This discursive paper is intended to spell out the key issues, concerns, and challenges facing evidence-based policies and actions to address the practice of sex selection, in contexts where persistent gender discrimination and bias against girls and women provide a major impetus for the practice.
The evidence on which the paper is based is mainly derived from parts of East and South-Central Asia, where the practice is significant, and has been raising concern among governments, international agencies, and civil society. The paper does not focus per se on the practice of sex selection for family balancing purposes, which is known to exist in other parts of the world, although it makes some remarks about the need to sort out the evidence of gender biased versus non gender biased sex selection.
The time dimension of the paper is the period of the last three decades when the practice has become numerically significant, although it draws upon earlier historical and ethnographic evidence to highlight some critical aspects of causes and consequences. Its principal intention is not to provide an exhaustive review of either the literature or the evidence, but to identify key elements that are important to guide policies and actions for the future. It also points to gaps in the evidence and analysis that need to be filled in as soon as possible.
While the paper draws on evidence from different countries, most of the discussion of issues reflects on the Indian experience largely because of the availability of material in English, and because of my own familiarity with the evidence and the context.