MPs call for ban on private clinics that reveal sex of foetus before its born
By Barfi Culture Team
17th September 2018

There are calls today for parents to be denied access to a test that reveals the sex of a foetus before its born.

Campaigners are also singling out British Asian parents as being under more pressure to abort girls before they are born.

The story comes via the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme today, which found thousands of British women discussing online the possibility of using a technique called NIPT (Non-Invasive Prenatal Tests) to determine the sex of foetuses.

There is no suggestion that most of those discussions were by Asian women.

Nevertheless, campaigners say that because of cultural pressures that prioritise men over women, Asian women are under more pressure to undergo the test.

What campaigners say

In the town of Slough, just outside of London, private clinics offering to reveal the sex of a foetus are promoted on roadside adverts. The town has one of the highest concentrations of Asian families, especially Sikhs, in the UK.

"Not everyone has right to choose the gender of their child. Can you believe women’s clinics in Slough promote this test on roadside adverts! On Victoria Derbyshire Show today discussing these abhorrent practices that have no place in UK," said Jas Sanghera, who runs the charity Karma Nirvana.

The BBC also quotes a woman described as Zara (not her real name), who comes from a Sikh family and said she faced pressure to abort her foetus because it was female.

"We were a family of five girls and every time my Mum had another daughter everyone would come to the house as if they were coming to mourn. For them it's like a burden. My fear was I didn't want to go through what my mother went through."

Zara discovered the sex of her baby five months into her pregnancy and opted to have a surgical abortion. She now regrets the decision and believes such abortions are "very common" in practice.

Labour MP for Slough, Tan Dhesi, says such promotional ads should be banned.

"Communities in South Asia have made huge strides in tackling this social evil," he told the BBC. "That's been primarily through legislation, banning gender determination clinics. In the UK I think we need to be doing likewise, with regards to the private sector as well."

Labour MP Naz Shah agrees and says its common among South Asian families to have a preference for boys.

She said this put great strain on women "forcing them to adopt methods such as NIPT to live up to expectations of family members". She says the government should look into "appropriate restrictions".

Rani Bilkhu from the Jeena International organisation says many women say they have suffered violence or been coerced into abortions because they were pregnant with a second or third girl.

"No wonder they're resorting to sex-selection abortion because they've got no choice," she says. "They don't want to be homeless, they don't want their marriage to fail - all because they couldn't give birth to a boy."

A few things to remember

Choosing an abortion due to sex is illegal in the UK (with rare exemptions). But prosecution is difficult as women often cite other reasons for having the procedure.

From next month NHS England is rolling out a pilot scheme under which NHS doctors won't be sharing sharing such information with parents.

In India, especially in the state of Punjab, there are clear and huge differences in the sex ratio. I.e., there are far more men than women than is natural.

But there is no clear evidence to suggest a similar problem exists among British Asian families. Nevertheless, women campaigners say they have seen enough cases to recognise the problem is significant.

In Britain, the Pink Ladoo campaign aims to celebrate the birth of baby girls and eradicate gender-biased customs among South Asian families.

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