One of the most under-reported stories of 2011 was the prevalence of prenatal sex-selection in countries in Eastern Europe and in former Soviet Union Republics like Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Council of Europe reported that these nations have sex selection ratios at birth of 112 for the three “A’s” and 111 for Georgia (i.e. 112 males are born for every 100 females), far above the norm of 105-6. This level is the same as India. China is at about 120. The imbalance in the sex ratio is caused by both the selection of a male embryo for implantation in assisted reproduction and sex selection abortion.
The results were set out by the Council of Europe Report: “Population imbalances, which are likely to create difficulties for men to find spouses, lead to serious human rights violations such as forced prostitution, trafficking for the purposes of marriage or sexual exploitation, and contribute to a rise in criminality and social unrest.”
Unnoted by the Council of Europe is the long term population decline in three of these countries. Albania’s population has fallen 7.7% in the past decade. Armenia’s and Georgia’s have fallen as well, both from emigration and smaller family size, while Azerbaijan’s, with its Muslim majority and tradition of larger family size, has been rising. In fact, much of Eastern Europe and the nations of the former Soviet Union are seeing absolute population declines from both emigration and smaller family size. China faced similar pressures with its One Child Policy, which forced many parents to chose a male heir, since they would have only one child. But Korea, with no One Child Policy and India similarly, ended up with imbalanced sex ratios, though smaller than China’s. Lack of perceived economic opportunity leads parents to curtail family size. Note the decline in childbirths in the US during the current economic difficulties.
The sex selection disease has not spread yet to Western Europe or the Western Hemisphere, but it is something that policy makers need to keep an eye on. Laws against revealing the sex of a fetus, in effect in India, do little good. A broader cultural change is needed. Korea showed that this could be done, when that country reversed its sex ratio problem through cultural messages on valuing girls. An interesting twist is in Japan where parents having one child prefer girls.
There are profound human biological forces at work in childbearing. Children are the parents’ future in more ways than one. This must be understood and respected, even as we strive to help parents see the alternatives.