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Sex Selection: Pervasiveness and Preparedness in Nepal
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In Nepal, as in many Asian countries, son preference is very strong, due to the country’s longstanding patriarchal social structure. According to the 2001 census, sex ratios (computed as the number of males per 100 females) for those younger than 1 year of age were over 106 in seven districts in the Tarai plains and one hill district. This study subsequently aimed to identify the
incidences, causes and determinants of pre-natal sex selection in four of these eight districts. Three of the four districts (Dhanusha, Parsa, Kapilbastu) lie in the Tarai belt bordering India, while the fourth district (Gorkha) lies in the central hills. In addition, the study examined the situation in three border
routes connecting Nepal with major towns in India, and in Kathmandu Metropolitan City, to assess the availability and accessibility of pre-natal sex-selection technologies in these areas. A combination of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies was used in the study. Semi-structured interviews were held with health providers and other key informants, and focus-group discussions were held with husbands, mothers-in-law and married women. The locations of clinics offering pre-natal sex-selection services were mapped, and in-depth interviews were carried out with women who had undergone pre-natal sex selection. The survey of 2,644 married women age 15-49 was based on a multi-staged modified cluster sampling technique (see appendix). Data collection was carried out between July and early August 2007. The evidence gathered by the study established that the majority of survey respondents (57 per cent) were aware of ultrasound technology, and knew where to obtain such tests. Women who were aware about ultrasound technology were about twice as likely to seek pre-natal sex determination as those who were unaware of such technology. In Nepal, ultrasound services are largely concentrated in Kathmandu city, but are also quite accessible in the urban areas within the four study districts and their adjoining districts. Such services are also available in Indian border towns,even though pre-natal sex selection is illegal in India.
The qualitative research findings identified culturally defined folklore that glorifies sons and disfavours daughters. For the most part, daughters were said to be necessary only to perform household chores. Sons, on the other hand, were said to be prized for continuing the family lineage, for providing economic support and old-age security, and for performing their parents’ last rites.
The study found that there are great pressures on young married women to give birth to a son. Those women who have given birth to two or more daughters consecutively are under particularly high pressure, often in the form of threats from their mothers-in-law and husbands. Such women have no choice but to become pregnant repeatedly until a son is born. Statistically, the practice of pre-natal sex determination and sex-selective abortion was found to be very low in the study population. Only 3 percent (74 women) of the ever-pregnant , women who have been pregnant irrespective of the outcome of the pregnancy; women had ever sought pre-natal sex-determination tests; and only 14 percent of the women who had ever had an induced abortion had done so after pre-natal sex determination. The study subsequently points to pre-natal sex selection currently being at a preliminary stage in Nepal, in contrast to India and China, where it is a widespread phenomenon. However, it is well known that legal sanctions against sex selection have not stopped medical practitioners and ultrasound operators in Nepal from providing these services. As such, this study recommends implementing national policies and programmes that can contribute to promoting gender equity, diminish socio-cultural and religious practices that manifest gender discrimination, and protect the reproductive rights of every Nepalese woman.
#SexPreference #PrenatalSexSelection
UNFPA ,   (2007 )
Type / Script:
Progress Report in English
Thematic Group:
 UNFPA : Population studies
08.01.00  -  Population Dynamics
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