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The Rise of the Asian Frankenstein

According to a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), sex-selective abortions — aborting a baby because of her sex — has led to an alarming surplus of unmarried young men in Asian nations. The trend is now raising fears that an outcast group could threaten the social fabric of countries such as China, India, and South Korea. Culture watchers are dubbing this group Asia’s “Lost Boy” generation.

The trend is a direct result of the misuse of ultrasound technologies that, since the 1980s, have allowed doctors and parents to detect fetal sex early in a pregnancy and abort the baby if she is not what the parents desire. By and large, due to a variety of factors, it is almost always the female babies who are aborted.

After decades of the illicit practice — it is technically illegal even in China — the disparity between male and female births is too large to ignore. In 2005 the ratio of male to female births reached 125 to 100 in parts of northern India: Punjab, Delhi, and Gujarat; and 121 to 100 in China. According to the CMAJ article, “In parts of China where a second child is allowed, after a daughter is born first,” the ratio reaches as high as 143 to 100, “suggesting that many choose to abort a second girl fetus in favor of trying again for a boy.”

In China these statistics translate into an estimated 1.1 million excess males, with men under the age of 20 exceeding the number of females by an astounding 32 million. According to the authors of the study, led by Therese Hesketh of University College London, “These men will be unable to marry, in societies where marriage is regarded as virtually universal, and where social status and acceptance depend, in large part, on being married and creating a new family.”

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