Bring back the girls

  SEX-SELECTIVE abortions are used round the world to discriminate in favour of boys. But not in Africa. Nigeria’s sex ratio at birth is the natural one: 106 boys are born for every 100 girls (boys are more vulnerable to infant diseases, so this ratio ensures that equal numbers of the sexes reach puberty). By contrast, at its worst, China had 120 boys for every 100 girls. Moreover, in Nigeria, there are plenty of both: the fertility rate is 6.0, meaning the average woman can expect to have six children, or three sons. Parents have no need of extra measures to ensure boys are born.

Yet despite all this, a recent study* finds that Nigeria also suffers from sexual bias from birth and that, while this does not skew the sex ratio, it manifests itself in other ways that harm individuals and society as a whole. Son-preference damages maternal health, makes marriage trickier for women, increases polygamy and alters the institution of child-fostering, which is widespread in west Africa.

In Nigeria, as in many other African countries, men have stronger ownership rights over land than women do. This gives everyone an economic need for sons, including women, who face a grim widowhood without one. The need for sons changes fertility patterns. According to the latest demographic and health survey (financed by the American government), women whose first child is a daughter are likely to have more children than those whose first child is a son. They are less likely to use contraceptives. And, if their first three children are daughters, they are very likely to have a fourth very quickly (within 15 months). The differences are small but consistent: having a daughter first changes child-bearing choices later. - See more at: ECONOMIST


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