By Pradip Rodrigues
Toronto, April 15 (CINEWS): It is common knowledge that male children are preferred over female children in large sections of South Asians in India as well as Canada, but there is shock at the recent numbers a study revealed this week.
Research, presented in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the online CMAJ Open, looking at 6 million births in Canada concluded there were 196 boys born for every 100 girls in the South Asian community in Ontario and 138 boys for every 100 girls born to Indian-born mothers in the rest of Canada. Just for comparison Delhi’s sex ratio in 2014 was 896 females per 1000 males.
This finding should leave some to conclude that you can take an Indian out of India but not India out of the Indian.
While it is easier to rationalize the preference for male children over females in India given history, traditions, illiteracy and culture, it is downright criminal when educated South Asians living in Canada resort to female foeticide. But it is happening at an alarming rate regardless of education background worse still is the reluctance to even discuss and condemn it strongly.
According to one mother Can-India spoke with on condition of anonymity, South Asian husbands often pressure their wives to abort the second child if it is found to be a girl this is especially true when the first born is female. “They do it to keep the in-laws happy,” she said. The anonymous mother has two boys.
The CMAJ believes that this skewed sex ratio in the South Asian community may have to do with a spike in abortions in the second trimester which is when parents get to learn the baby’s sex. This practice is dangerous for a woman and not recommended unless there are complications that would endanger the mother’s life.
Vaidehi Bhagat who has both a girl and boy said she was thrilled at having a girl as her first-born. “I enjoyed shopping for her and the fact she was healthy was all that mattered. But at the back of my mind was how my in-laws would feel,” she admits. Fortunately for Vaidehi, her second child turned out male.
The sex-ratio in India seems to be in control thanks to schemes like Ladli introduced in 2008 where funds are provided for the living expense of female children especially from desperately poor families and all education is provided free. One lakh ($1,949) is given in the girl child’s name which can be utilized for her marriage. This scheme is credited with preventing thousands sex selective abortions. Here in Canada over the past two decades there are an estimated 4,400 “missing girls” linked to abortion in the South Asian community.
In an interview with Can-India, MPP Dipika Damerla who has one daughter, said that the report about the scale of sex selective abortions among South Asians was very disturbing. “Both here and in India, there is a strong cultural and social preference for male children and geography unfortunately doesn’t change the mindset. When my daughter was born I was happy she was healthy, I considered her as Lakshmi (The Goddess of Wealth) came into the house,” she said.
Anju Rajan a Toronto Public Health employee expresses disgust at the South Asian mentality that permits, pressurizes and encourages South Asian women to abort a female fetus.
“I have two daughters and I have often had comments from seniors at the temple and elsewhere who on learning the fact end with ‘May God bless you with a son.’ Truth is that a large percentage of seniors live in the homes of their daughters often because their sons have thrown them out,” she said.
“A woman Chartered Accountant I knew who like me had two daughters told me how she was forced to abort after the sex of her third child was female. Her husband stopped talking to her and indicated consequences if she went ahead with the pregnancy. So she aborted,” she adds.
According to unconfirmed reports, some private fertility clinics in the GTA skirt the rules about not revealing the sex of the child until 20 weeks by indicating with the number 6 for a boy and 9 for a girl.
It is evident that political and community leaders need to speak out against the practice. Speaking to Can-India, Brampton Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon said the ratio was alarming and should be addressed. “We must educate the community while celebrating our women, girls and their achievements.”
There needs to be a seismic change in social attitudes if this practice is to be curbed.