Sex selection has long been a problem in Asian countries that for reasons of social, cultural, political and economic importance, boys are favoured over girls.
In what can only be described as a sickening social norm, the discovery of a female fetus during an ultrasound often leads to its abortion. Worse yet, according to the United Nations, sex selection can also take place after the birth of a girl, through child neglect or infanticide.
Proof of the problem is in the numbers. According to the UN, the sex-ratio imbalance in many Asian countries can be as high as 130 boys for every 100 girls. In a major study published last year in the journal Lancet, researchers estimated that up to 12 million girls in India were not born over the past three decades because female fetuses were aborted.
While such imbalances can be attributed to flawed laws such as China’s one-child policy or other cultural traditions, the worry is that whatever the reason is, those reasons, as wrong as they may be, will seep west.
There’s plenty of evidence they already have. According to Postmedia News, a Washington state-based fertility clinic is advertising sex selection in a B.C. newspaper for Indo-Canadians. The ad encourages readers to “create the family you want . . . boy or girl” using reproductive technologies.
The trend isn’t only limited to B.C., either.
While nothing is confirmed and researchers are adamant about jumping to conclusions, a study of Ontario’s Indian and South Korean communities raises concern that sex selection may be occurring in Canada. Researchers found that the ratio of boy births to girl births is higher than average among those two communities, at least among babies born to women who’ve already had one child.
In Canada, the ratio is 105 boys born for every 100 girls. But the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, shows 120 boys were born for every 100 girls among second children born to those women. For mothers who came to Canada from India, the numbers were even more skewed and got worse with successive children.
Bottom line is there is much to be concerned about.
The solution is simple: policies are needed to prevent hospitals from revealing the sex of the child, if not for the entire term, then for at least two trimesters.
B.C.’s policy is to not inform parents of the sex of their child until after 20 weeks — for a $50 fee. It’s not perfect, especially since the province at one time wouldn’t divulge the gender at all, but the rules have likely prevented many deaths over the years. There is plenty of opposition from groups such as the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, but whatever fuss is raised from parents or doctors pales when one considers the number of lives that can be saved.
After all, gender is irrelevant.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.