Harmful practice driven by the tradition of patrilineal inheritance in many societies, coupled with a reliance on boys to provide economic support, to ensure security in old age and to perform death rites.

Additional notes and information

Part of a set of social norms that place greater value on sons than daughters. In addition, a general trend towards declining family size, occasionally fostered by stringent policies restricting the number of children that people are allowed to have, is reinforcing a deeply rooted preference for male offspring.

Sex selection can occur before a pregnancy is established (pre-implantation), during pregnancy through pre-natal sex detection and selective abortion, or following birth through infanticide or child neglect. Sex selection is sometimes used for family balancing purposes, but far more typically occurs because of a systematic preference for boys.


(1) World Health Organization – WHO (2011). Preventing Gender-Biased Sex Selection: OHCHR, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and WHO Joint Interagency Statement;

(2) Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Violence against children and PCEO Plan International (2012). Protecting Children from Harmful Practices in Plural Legal Systems with a Special Emphasis On Africa – Final Report on Harmful Practices. Available at:…