Planned impact

Son preference and associated reproductive practices are of interest to a variety of academic disciplines, including demography (methods to evidence son preference, population gender imbalances, population dynamics), broader social sciences (gender inequalities, family structures and dynamics, social and gender theories), the medical profession (prenatal sex diagnostics, IVF gender selection, public health), ethics (freedom of choice, agency, gender justice framework), law and political sciences (policy framing, legislation around gender selection). The project will shed unprecedented insights into various aspects of son preference that are of wide academic interest.

Beyond academia, this project will provide currently unavailable data, knowledge and methodologies that speak to the demand of policy makers and civil society. Resolution 1829 of the Council of Europe calls on member states to: ‘collect the sex ratio at birth, monitor its development and take prompt action to tackle possible imbalances; encourage research on sex ratios at birth trends, on the causes of son preference and its social consequences among specific communities; encourage national ethics bodies to elaborate and introduce guidelines for medical staff.’ The interagency statement ‘Preventing gender-biased sex selection’ of the OHCHR, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and WHO recommended actions include: the production of more reliable data,, the development of indicators tracking change; qualitative studies that explore the contextual realities that underlie sex-selection; elaborate and implement policies to address the root causes of son preference. In the UK, the Serious Crime Act 2015, section 84 (UK) asks the Secretary of State to ‘assess the evidence on termination of pregnancy on the grounds of the sex of the foetus; to promote change in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour, which are based on the idea of the inferiority of women and which may amount to pressure to seek a termination on the grounds of the sex of the foetus; and to promote guidance to service providers, health professionals and other stakeholders.’ The project will contribute to inform envisaged government policy on pre-natal sex selection in the UK.