The horrifying practice of sex selection is going to cost us 5 million girls in the years to come

Photo taken in Bandung, Indonesia
Kharis Muhamad / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

What do you get when you leave sexist men to aggressively shape societies to fit their patriarchal worldview? To no one’s surprise, an utter shit show. A study published on Monday found that the longstanding practice of aborting female fetuses will cause 4.7 million fewer girls to be born over the next decade than there would be otherwise — which could have major repercussions, Insider reported.

A research team from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia started with a database of more than three billion birth records from 204 countries spanning 50 years, Insider explained. They then homed in on figures from 29 countries with a documented preference for sons.

Sex selection — achieved primarily through abortions based on the predicted sex of the baby — has already tilted the birth-assigned sex ratio of infants toward males in several countries since the 1970s, according to the study. The researchers found that the male-to-female ratio had risen since 1970 in 12 countries, including China and India, and predicted an increase in this ratio in 17 other countries, including Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Based on the their statistical models, sex selection — if allowed to continue — would result in a shortage of more than 4.7 million female births between 2021 and 2030, which could hit 22 million by 2100. Their findings appeared in the journal BMJ Global Health.

A society that skews heavily male could result in what the study authors called a “marriage squeeze,” which China is already experiencing, according to Insider. The outlet explained that the country’s one-child policy led many families to carry only male fetuses to term, leading to “bare branches,” a phenomenon referring to the roughly 35 million involuntary bachelors in China.

If you think it’s bad when your relatives ask about your dating life during the holidays, Insider previously reported that some of these single dudes have resorted to hiring fake girlfriends to save face in front of their families.

As anyone who’s witnessed a testosterone-fueled bar or sports fight can attest, a society dominated by cis men could also devolve into chaos. “Fewer-than-expected females in a population could result in elevated levels of antisocial behaviour and violence, and may ultimately affect long-term stability and social sustainable development,” the researchers noted in the study.

Worldwide, men already outnumber women, who make up 49.6% of the population, per World Bank data cited by Insider. In the United Arab Emirates, that figure is only 30.9%.

In their paper, the study authors underscored the need to challenge the gender norms that underlie practices like prenatal sex selection. If there’s any good news from these findings, it's that we still have time to tip the scales.