Research points to sex-selective abortion

Pallavi JainFor Web-Research points to- Pallavi Jain

Some sections of the Chinese and Indian communities in Australia may be engaged in sex-selective abortion to avoid female children, according to a recent research.

An SBS Radio investigation has indicated the above based on information which suggested that the number of female children born to Indian and Chinese children were down by 1395 during the ten-year period covering 2003 and 2013.

The Radio Station commissioned Australia Bureau of Statistics to investigate the birth pattern in the two communities. The Research study indicated “an unusually high number of males born to Australian parents who were both born in either China or both born in India, far exceeding the norm, with 109.5 males born for every 100 females with Chinese born parents and 108.2 males born for every 100 females with Indian born parents.”

Significant deviation

According to an official of SBS Radio, the figures represent a significant deviation from the norm when considering the standard biological sex birth ratio at birth ranges from 102 to 106 males for every 100 females born. In the same period, in all Australia, there were 105.7 males born for every 100 females born.

It quoted Macquarie University Associate Professor in Demography Dr Nick Parr as saying that the Research showed a preference for sons amongst some members of the China born and India born communities.

“There is some form of pre-natal intervention to ensure that there are sons that are born as opposed to daughters. In my opinion the most plausible explanation is that there is sex-selective abortion occurring.”

Gender influence

Dr Christophe Guilmoto, a Demographer at the French Research Institute for Development in Paris and one of the authors of the 2012 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report on sex selection in Asia, agreed.

“I think there is no other explanation. Once we have run statistical test on this data and they show that the gap between the sex ratio at birth among these two communities…is not random, then we know there is something. There are very few ways to influence the sex of your child so the most common is to resort to sex selective abortion,” he said.

According UNFPA, the practice is widespread throughout the world and that there were 117 million more women in Asia alone if the gender preference was not in place.

Deadly example

SBS Radio spoke to Diya (not real name) who lives in Western Sydney with her husband and parents-in-law. Soon after the family learned that Diya was expecting the first child, they began to pressure her to find out the gender. She resisted, fearing they could force her into terminating the pregnancy if the baby was a girl.

“They kept forcing me so bad – ‘find out the sex – find out the sex!’. If it did not matter to them they wouldn’t have forced me that much…”

After months of trying to find out the gender, Diya’s mother-in-law eventually asked the doctor herself during Diya’s ultrasound. But at that advance stage of her pregnancy an abortion was out of the question.

Two months after the baby was born, Diya and her daughter found themselves out of the family home.

“I definitely think if it was a son; they would not have been so hard with my daughter that they kicked a two month old baby on the streets at night.”

Two more cases

A doctor based in Australia also told SBS, exclusively on the condition of anonymity, that female foeticide is happening in Australia.

SBS Radio also spoke with Melbourne based GP Dr Gurdeep Aurora. He cited two more cases in which the Indian-Australian parents wanted to find out the sex of the child because they were not keen to have a daughter.

Dr Aurora said that he had to advise these couples against terminating the pregnancies.

“They were saying that if it was going to be a daughter they would like to have it terminated. In the second case, the couple had three girls and they were very keen to find out the sex of the foetus because they did not want to have the fourth child as a daughter. When I saw them about eight months later, I asked them about the pregnancy and they told me that they had gone to India on a holiday and unfortunately the lady miscarried. Now it is quite possible that she miscarried but I had a very strong suspicion that that pregnancy was terminated because it could have been a girl,” he said.

Dr Seng-Chai Chua, Obstetrician from Westmead hospital in Sydney told SBS Radio that parents from more traditional Chinese cultural background tell him that they are under pressure to have a boy, and that most often this kind of pressure comes from the grandparents.

Pallavi Jain is a journalist at SBS Radio based in Canberra. Above is an edited version of the investigative report produced by her with her colleagues Nila Liu and Jitarth Bharadwaj. Please read our editorial, ‘The crushing burden of female foeticide’ under Viewlink in this issue.

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