UN urges end to Asian preference for male heirs

14th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

UN agencies on Tuesday urged an end to Asia's preference for sons, saying it perpetuates discrimination and violation of women's rights.

"Gender-biased sex selection reflects and fuels a culture of discrimination and violence, and must be addressed urgently by all segments of government and society as a matter of women's human rights," said five UN agencies in a joint statement.

The agencies noted that there is a "huge pressure on women to produce sons... which not only directly affects women's reproductive decisions... but also puts women in a position where they must perpetuate the lower status of girls through son preference."

Women can be divorced if they fail to produce boys and the discovery of female foetus can lead to its abortion, they noted.

"States have an obligation to ensure that these injustices are addressed without exposing women to the risk of death or serious injury by denying them access to needed services such as safe abortion to the full extent of the law, and other healthcare services," said the UN agencies.

The five agencies, including Unicef, the World Health Organisation, UN Women, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Population Fund, had released the statement after studying the evidence behind this preference for sons in many parts of Asia.

The latest census in China found 118.06 males were born to every 100 baby girls over the last decade, an imbalance often attributed to the Chinese preference for male heirs.

Provisional 2011 census data released at the end of March also painted a bleak picture of India's gender imbalance, with a national child sex ratio of just 914 females to 1,000 males, the lowest figure since independence in 1947.

© 2011 AFP

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