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A major study finds that Indian immigrants could be taking steps to avoid birthing girls.
The Ontario study added to debate around a private member’s bill introduced in the House of Commons last week. Conservative Member of Parliament Stephen Woodworth, who opposes abortion, wants a review of the law declaring that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of birth.
Wary of reopening the explosive abortion issue, Woodworth’s boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said he opposes the bill. And opposition MPs have accused Woodworth of launching “a full frontal assault on a woman’s right to choose.”
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Some wonder why abortion for reasons of gender causes more outrage than abortion for reasons of disabilities. The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, meanwhile, argues that a woman’s right to choose a safe abortion is the primary concern. It argues the root cause of female feticide — the lack of value and respect given to girls and women — should be tackled through education.
Faced with the Ontario study, many in Toronto’s large Indo-Canadian community have recoiled into frightened silence, said Sekhar, who emigrated from southern India in 1990 and has two daughters.
“With the South Asian community, the moment something like this happens, everybody stops talking,” she said in an interview. “They’re so afraid of saying anything.”
Sekhar, whose center helps South Asian women integrate, said she’d like to see more conclusive evidence on female feticide.
“There’s a responsibility on the community to ask the hard questions, to hold one another accountable and to say, ‘If this is indeed the case, it must stop,’” she added.
In some parts of India, Sekhar said pressures on a woman to have boys includes carrying on the family name, the inheritance of property, and the practice of dowry — money and gifts demanded by the groom from the bride’s family.
But India, Sekhar notes, isn’t alone: “The problem is a global culture that looks at men as having more power, more dominance and more privilege.”