Azerbaijan has one of the highest selective abortion rates in the world, according to government figures, with many Azeri women choosing or being pressured into aborting baby girls.
As the largest country in the Caucasus region, Azerbaijan in 2014 had ratio of girls to boys of 100:115.
With the inaugural European Games taking place in the country’s capital, Baku, increasing pressure is on Azerbaijan to address human rights and social issues.
One local woman who met with Al Jazeera, Sabira, said she has been abandoned by her husband and his family. The child she is expecting is a girl.
“They said to me, we’ll kick you out on the street if you don’t have an abortion,” she said. “I said: ‘I don’t care. I’m keeping the baby.'”
Sabira’s case is extreme, but not unique. Charity workers who spoke with Al Jazeera agree that the issue of selective abortions in Azeri culture runs deep.
“I think society needs to change its perception of a woman,” Mehriban Zeynalova told Al Jazeera.
“The understanding that a girl brings evil to the world needs to change and overall, the perception of woman’s role in society has to change.”
There are several reasons why selective abortion is common in Azerbaijan.
The region is culturally male-dominated. As families get smaller, the pressure to have boys increases.
And as pre-natal technology to identify gender becomes more accessible, demand for selective abortion grows.
Ganira Pashayeva, a local politician, explains that politicians are attempting to tackle the problem, but that education will need to fill the gaps that laws alone cannot fill.
“All women have the right to have an abortion, but to protect against sex selection we wanted to ban abortion after three months without a doctor’s concent,” Pashayeva said.
“But I’m one of the biggest supporters of educating people, because the law doesn’t always solve the problem.”
The UN warns that as well as the negative impact on a population, a deficit of women may lead to more prostitution, human trafficking and gender violence.