• Chang-E Project

How can we take action against son preference?

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

There is a tradition of inheritance from father to son in many societies. The reliance on boys to provide economic support, to ensure security and be the head of the house has become a set of social norms that places greater value on sons than daughters. The root of son preference lies especially deep in Asian countries. In fact, in China, there is a saying, “The better sons you have, the better life we can have,” because men are known to be stronger and are able to carry out all the work. Due to this belief, many women have to bear the consequences of giving birth to an unwanted girl child. These consequences include violence, abandonment, and death. Faced with the intense pressure, ultrasound is used to discover merely the sex of the baby and if the fetus is female, it may be aborted.

Laws and Policies

So what can this world do to protect these women? Women’s rights advocates, researchers, multilateral organizations, and affected governments have been working on the problem of son preference and the outcome of imbalanced sex ratios for many years. Countries across the globe have undertaken a number of measures in an attempt to halt increasing sex-ratio imbalances including enacting laws and policies on sex selection. Both India and China have outlawed prenatal testing to detect the sex of the fetus and additionally China has banned sex-selective abortions. However, despite these attempts to stop sex-selective abortions, it has not been effective due to ultrasounds being too widely available.

Societal Changes and Traditions

To reduce discrimination against girls, it is critical to have policies that raise the value of girls to their parents, relative to boys. Policies aimed at raising the status of women is not enough to repair this gender inequality. As long as daughters continue to be raised in a patriarchal environment and are not able to prove themselves worthy of taking charge, son preference will continue to persist. South Korea is the only country that has made real progress in improving gender equality. Korea’s approach to its sex ratio problem is successful because the government adopted a multitude of economic, social, and legal avenues. They included more female employment in the labor market, new laws and policies to improve gender equality and awareness-raising campaigns through the media.

How individuals can help

But how can we as individuals help rid the world of this biased attitude to promote gender equality? The issue of son preference is normalized and not spoken about. This needs to be changed. To help make a difference, reach out to organizations like the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Women to see how you can support their fight against gender inequality. Social media is so powerful in the world we live in today so it’s important to take advantage of it. Sign petitions, post about these issues, start discussions with family members and friends, speak out when you see inequality. If conversations are being started, more people will talk about it and it will be heard. These small steps can lead to big changes in the world.

Writers: Ally So, Kenny Ngo

Works Cited

Branigan, Tania. “China's Great Gender Crisis.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 2 Nov. 2011,

“Declining Son Preference in the US.” VOX, CEPR Policy Portal,

Lin, Tin-Chi. “The Decline of Son Preference and Rise of Gender Indifference in Taiwan Since 1990.” Demographic Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 16 Apr. 2009,

“Http://” 2016, doi:10.18411/d-2016-154.

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