In her new book "Unnatural Selection," Science writer Mara Hvistendahl examines how the trend toward choosing boys over girls through sex-selective abortions has spread through the developing world, particularly in Asia. Coining the term "Generation XY," Hvistendahl provides the grim results of sex selection: while the natural sex ratio at birth is 105 boys born for every 100 girls, in India the figure has risen to 112 boys and in China, 121. The Chinese city of Lianyungang actually recorded 163 boys per 100 girls in 2007.
The shortage of women is already giving rise to deep societal problems. New markets have been created for women in Asia, including wedding agencies that arrange marriages between South Korean men and women often from poorer nearby countries like Vietnam, that now account for 11% of all marriages in South Korea. There is also a growing practice of child marriage in China, where wealthier families buy young girls to secure wives for their sons early. And with so many surplus men (e.g., up to a fifth of men will be single in northwestern India by 2020), she suggests that the excess testosterone could lead to raised levels of crime and violence.
But what distinguishes Hvistendahl's book from other similar reports is that, as the Guardian notes in a profile today, she "lays the blame squarely on western governments and businesses that have exported technology and pro-abortion practices without considering the consequences," unlike other accounts, that solely basing sex selection on cultural practices.
Amniocentesis and ultrasound scans have had largely positive applications in the west, where they have been used to detect fetal abnormalities. But exported to Asia and eastern Europe they have been intricately linked to an explosion of sex selection and a mushrooming of female abortions.