History and Theory of Public Policies Against Sex Selection

  • Laura Rahm
Part of the Demographic Transformation and Socio-Economic Development book series (DTSD, volume 11)


This chapter explores the historical and theoretical foundations of public policies against sex selection. It starts out by highlighting the diverse population goals, with a balanced sex distribution of the population being one among the many competing governmental concerns. We continue by reviewing the historical evolution of population policies concerning sex selection, stressing the population control movement of the twentieth century, the emergence of prenatal sex selection in the 1980s, and its subsequent political denial. Since the 1990s, international organizations and epistemic communities have brought sex selection into the political agenda urging governments to take action. We then turn to theoretical considerations focusing on three major axes: Why do governments intervene against sex selection (policy intentions)? How can governments intervene (policy instruments)? And what difference does it make (policy impact)? We show that policy intentions on sex selection differ according to national legislation, but that concerned governments all face the challenge of balancing individual rights with societal interests. We present a vast variety of policy instruments to address sex imbalances and classify them according to their targets, namely the motives, methods and magnitudes of sex selection. Finally, we discuss the availability and constraints of diverse evaluation models, and the significant research gaps in assessing the impact of anti-sex selection policies.


Public policies Sex selection International organizations Population control movement Policy impact Asia 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Rahm
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Population and DevelopmentParisFrance

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