British-Indian Women "Missing" Girls: BBC Documentary

AFP - Monday, December 3, 2007

LONDON (AFP) - Pressure to have sons is prompting some Indian-born women to return from Britain to India to abort unwanted unborn daughters, according to a BBC investigation to be broadcast Monday.

BBC Asian Network radio, which is aimed at British Asians, said "selective sex abortion" is still widespread in the sub-continent, despite being outlawed, but is also being used by some women living in England and Wales.

The special report -- "Britain's Missing Girls" -- includes an interview with one British-born Indian mother, who has three daughters, who said she went to New Delhi to have a termination last year.

She said she had no difficulty finding a gynaecologist there who was willing to perform a scan to determine whether her unborn baby was also a girl, then perform an abortion.

A pregnant British-Indian woman was also sent undercover to several doctors in the Indian capital for a gender scan. Three doctors agreed to it despite knowing the woman was likely to abort her baby if it was found to be a girl.

The programme backed up its findings with research from Oxford University that showed that between 1990 and 2005, nearly 1,500 fewer girls were born to Indian mothers in England and Wales than would be expected.

About one in 10 girls were "missing" from birth statistics for Indian-born women having their third or fourth child, the study suggested.

"What I have found is that the proportion of boys over girls has increased over time... it's increased in a way that's not normal," human geographer and population expert Sylvie Dubuc told the broadcaster.

"The most probable explanation seems to be sex selective abortion by a minority of mothers born in India."

The president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, Dr Ramesh Mehta, said of the documentary's findings: "We are aware that it does go on in India.

"We are surprised and shocked that it's possibly happening in women who are living in this country of Indian origin. We think this is very unfortunate in this day and age, it's frankly shocking."

He suggested that the pressure to have sons, for cultural reasons among traditional families, could be behind the phenomenon.

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