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DUTCH JOURNALIST Mara Hvistendahl comes to the conclusion in her book Unnatural Selection that mankind today is missing 160 million women. Most of these missing females are not victims of neglect. Choosing boys over girls was a conscious choice that deprived girls of their right to life in their mothers' wombs. They were selected out of existence by ultrasound technology and abortion.

I am talking mainly about the developing countries of Asia, but they are not the only ones. In many societies, sons are the guarantors of a higher social status, whereby not necessarily among poor people. In India, as Ms. Hvistendahl writes, it was families of well-educated city-dwellers who initially gave preference to boys. Developed countries regarded this gender selection with approval - after all, the fewer the women, the smaller the population in those very places where its growth is so alarming.