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Sex selection in India and China is fostered by a limiting social structure that disallows women from performing the roles that men perform, and relegates women to a lower status level. Individual parents and individual families benefit concretely from having a son born into the family, while society, and girls and women as a group, are harmed by the widespread practice of sex selection. Sex selection reinforces oppression of women and girls. Sex selection is best addressed by ameliorating the situations of women and girls, increasing their autonomy, and elevating their status in society. One might argue that restricting or prohibiting abortion, prohibiting sex selection, and prohibiting sex determination would eliminate sex selective abortion. But this decreases women's autonomy rather than increases it. Such practices will turn underground. Sex selective infanticide, and slower death by long term neglect, could increase. If abortion is restricted, the burden is placed on women seeking abortions to show that they have a legally acceptable or legitimate reason for a desired abortion, and this seriously limits women's autonomy. Instead of restricting abortion, banning sex selection, and sex determination, it is better to address the practice of sex selection by elevating the status of women and empowering women so that giving birth to a girl is a real and positive option, instead of a detriment to the parents and family as it is currently. But, if a ban on sex selective abortion or a ban on sex determination is indeed instituted, then wider social change promoting women's status in society should be instituted simultaneously.
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Keywords: China; India; abortion; autonomy; reproduction; sex selection; women

Document Type: Discussion

Publication date: 2007-11-01

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