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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Abortion cases rising due to son preference

Kathmandu, Son preference is deeply rooted in many countries for both cultural and economic reasons. Daughters may be seen as a liability, especially where dowries must be offered to get them married off. Older parents typically rely on sons, and their wives, for support and they prefer sons to perform their last rites or ancestor worship.

Both the cultural and economic reasons have forced the parents, especially of semi-educated and rural background, to opt for a son and they are ready to pay any cost for a male child. ?As a result, the rate of abortion has been growing in Nepal with a possibility of gender imbalance in the next few decades,? said Sarad Aryal, director of Family Planning Association of Nepal, Valley Branch.

Advocate Sapana Pradhan Malla said that abortion after sex selection was a discrimination against women. She said that it was against the right to be born and there were lots of implications such as gender imbalance, forced marriage, girl trafficking, and possibilities of rape.

Talking to The Rising Nepal, she said that abortion after sex selection was high and it would not only hamper population growth ratio but human civilisation in its entirity, Pradhan said.

Life could become harder for many girls if women were outnumbered by men. A growing number of men would be unable to find wives, which may lead to a rise in sexual violence and trafficking of women, she said.

Upendra Prasad Adhikary, under secretary at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, said that Nepal Demography and Health Survey in 1996 showed the male female birth ratio at 103:100. By 2006 it was 105: 100, he informed.

?After the legalisation of abortion in the country in 2002, the number of abortion after sex selection has been increasing considerably.?

Although the 2006 NDHS data of birth ratio was globally acceptable, the country would fall into a serious problem like that of India and China if the difference increased, he added.

Dr. Sagun Pyakurel, Medical Officer at the FPAN, Valley Branch said that out of 100 abortion cases, eight to 10 cases would be due to female foetus. ?They do not tell us about the video x-ray and they come only for abortion. Most of them go to private clinic for x-ray and come to us for abortion,? Dr. Pyakurel said.

Prenatal son selection in several Asian countries is likely to have severe social consequences in coming years, according to a new series of studies commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

With family sizes falling, Asians have increasingly used ultrasound or amniocentesis to determine the sex of foetuses and aborted unwanted females. The resulting skewed sex ratios at birth (SRBs) have been noticeable in China for over 15 years, rising to 120 males for every 100 females born in 2005 (the natural ratio is around 105 to 100) and as high as 130 in several provinces. In India, the 2001 census revealed that SRB had risen to 108 nationwide, and to 120 in some northern and western states.

Sex ratios among later births are much higher than for firstborn children, reflecting the greater pressure on women to have a son after bearing only daughters.

Up to now, there has been scant research on the likelihood that SRBs will increase in Nepal which has social conditions and values similar to those in parts of India. At UNFPA?s initiative, research teams organised focus groups and interviewed officials and health providers. They found pervasive son preference and acceptance of the notion that couples without sons might choose to avoid bearing daughters. They also learned that those who wanted to could easily do so.

The team in southern Nepal, for instance, found that most people knew they could find ultrasound clinics and abortion providers in India willing to flout regulations prohibiting sex selection.

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