United Nations says there would be some 117 million more women in Asia if sex-selection were not taking place. SBS's exclusive report discloses new data that suggests the practice of stopping female foetuses from being born is happening in Australia.
Friday 2 Sep 2016

In 2014, Diya -whose name has been changed to protect her identity- was living in Western Sydney with her new husband and parents-in-law. Soon after the family learned that Diya was expecting the first child, they began to pressure her to find out the gender. She resisted, fearing they could force her into terminating the pregnancy if the baby was a girl. 

"They kept forcing me so bad – ‘find out the sex - find out the sex!’. If it didn’t matter to them they wouldn’t have forced me that much...”

After months of trying to find out the gender, Diya’s mother-in-law eventually asked the doctor herself during Diya's ultrasound. But at that advance stage of her pregnancy an abortion was out of the question. 

Two months after the baby was born, Diya and her daughter found themselves out of the family home.

“I definitely think if it was a son (…) they wouldn’t have been so hard with my daughter that they kicked a two month old baby on the streets at night”

Indhira wants to have a boy

Indhira -whose name has been changed to protect her identity- has two girls and is pregnant again. SBS interviewed her the day before she went to have an ultrasound to discover the gender of the baby. 

In this interview she explains why having a boy is so important to her. 





Pallavi Jain - pallavi.jain@sbs.com.au 
Nila Liunila.liu@sbs.com.au 
Jitarth Bharadwaj - Jitarth.Bharadwaj@sbs.com.au
Florencia Melgar - Content coordinator
Mark Cummins - Content manager 



Female foeticide is the most widespread method of gender selection. It is the act of aborting a foetus because it’s a female.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) this kind of ‘gender biased pre-natal sex selection’ is the cause for the more than 100 million girls ‘missing’ from the world largely from Asia but also from some countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucuses.

How can experts be sure about this?

The number of ‘missing’ girls is calculated by a statistical parameter called sex ratio at birth (SRB). This ratio measures the proportion of girls and boys born over a certain period of time.

The ratio at birth is the number of boys born every 100 girls in the same period of time. UN says the standard biological level is between 102 and 106.

According to the UNFPA for every 100 girls that are born, the number of boys born in a population should normally be between 102 - 106. This means that for every 100 girls born in a population, the number of boys born should range from 102 boys to 106 boys.

Anything above 106 indicates the number of males being born is higher than the biological average which suggests sex selection could be taking place.

The UNFPA's website on pre-natal sex selection lists some countries where this ratio is skewed, including China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Albania and Montenegro.

UNFPA has also noted this ratio is abnormal in some parts of the Asian diaspora living in Europe and North America. 

To see if the practice has reached Australia, SBS commissioned data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing registered births to Australian parents between the years 2003 and 2013, broken down by the country of birth of both the mother and father.

The minimum number of cases considered to be statistically significant is 40,000, according to the ABS. The births within the Chinese and Indian communities in this period of time exceed this requirement: 42,300 Chinese births and Indian 59,800 births.

In Australia there were 105.7 male children born for every 100 female children between 2003 and 2013. However, over the same period, the figures show the number of boys born compared to girls is unusually high for Australian parents who were born in China or India.

For Chinese-born Australians there were 109.5 sons born for every 100 girls. For parents born in India the ratio was 108.2 boys for each 100 baby girls.

The numbers suggest there are some 1,400 fewer female children than the Australian average over these 11 years born to the Indian and Chinese communities in Australia. 

Listen to Christophe Guilmoto (Demographer at the French Research Institute for Development in Paris and one of the authors of the 2012 UNFPA report on sex selection in Asia), Nick Parr (Associate Professor in Demography at Macquarie University) and Gour Dasvarma (Director of Applied Population Studies program at Flinders University).

They explain how each of them arrived to the approximate number of 1,400 girls not born because of the gender.

While there could potentially be other migrant groups in Australia where pre-natal sex selection is taking place, SBS Radio's investigation focussed on the Chinese and the Indian communities.

SBS has obtained exclusive data which breaks down the number of boys and girls born to first generation Indian and Chinese parents between 2003 and 2013 in Australia.  

 Chinese descendants in Australia (2003 - 2013) 

Four demographers consulted by SBS agree the sex ratio at birth (SRB) data for babies born to Indian and Chinese parents shows skewed ratios.

Dr. Christophe Guilmoto, Demographer at the French Research Institute for Development in Paris and author of UNFPA report into gender preference; Dr. Nick Parr, Macquarie University’s Associate Professor in Demography; Dr. Gour Dasvarma, Flinders University’s Associate Professor in Population Studies; and Dr. Peter McDonald, Professor of Demography, Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia-Pacific, ANU, analised the ABS data.

The figures show the number of boys born compared to girls is unusually high for some overseas born parents in Australia: 109.5 boys for every 100 girls for Chinese-born Australians and 108.2 boys for every 100 girls for Indian-born Australians.  

However, all Australian births during that 11 year period shows an average sex birth ratio of 105.7 males for every 100 females.

Dr Nick Parr tells SBS: “there has to be some form of sex selection taking place and the most plausible explanation is that there is sex selective abortion occurring”.

Associate Professor in Population Studies at Flinders University, Adelaide, Dr. Gour Dasvarma:


Indian descendants in Australia (2003 - 2013)


The size of these migrant groups is large enough to provide statistically significant data. 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data includes 102,100 births (59% Indian and 41% Chinese), which exceeds the minimum of study cases requird to be statistically significant (40,000). 

Female foeticide is considered an acute problem in two of the most populous countries in the world, India and China.

According to United Nation’s estimates, the sex ratio at birth (SRB) in China between the years 2005-2010 was 117 males born to 100 females. In the corresponding period in India the ratio was 111 males per 100 females.

These figures have become progressively more skewed over the years. Between 1985 and 1990 the ratio in China was 109 boys for 100 females, while in India, it was 107 males per 100 females (UN estimates).

This is despite the fact that pre-natal diagnostic techniques were banned both in India and China many years ago.

Pre-natal sex determination and pre-implantation sex selection In China were banned in 1989 (CQ Resarcher). India passed the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act (PNDT) in 1994.

Campaigns against female foeticide

In January 2015 India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, launched the “Save the Girl” campaign to stop the practice of female foeticide.

In June 2015 the hashtag #selfiewithdaughter created in an Indian village, began trending on Twitter, after Prime Minister Modi called for people across the country to join in and share pictures taken with their daughters.

There are several worldwide campaigns against the practice of female foeticide and sex selection. Three of them are "Gendercide Watch", "Global Girl Power" and "50 million missing". 

On the local level, China implemented a 5-year plan to combat the practice in 2011 and launched a campaign called "Care for Girls" in 2014.

In India, the campaign "Let Girls Be Born" is one of the biggest efforts to stop the practice of sex selection.  

Monday 17 Aug 2015

Prospective parents from certain ethnic communities in Australia may be aborting female foetuses in order to prioritise the birth of boys, according to an investigation by SBS Radio.

Based on an analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data over 11 years, experts suggest sex-selective abortion in some ethnic communities in Australia, has begun to create lopsided ratios of boys to girls.

Learn more about gender selection in Australia, produced by SBS Radio

(Nick Parr at SBS studio)

This investigative report was produced by SBS journalist Pallavi Jain, with the collaboration of SBS journalists Nila Liu and Jitarth Bharadwaj.

Pallavi Jain - pallavi.jain@sbs.com.au 
Nila Liu - nila.liu@sbs.com.au 
Jitarth Bharadwaj - jitarth.bharadwaj@sbs.com.au  

Thursday 6 Aug 2015

A doctor based in Australia told SBS, exclusively on the condition of anonymity, that female foeticide is happening in Australia.

Listen to the interview (the name has been changed to protect the identity)

Sunday 2 Aug 2015

Dr Christophe Guilmoto has worked extensively with United Nations on the issue of gender selection. According to Dr Guilmoto there is no doubt that Sex Ratios at Birth (SRB) among Chinese and Indians are skewed in Australia for the period 2003-2013.Dr Christophe Guilmoto.


Dr Guilmoto says one can even compute the number of "missing female births" in these two communities. To do so, he compares the expected number of female births (with a normal Australian SRB) with the observed number of female births in the two communities. By his calculations he estimates a total of 1395 missing female births during 2003-2013.

Dr Guilmoto says this number corresponds to the female births "avoided" by sex selection (presumably by sex selective abortions or pre-implantation selection) and that the proportion would be higher if we were to restrict the analysis to higher-order births (2nd, 3rd or 4th child in the family) since the SRB of first or second births are usually normal.