Nationally, the sex ratio at birth in Bangladesh has persisted at its natural level of 105 male per 100 female newborns for the past half century. However, at the regional level, Bangladesh is characterised by an east-west divide in sex ratios at birth. While the western region shows normal sex ratios at birth, the eastern region displays distorted sex ratios. To understand the factors that contribute to regional variations in the sex ratio at birth, primary research has been conducted that comprised a household survey among married women aged 18-49 years who had at least two living children, the youngest of which was aged 0-5. Views of service providers on gender-biased sex selection and of program implementers on the impact of gender-focused programs on the importance of having daughter in the family were also gathered.
The study was located in the Comilla district from the eastern region which had adverse sex ratio at birth and the Rangpur district from the western region having normal sex ratio. Caution should be exercised in interpreting the findings, as the size of the sample interviewed (1,037 women) was not adequate to reach a conclusion. Further studies are needed with a large enough sample that findings on differentials across characteristics can be generalized.
Women in both study districts exhibited a strong culture of low fertility, that is, a strong preference for a two-child family. The practice of disclosing the sex of the fetus is widespread in both study districts but the practice of sex-selective abortion was almost entirely absent, and women strongly opposed gender-biased pregnancy termination. Despite these similarities, findings suggest a stronger desire for a male child in Comilla than Rangpur. In Comilla, the sex of living children had an effect on its desire of women for more children and use of contraception. Overall, the findings are inconclusive and mixed. There is a need for further research covering several other pockets that have distorted sex ratios at birth.
Noorunnabi Talukder, M.; Ubaidur Rob; Hossain, M.I.; Forhana Rahman Noor. Understanding Factors Influencing Adverse Sex Ratios at Birth in Bangladesh. Population Council, Dhaka, Bangladesh (2015) xi + 39 pp.