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Sex selection: is a universal approach ethical or appropriate?

This article compares legal frameworks governing sex selection, attitudes to sex selection, birth ratios of girls and boys, and the social and economic status of women in China, India, Canada and Germany, to assess the reasons for prohibitions on sex selection. Scientifically reliable methods for sex selection are widely used around the world, but the reasons for testing, the context in which they are used and attitudes to their use vary greatly. Sex selection to detect sex-linked genetic disorders is widely accepted. Sex selection for family balancing is sometimes perceived as ethically acceptable, as it is not necessarily discriminatory and will not disturb population-level sex ratios. Most objections to sex selection are associated with son-preference in countries such as India and China where sex selection represents and perpetuates discrimination against girls and women and is seriously distorting sex ratios. Steps that have been taken in both India and China to outlaw sex selection, but in countries like these, where there is social, economic, religious, political and cultural discrimination against women, son preference is rational and legal prohibitions on reproductive choice will not eradicate son-preference or the desire to sex-select children alone. Women's security and health might be jeopardised further by prohibition of sex selection, either by removing the financial security that having a son would bring or by forcing the woman to undergo more pregnancies to have a son. It is not necessarily appropriate or useful to apply blanket prohibitions of sex selection which neither recognise that it can be used in non-discriminatory ways nor solve the problem of social injustice. (1)

(1.) Dickens B, Serour GI, Cook RJ, et al. Sex selection: treating different cases differently. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 2005;90:171-77.
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Title Annotation:ROUND UP: Law and Policy
Publication:Reproductive Health Matters
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Words:286
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