It is well known that the human sex ratio (men/women) is high in India and China due to gender-based abortion and infanticide (e.g. India and China). Under certain interpretations of the word, this could well be defined as genocide against women.

And yet, I see no mention of this issue on the Feminism Wikipedia entry, nor I am really versed on feminist theories, authors, or magazines to know about this topic.

I wonder if there is a branch of feminism which has taken up the cause against sex-selective abortion? On the one hand, you would expect this to be the case, given the cocktail of issues related (poverty and development, patriarchal culture, etc). On the other hand, abortion is considered by feminism as a right of women, so it could be a dangerous territory, particularly when it comes to critiques from anti-abortion groups of society.

  • There are other reasons for variations in the sex ratio, besides infanticide and abortion. For example, one form of hepatitis is associated with a change in the sex ratio at birth.
    – Jasper
    Aug 18, 2017 at 0:07
  • Your two sources for India and China are from 2006 and 2013, referring to data that is even older. Are there more up-to-date sources or is the issue not that big anymore?
    – quarague
    Dec 27, 2023 at 15:55

3 Answers 3


I wonder if there is a branch of feminism which has taken up the cause against sex-selective abortion?

All branches of feminism are against infanticide, and many are against sex-selective abortions. However, most western feminist groups are unlikely to make it the center of their activism, as it is not a large problem in the west.

One example of a feminist speaking out against infanticide as well as sex-selective abortions is Emma Watson, Gloria Steinem also mentions female infanticide as a problem.

Regarding the apparent conflict of supporting womens choices and access to proper medical care and the opposition to infanticide and sex-selective abortion: There isn't really one. It is possible to support access to abortions, while also criticizing those that use it in an unmoral way (obviously; the same thing eg happens with guns; you can legally own them, but shouldn't misuse them). In my experience, the discussion about selective abortions happens more often about the rights of disabled people vs the right to abortion (at least in the west), but that would be another question.

Wikipedia summarizes Mary Anne Warren - a Feminist and supporter of the right to abortions - , who holds a similar idea:

Warren (1985:104) argues that there is a difference between acting within one’s rights and acting upon the most morally sound choice, implying that sex-selective abortion might be within rights but not morally sound. Warren also notes that, if we are to ever reverse the trend of sex-selective abortion and high sex ratios, we must work to change the patriarchy-based society which breeds the strong son preference.[128]

The feminist website The F Word argues similarly that instead of restricting abortions, the underlying causes should be fought:

I think we also need to recognise that, with regards to female infanticide, the underlying issue is sexism, not access to abortion. Stopping women accessing legal abortions will not stop female infanticide; but challenging sexist social and cultural beliefs may very well do.

The paper A feminist analysis of female infanticide provides a perspective from Indian feminists:

Female infanticide and female feticide represent serious social problems in India. However, these issues also create much debate over a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a child. While women in India do have the right to terminate a pregnancy, there are several legal stipulations that make having an abortion less about giving women rights, and more about controlling women’s reproductive capabilities (Menon, 1995). Women often do not choose to have sex-selective abortions; instead their husband and his family pressure them into aborting unwanted female fetuses (Kusum, 1993). Thus, while abortion is legal under specific circumstances, it is often used as a way to selectively breed male children who are preferred in Indian culture. Therefore, many feminists see abortion rights in India as contradictory to feminist discourse because abortion rights are not being used to liberate women, but to re-enforce the cultural preference for sons (Menon, 1995). [...]
While the feminist discourse on abortion advocates that abortion is a right over one’s body, sex-selective abortion in itself is a form of female violence.


The term used is gendercide, which could apply to the killing of boys, but usually applies to girls. It certainly is a concern of feminist organisations.

This article for instance was written by the "president and founder of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, an international advocacy organization that opposes forced abortion and sexual slavery in China and champions women's rights."


You are right that India is notorious for its sex ratio, let's talk about the most notorious state in India known for its skewed sex ratio.

It is the worst in India, but if you check the data available from the government it has improved a lot.

Now let's come to your question, First abortion doesn't mean [gendercide]. It is a very good option in some cases, like minor rape victims, but if it is misused, then it leads to a problem of higher sex ratio.

And it is not the only factor for higher sex ratio, when medical/surgical abortion was not available in India sex ratio was still a problem to India.

There are Indian feminist groups that educate the society about the sex ratio. Feminist groups truly stand against infanticide (female/male) at least in India. some of the organisation are What We Do, Maa Bhagwati and International Women Welfare Foundation.

  • 2
    Some links to illustrate your two last sentences would make that answer complete.
    – Evargalo
    Aug 18, 2017 at 7:51
  • 1
    The figures in your third link are a bit shocking. What can explains that Palwal and Narnaul have a sex ratio that is so different from the other districts ? It seems that most districts stilll have a heavily male-skewed sex-ratio, and that those two districts with an improbably high female-skewed sex ratio "compensate" for it to moderate Haryana's general ratio.
    – Evargalo
    Aug 18, 2017 at 7:57
  • 2
    I do believe you, and I think I've heard about those movements beforehand as well. But I don't know what role feminists in particular play in this fight, and SE answers always fit better with links than without, regardless whether I'm convinced or not.
    – Evargalo
    Aug 18, 2017 at 8:01
  • 1
    Sex ratios of 1,217 and 1,279 at the scale of Indian districts are NOT an improvement ! A reasonnable sex ratio is somewhere around 960. If genuine, figures above 1200 suggests a very strong male-adverse gender selection (morally just as bad as female-adverse selection, I suppose). More probably, those statistics are biased in some way, maybe so that the state-wise figures look better (this last sentence is speculation).
    – Evargalo
    Aug 18, 2017 at 8:07
  • 4
    Re, "Abortion doesn't mean genocide," That is literally true. Just like how the claim that "guns don't kill people" is literally true. Abortion does not mean genocide, but if your goal is to exterminate a certain group of people, and if you feel that simply murdering them all at once would adversely impact your public image, then abortion and sterilization can be useful tools. May 21, 2020 at 15:14

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