affect mainstream Western societies, the promotion or tolerance of sex selection amounts to a 'crime of silence' against this ongoing genocide in China and India. I have been concerned with issues of the girl child in India for over two decades and sex selection among Asian Indians in North America (George et al., 1992; George et al., 1993; George and Dahiya, 1998). This article examines the missing millions of girls, but will not consider the 1980s campaign against fetal sex determination, Indian feminists' recognition of sex selection as violence against women (unlike several Western feminists, Moazam, 2004), or the Government's response to regulate prenatal diagnostic techniques in 1994 (George and Dahiya, 1998; George, 2002).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / ethics*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Culture*
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prejudice*
  • Sex Determination Analysis / ethics*
  • Sex Preselection / ethics*
  • Sex Ratio