SBS Radio App

Download the FREE SBS Radio App for a better listening experience

United Nations says there would be some 117 million more women in Asia if sex-selection were not taking place. SBS's exclusive report discloses new data that suggests the practice of stopping female foetuses from being born is happening in Australia.
Saturday 1 Aug 2015

Dr Gurdeep Aurora is a GP based in Melbourne. He told SBS about two cases where the Indian - Australian parents wanted to find out the sex of the child because they were not keen to have a daughter.

Dr Aurora says he had to advise these couples against terminating the pregnancies.

Megapixels

0.20

Width

582

Height

373

Image source

SBS Radio

“They were saying that if it was going to be a daughter they would like to have it terminated. In the second case the couple had three girls and they were very keen to find out the sex of the foetus because they did not want to have the fourth child as a daughter”.

“The couple had three girls and they were very keen to find out the sex of the foetus because they did not want to have the fourth child as a daughter”

"And when I saw them about 8 months later, I asked them about the pregnancy and they told me that they had gone to India on a holiday and unfortunately the lady miscarried. Now it’s quite possible she miscarried but I had a very strong suspicion that that pregnancy was terminated because it could have been a girl”

He told his story to SBS Radio.

"I had a very strong suspicion that that pregnancy was terminated because it could have been a girl”

Friday 31 Jul 2015

Dr Seng-Chai Chua, Obstetrician from Westmead hospital in Sydney, says the ratio of babies born to Chinese - Australian parents at the hospital from 2009 to 2014 is 115.

Over 5 years, there were some 32,000 babies born at Westmead Hospital, with some 10 percent of children born to parents of Chinese background. The figures suggest that the 115 ratio was quite stable over the 5 years. 

Dr Chua says parents from more traditional Chinese cultural background tell him that they are under pressure to have a boy, and that most often this kind of pressure comes from the grandparents.

Patients come to him and say: “I already have two girls. I am really, really under pressure to have boys. How do I do that? Can I do things?” 

Patients come to him and say: "I already have two girls. I am really, really under pressure to have boys. How do I do that? Can I do things?" 

Dr Chua says that even though the parents might appear disappointed when they find out the gender of the baby (either boy or girl) he doesn't think that these incidents necessarily translate to sex-selective abortions.

However, the United Nations Population Fund suggests that any ratio above 106 could indicate that there is some kind of human intervention.

He says he is sure there is no way his private patients are terminating a pregnancy without him knowing as he follows each pregnancy from around the 8 week-stage.

Thursday 30 Jul 2015

There isn't legislation in Australia to determine if terminating an abortion on the grounds of gender is legal. The only regulation on gender selection in Australia was thought for assisted reproductive technology. However, the ethical discussion behind the practise of sex selection is based on the same arguments, regardless of the methods used to choose the gender.

Australian doctors' practise on assisted reproductive technology (ART) is regulated by the "Ethical guidelines for the clinical practice of ART", agreed and published in 2007. Access the report HERE 

According to this document, "The Australian Health and Ethics Committee believes that admission to life should not be conditional upon a child being a particular sex. Therefore, pending further community discussion, sex selection (by whatever means) must not be undertaken except to reduce the risk of transmission of a serious of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for sex selection.

The focus of the discussion in the apendix C of the guidelines is on the nonmedical use of selection by sex, that is to say, sex selection for the purpose of choosing the sex of a future child.

The document includes a series of reasons in support and against the availability of sex selection in Australia.

In support:

  • Sex selection permits ‘family balancing’.
  • Sex selection may enable parents to fulfil religious obligations or cultural expectations.
  • Sex selection is properly thought of as a matter for individual autonomy.

Against:

  • Sex selection is incompatible with the parent–child relationship being one that involves unconditional acceptance.
  • Sex selection may be an expression of sexual prejudice, in particular against girls. As practised today around the world, it generally reflects and contributes to bias and discrimination against women.
  • Sex selection harms men in some cultural groups (by contributing to the shortage of women for men to marry).

The NHMRC is currently looking at the ethical issues in reproduction and have taken many submissions. Access the review. 

Wednesday 29 Jul 2015

In Australia, Federal Senator John Madigan says Australia needs to send a signal against female foeticide.

He’s co-signed new legislation before parliament that bans termination on grounds of the unborn baby's sex under Medicare.

“Whether it’s one abortion based on the gender of the child or one hundred, it is not acceptable. (...) If we don’t do anything, we are complicit”.

The issue of female foeticide came to the attention of Senator John Madigan after the documentary "It’s a girl".

The film is about the practice of sex-selective abortions in India and China.

In 2013, a Melbourne-based GP told Senator Madigan he had a patient who wanted to procure an abortion based on the gender of the child. 

The legislation is his way to send a message that Australia does not support sex selective abortion.

Senate information and details here.

In 2013, he introduced a private member’s bill -the Health Insurance Amendment (Medicare Funding for Certain Types of Abortion) to the Senate which is designed to stop Medicare funding of certain types of abortion.

The bill is still before the Parliament.  

Tuesday 28 Jul 2015

Doctor Tereza Hendl, Sydney University, expert in the ethical aspects of selecting a child’s gender, thinks there is no point trying to legislate against sex selective abortions because it is impossible to know why a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy.

"The woman can identify the chromosomal sex of the child at 10 weeks, possibly 6, and then go to another medical practitioner and have an abortion. And nobody would know."

"The woman can identify the chromosomal sex of the child at 10 weeks, possibly 6, and then go to another medical practitioner and have an abortion. And nobody would know."

The question on whether it is legal or illegal to practise a sex selective abortion in Australia is not conclusive. 

In Australia, states’ legislations regulate the practise of abortion. It is legal in Victoria, Western Australia, Northern Territory and ACT. Even though it is still a crime in Queensland and New South Wales, it is not penalised if the termination of the pregnancy prevents potential serious danger to a woman’s physical or mental health.

Professor of Clinical Ethics at Macquarie University, Wendy Rogers, says community pressure might be potentially dangerous for women’s mental health.

"If a woman is going to be subject to severe sanctions by her community or potentially disapprobation or stronger forms of perhaps even abuse from a partner and or her extended family for not producing a child of the right sort, that’s potentially a great threat to her wellbeing, to her health."

"If a woman is going to be subject to severe sanctions by her community (...) for not producing a child of the right sort, that’s potentially a great threat to her (...) health."

Another concern around legislating against sex selective abortion is that it can lead to unfair discrimination.

"We can’t look into people’s psyches and tell exactly what they are thinking. So it’s unenforceable, it risks discrimination and stereotyping of women of Indian and Chinese appearance so it might be very unfair."

"It’s unenforceable, it risks discrimination and stereotyping of women of Indian and Chinese appearance so it might be very unfair."

Professor Rogers suggests considering other alternatives, like South Korean's strategy to fight against female foeticide.

"They had a strong culture of preference for sons and had a quite skewed sex ratio at birth one point. And they’ve really worked hard to try and get rid of that. And a lot of things have happened to help, including the sort of rapid industrialization, more women in the work force and education. But also they had particular awareness rising campaigns and that’s really wound back… that gender imbalance."

 

Monday 27 Jul 2015

Rani Bilkhu has been campaigning in the United Kingdom to raise awareness about sex-selective abortions.

Speaking to SBS Radio’s, Pallavi Jain, she says that she has met significant resistance from pro-choice activists in the UK, who fear that any increased scrutiny on abortions could lead to more restrictions on a woman’s right to choose.

Sunday 26 Jul 2015

SBS consulted Australian relevant medical organizations but none of them were immediately concerned that sex selective abortions might be taking place in Australia.

NASOG

President of the National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (NASOG), Dr Michael Aitken, said he doesn't think sex-selective abortions are a big issue in Australia even though there may be isolated incidents.

AMA

Australian Medical Association's spokesman, Gynaecologist and Obstetrician, Dr Gino Pecoraro, says female foeticide is illegal in Australia, but he thinks patients have the right to know the gender of the baby and that doctors should not withhold information from them.

RANZCOG

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) does not have an official position on the gender ratio in a given population or the influence of year, parity, ethnicity, or environmental factors.

RANZCOG's president, Professor Michael Permezel, told SBS:

"RANZCOG recognises that there are medical indications for gender selection in the situation of some rare genetic disorders".

"RANZCOG does not support gender selection for reasons of parental preference or family gender balancing. If there is good evidence that this is occurring in Australia or New Zealand, RANZCOG would support an appropriately conducted investigation".

"RANZCOG endorses the NHMRC Ethical guidelines on the use of assisted reproductive technology in clinical practice and research 2004 (revised 2007) and under current review. Document.

"RANZCOG endorses the NECAHR Guidelines on Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) published by the New Zealand Ministry of Health. Document.

NHMRC

The Australian National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) explains the NHMRC’s Ethical guidelines on the use of assisted reproductive technology in clinical practice and research, 2007 (ART guidelines) provide ethical guidelines for clinical practice and research involving assisted reproductive technology.

NHMRC declined to comment on sex-selective abortion, stating that “the "NHMRC guidelines only apply to the formation and use of human embryos through the use of assisted reproductive technology, not through abortion".

 

Friday 24 Jul 2015

Gender advisor with the United Nations Population Fund, Kiran Bhatia, says that UN studies have found that “most communities where female foeticide is practiced have patriarchal family structures where the son is expected to inherit the head of the household role”.

“most communities where female foeticide is practiced have patriarchal family structures”

Scientia Professor at University of New South Wales and Evolutionary Biologist, Rob Brooks says his observations suggest “that societies where female foeticide is practised tend to lay emphasis on the male lineage or where the son is expected to take care of the parents in old age. In vast portions of Han Chinese society it’s the son who stays and looks after the parents in their old age and his wife and so raising a daughter is raising someone who is going to end up marrying and looking after someone else’s parents”.

Head of Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at James Cook University, Dr Ajay Rane, AO, says he was so moved by the issue of female foeticide in India he co-produced a video to bring about awareness on the subject.

According to Rane: “there is this almost compulsive desire to have a boy who will then carry the name of the family and who is supposed to be the one who looks after the parents when they get old.

And while there are exceptions to the rule but by and large the understanding is that that a son is supposed to look after the parents and the daughter is supposed to look after her (parents) in-laws”.

There is this almost compulsive desire to have a boy who will then carry the name of the family and who is supposed to be the one who looks after the parents when they get old.