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Indian women bring sex-selective abortion to Canada

Lianne Laurence Lianne Laurence Follow Lianne

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, April 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Canadian women immigrants from India whose mother tongue is Punjabi are aborting their daughters in favor of sons, a bias so entrenched it doesn’t change no matter how long the women have lived in Canada, a new study reveals.

“We were surprised that the difference didn’t diminish” over time, Dr. Marcelo Urquia, a research scientist at the University of Manitoba Health Policy who led the study, told LifeSiteNews.

The tenacity of the cultural “son-bias” signals that “these women’s rights are maybe not being respected within the community,” he said. “Some women may be experiencing pressures to have sons and not daughters.”

“Unless we do something, nothing will change,” he added. “The only way to change this is to intervene.”  

Urquia and his team published studies in April 2016 on the practice of sex-selective abortion within Ontario’s Indian immigrant population.

“We found in a previous study that among Indian immigrant women who already had two daughters, and who underwent an abortion after 14 weeks of gestation when the sex of the fetus can be known, the sex ratio at the third birth was 663 boys for every 100 girls,” Urquia said. (CMAJ Study, Fig. 3.)

That astonishing 663 to 100 ratio “cannot be explained by natural causes,” he added.

Published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada (JOGC) on Monday, this study follows up on those findings but narrows the focus to immigrant sub-groups based on language.

“The language reflects more the sharing of certain meanings, and communication, and a community,” Urquia said. “These are considered as cultural practises.”

It also looked at whether the practice of sex-selective abortion decreased the longer the women lived in Canada.

The study analysed data from Ontario and focused on “women who already had two daughters,” Urquia said, “because we knew from the previous studies that this was the group of women at the highest risk” for abortion.

Indian women in Ontario whose mother tongue is Punjabi had the highest male to female ratio, with 240 boys born for every 100 girls for a third birth, according to a summary published by St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, where Urquia is affiliate scientist at the Centre for Urban Health Solutions.

If the women had immigrated to Canada within 10 years, they gave birth to 213 boys for every 100 girls; those who lived in Canada more than 10 years had a birth ratio of 270 boys to 100 girls, the summary noted.

Punjabi is the mother tongue for more than half the Indian immigrant population in Ontario, Urquia said.

For Indian immigrant women whose mother tongue is Hindi, the overall birth ratio was 163 boys for 100 girls, according to the summary.

If they had been in Canada fewer than 10 years, the ratio was 130 boys to 100 girls. It increased to 217 boys born for every 100 girls for women who had been in Canada more than 10 years.

“Son-bias appears to strengthen with previous abortions, pointing to sex selective practices,” noted the JOGC study.

Without interventions, “sex ratios will not become balanced with increasing length of residence,” it concluded.

It recommends that “gender equity promotion may focus on Punjabi- and Hindi-speaking Indian immigrant women regardless of how long they have lived in Canada.”

Urquia hopes that “different levels of government can be involved in education, counselling for immigrant families” to effect some change.

“If we adopt a ‘let nature take its course’ approach to policy or decision making with this issue, nothing will change,” he told LifeSiteNews, “because the phenomenon is not taking care of itself.”

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