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How to eliminate selective abortions…

Azerbaijan is grappling with the challenging issue of selective abortions, a phenomenon deeply rooted in societal attitudes towards gender and underscored by alarming statistics that reveal a significant gender imbalance at birth. According to the Ministry of Justice, in January of the year, 8,389 babies were registered, with boys constituting 52.1% and girls 47.9%. This disparity indicates a gender ratio of 116 boys for every 100 newborn girls, highlighting a concerning trend towards selective abortions based on gender preferences.

The Ganja-Dashkasan region is identified as having the most disturbed child sex ratio, suggesting that regional disparities in gender attitudes may be influencing the prevalence of selective abortions. Despite efforts by authorities to address this issue, the lack of change in the gender ratio at birth suggests that current measures may not be sufficiently effective.

Abortion rates in the country have shown a notable increase, rising from 46,877 in 2021 to 57,999 in 2022. This surge raises concerns about the actual number of abortions, including selective ones, potentially not being fully captured by official statistics. Azerbaijani legislation currently imposes penalties for coercion or incitement to abortion but lacks specific criminal liability for voluntary abortion or selective abortion based on gender.

In response to these challenges, the State Committee for Family, Women, and Children Affairs, in an interview with Turan, acknowledges the critical role of societal attitudes and awareness in addressing selective abortions. The committee emphasizes the importance of combating gender stereotypes and inequality, particularly in regional areas where these issues are more pronounced. An action plan for 2020-2025 aims to reduce the preference for male children by eliminating underlying gender stereotypes through educational activities, publications, and social media campaigns.

Experts, however, argue that administrative measures alone are insufficient to combat the practice of selective abortions. Mehriban Zeynalova, head of the “Clean World” Women Assistance Public Union, advocates for a multifaceted approach that includes criminal liability for selective abortions, enhanced educational opportunities for girls, and measures to prevent early marriages and domestic violence. In an interview with Azadlig Radio, Zeynalova emphasizes the need for comprehensive interventions, including educational efforts, legal actions, support centers, and hotlines, to effectively address the issue.

Ultimately, addressing selective abortions in Azerbaijan requires a profound shift in societal attitudes towards gender equality. This entails not only legal and administrative measures but also deep-rooted cultural changes that value female children equally to male children. Only through a concerted effort encompassing legal reforms, education, and societal transformation can Azerbaijan hope to rectify the gender imbalance and ensure the equal value of all children, regardless of gender.

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