Western technology meets Islamic misogyny in a country confused by the present.
In the Azerbaijani language, the word sonsuz means sterile. But it’s used to refer to women who have only given birth to girls, and it’s not meant as a compliment.
To avoid being labelled as such, a mother might decide to call her daughter Kifayət, Yetər or Bəsti – names that translate into ‘the last one’ or ‘enough’ – in the hope that the next baby is a male. Too often though, families opt for selective abortion. A 2012 report by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) revealed that in Azerbaijan approximately 116 boys are born for every 100 girls, whereas the normal sex ratio at birth is 102-106 males per 100 females.
“When my granddaughter was born, my relatives offered their condolences”, says Mehriban Zeynalova.
“Boys used to be preferred because they were more suited for heavy labour and could take over as head of the family. In Soviet times, from 1920 onwards, a girl could easily become a prostitute, so it was better to have a boy and avoid that kind of trouble. Today, it is simply considered better to have a boy”.