Gender Preferences and Demand for Preconception Sex Selection: A Survey Among Pregnant Women in Pakistan

Human Reproduction 22 (2):605-609 (2007)
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BACKGROUND: In its recent report 'Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law', the House of Commons' Select Committee on Science and Technology called for greater efforts to establish the potential demographic impact of sex selection across all sectors of UK society. Given the well-known preference for boys over girls among some communities, there is concern that a readily available service for social sex selection may upset the balance of the sexes. Of particular interest are the gender preferences and the demand for sex selection among Pakistanis. METHODS: We conducted a social survey on gender preferences and potential demand for preconception sex selection among 301 pregnant women in Karachi, Pakistan, using a self-report questionnaire consisting of 14 questions. RESULTS: About 41.5% wish to have a family with an equal number of boys and girls; 3.3% would like to have only boys, 1.0% only girls, 27.6% more boys than girls and 4.3% more girls than boys, and 22.3% stated that they do not care about the sex composition of their family. Whereas 6.3% could imagine employing cytometric sperm separation for social sex selection, 76.1% could not and 17.6% were undecided. About 27.2% felt that social sex selection ought to be legal, 48.8% thought it ought to be illegal and 23.9% were undecided. CONCLUSIONS: Although Pakistani women do show a statistically significant preference for boys over girls, the number of women willing to subject themselves to cytometric sperm separation appears to be too small to cause a severe imbalance of the sexes. However, further research among British citizens of Pakistani origin is needed to establish whether sex selection poses a serious threat to the sex ratio of UK communities.
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