A recent study projected gender imbalances at birth between 2021 and 2100. Researchers say a dozen countries will lose millions of women by the turn of the century.
Countries with an asymmetric sex ratio
For the past 50 years, gender-specific abortions in countries like China and India have caused a “shortage of women”. The numbers are staggering as there is talk of a range between 23 and 45 million women. A study published in BMJ Global Health on August 2, 2021 estimates that these same countries will lose another 4.7 million female births within the next decade. The team of researchers from the United States, Singapore, India and Saudi Arabia developed a model based on 3.26 billion birth certificates in 204 territories. They identified a dozen countries showing evidence of skewed sex ratios and seventeen other countries that will potentially point in the same direction.
In addition to China and India, the list of countries affected by faulty sex ratios includes Armenia, Vietnam, Albania and Azerbaijan. Among the countries that may come to this kind of situation in the future, we find Pakistan, Tanzania and Egypt.
Towards an improvement?
According to the model discussed in the study, the twelve most affected countries with 95% of missing births will lose a total of 5.7 million women by 2100. This is a small amount. in view of what has been lost since 1970, when it was possible to determine the sex of the child before birth. Despite this, according to the study’s authors, this lack of women will have lasting cultural and societal consequences. Moreover, these consequences are already visible in China and India where men outnumber 70 million women than women. Cases of loneliness are legion, as are cases of violence and trafficking in women, including prostitution.
There is, however, a glimmer of hope. Indeed, the twelve countries in question are now showing signs of recovery. In general, these countries have seen their gender imbalances start to slow down. Governments have encouraged people to accept more female births and have imposed restrictions on selective abortions. Another example is China, where couples can now have up to three children. Nevertheless, the researchers indicate that more measures must be adopted in order to achieve a complete rebalancing of the sexes in these twelve countries. Moreover, if the other seventeen countries really take the same path, it will cause 22 million new female births missing by 2100.
Obviously, the scenario evoked in the study remains hypothetical in many respects. However, this problem is very real. The researchers emphasize in particular that in addition to selective abortions, there are many infanticides. The eventual change in behavior is difficult to predict, but one thing is certain: these kinds of acts impact the well-being of the people of a country. Countries where it is generally preferred to have boys must therefore address what prompts families to make this choice. Indeed, sexist prejudices are not only family, but also institutional.