Sex Selection: An Overview of Its Potential Harms and Benefits to Family Welfare

Haniwarda Yaakob
Faculty of Law, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia


Choosing the sex of an unborn child is not a new practice. Since ancient times, couples have attempted to conceive a child of their preferred sex using various traditional methods such as food consumption, sexual positions and many more. The advent of modern medical technologies such as sperm sorting, prenatal diagnosis, preimplantation genetic diagnosis and possibly genetic engineering have now increased the likelihood of parents fulfilling their dream of having a child of the desired sex. This practice is, nonetheless, not left without ethical scrutiny, where several criticisms have been advocated against the custom. Despite the potential ethical impediments, sex selection is arguably one of the possible mechanisms that may improve family economics and welfare. This is achievable by allowing sex selection for family balancing, which in turn protects couples from having more children than they actually desire. This will consequently stabilise if not improve family economics by avoiding unnecessary financial burden from having to support a large family. Additionally, sex selection is also important in cultural settings where sons are depended upon for financial support. This is the main thesis of this paper where the benefit of sex selection to improve the economic welfare of families is promoted. It is concluded that a blanket prohibition on the use of modern methods of sex selection is unjustified as the rationale behind sex selection should be assessed on a case-to-case basis depending on the needs of each family.

Keywords: Sex selection, Family balancing, Family economics, Family welfare