World Policy Institute and The Women’s Media Center present:Mara Hvistendahl: Unnatural Selection


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More than 160 million females are “missing” from Asia’s population. That’s more than the entire female population of the United States. Gender imbalance—which is mainly the result of sex selective abortion—is no longer strictly an Asian problem. In Azerbaijan and Armenia, in Eastern Europe, and even among some groups in the United States, couples are making sure at least one of their children is a son. So many parents now select for boys that they have skewed the sex ratio at birth of the entire world.


A Book Launch and Reception with author Mara Hvistendahl, moderated by Kavitha Rajagopalan.

June 9, 2011, 6pm at Demos 220 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor

In her first book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,

Mara Hvistendahl explores how this has occurred, asking why women and girls are becoming scarce in Asia and Eastern Europe as these regions develop, and what will happen when the world’s extra boys grow up. Drawing on extensive reporting in China, India, Vietnam, South Korea, Albania, and other countries, Hvistendahl weaves together the story of the world’s “missing” women into a riveting narrative, casting everyone from prostitutes, mail-order brides, and militant nationalists to geneticists, activists, and AIDS researchers—along with the California fertility doctors hard at work selling the world’s parents on the latest form of sex selection. In this discussion, she delves into the implications for security, women’s rights, governance, and economic development.


Mara Hvistendahl is a Beijing-based correspondent for Science.  Her award-winning writing has also appeared in Harper’s, Scientific American, Popular Science, the Financial Times, and Foreign Policy.  Proficient in both Spanish and Chinese, she has spent half of the past decade in China, where she has reported on everything from archaeology to the space program.  A former contributing editor at Seed magazine and journalism professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, Hvistendahl sits on the advisory board of Round Earth Media, an organization founded to promote international journalism.  Unnatural Selection is her first book.


Kavitha Rajagopalan is a writer and policy analyst. As a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, she has written and lectured widely on global migration. She has taught courses in writing, economics and migration at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. She has worked as a consultant for financial services and social justice organizations, and as a journalist in the U.S., Germany and India. She is the author of Muslims of Metropolis: The Stories of Three Immigrant Families in the West (Rutgers University Press 2008), and a columnist for Newsday and for PBS Need-to-Know’s “Voices”. Kavitha was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship and the John J. McCloy Journalism Award. She is currently a director of research for a risk consulting firm.


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