Like India, the Eastern European countries with skewed sex ratios have also embraced free market capitalism with gusto while bearing far fewer children. This, in itself, does not lead to sex selection, but combined with intense son preference it does. If you have just two children there is a 25 per cent chance that you will end up without a son – no joke in a patriarchal society fixated on male offspring.
China’s one child policy, in place since 1979, is often blamed for female infanticide and high levels of sex selective abortion. But according to China expert and paediatrician Therese Hesketh, the policy has had only a marginal impact on the sex ratio. ‘It is not clear that lack of a policy would help,’ she says. Indeed, the data shows that sex selection is highest in areas where people have been allowed to have a second child if the first is a girl.