In Albania, the number of births of girls is decreasing due to selective abortions that have been carried out in recent years.

This is a nation with a majority Muslim population (60%) in which there are great social inequalities between men and women, which could explain the tendency to limit the birth of girls.

Anila Hoxha, a women’s rights activist from Tirana, says that in large areas of the Balkans, “a male child is believed to be “the pillar of the family”, while girls are seen as a “burden or a weaker sex in an aggressive society”.

According to Manuela Bello, representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Albania, “when parents learn that the fetus is a girl, they choose, for various reasons, to abort rather than keep it”. In the last ten years, 21,000 girls have been aborted in Albania.

Between 2000 and 2020, according to the UN, approximately 111 boys were born for every 100 girls in this country, placing it fourth in the world with the largest gap between male and female births. And a quarter of families who already have a daughter would prefer to abort rather than have another daughter.

According to Arjan Gjonca, professor of demography at the London School of Economics and Political Science, ” if the phenomenon persists and if there are no rapid legal measures… the consequences in the near future could lead to social imbalance.”

Abortion is legal in Albania until the 12th week of pregnancy, but with special permission from doctors it can be performed later.

Although pregnancy terminations linked to prenatal sex screening tests are illegal, the increasing availability of a blood test that makes it easier to know the sex of the fetus much earlier makes it more difficult to stop this practice. Albanian women are increasingly resorting to this test, which is available from the seventh week of pregnancy and allows them to know the sex of the baby with an accuracy of over 90%.

The precedent in China

As we have previously published, China’s long-standing one-child policy has contributed to the profound demographic crisis in that country, which has not been reversed. Furthermore, the practice of selective abortions of girls has created an abysmal difference between the number of men and women, as is now detected in Albania.

Although in 2016 the Chinese Government allowed married couples to have two children and in 2021 three, these measures to stimulate births have not been successful. The problem is that couples do not want to have more than one child due to the high cost of healthcare and education and the lack of free time to dedicate to parenting in the face of demanding work schedules.

This sociological change and the related demographic problem now seems to be reproduced in the case of Albania, where the Chinese experience and its consequences should be appropriately evaluated.


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