October 11 marks the International Day of the Girl, a day to highlight the needs and challenges faced by women and girls around the world.
In considering injustice, it is always best to start with unflinching self-examination. We quickly see that this is not a day to rest on our laurels and give thanks for the wonderfully egalitarian, feminist country in which we live. As a Canadian woman it saddens me to know that one violation of rights that faces Canadian girls year after year remains unchanged: sex-selective abortion. While countries around the world have taken steps to address and end sex-selective abortion, Canada continues to ignore the issue. So, today in Surrey, British Columbia, 50,000 pink flags will be planted in a public park to draw attention to the reality that is sex-selective abortion.
Several research studies over the past few years have shown an imbalanced birth rate in Canada, with boys outnumbering girls in a ratio that cannot be explained naturally. Earlier this year, a study headed by Dr. Susitha Wanigaratne and published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health showed a significant imbalance in the boy-girl ratio in South Asian communities. Researchers point to sex-selective abortion, which is allowed in Canada, as a contributor to this imbalance.
Naturally, about 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. In South Asian families with two girls and one or more reported abortions after that, the ratio shifts to up to 280 boys born for every 100 girls. There is no elevation in boy birth rates when no abortions are reported.
In Canada we say we care deeply about women’s rights, and equality rights. Somehow these rights have come to be synonymous with abortion as a ‘woman’s right’. Yet, this so-called ‘right’ continues to result in abortion disproportionately targeting baby girls. Abortion is not about a woman’s right to choose – it is about taking away a child’s right to live, and it makes a statement about the value that we place on women in Canada when we allow sex-selective abortion. Pre-born children are being killed simply because they are girls, and we need to draw a line that says this is not okay.
It was initially thought that sex-selective abortions in South Asian communities would decrease with the next generation, as they presumably took on Canadian values and recognized the equal worth of women. This most recent study, however, confirms that second-generation South Asian women, born in Canada, continue to show a preference for boys. Manvir Bhangu, a co-author with Wanigaratne of the 2018 study, told the Globe and Mail, “These biases are deeply rooted in our culture.”
These biases are not just deeply rooted in South Asian culture. As one researcher told CTV news, this “problem is very partially Indian, and hugely Canadian.” There is a reason that second generation South Asian women have not changed their views and suddenly started valuing women more highly. Canada has not modeled to them a valuing of women. Pornography is rampant, women continue to be portrayed as sex objects for men in movies, shows and advertising, and women continue to work for less pay than men.
By telling women we have equality and respect, Trudeau’s government is telling us a lie while refusing us the opportunity to ask questions. In a rapidly changing world of fluid gender and distorted family units, women and their unique child-bearing ability have become a poster child for oppression and repression. So what we have is abortion – is this control over your body and your future? Actually, abortion allows men a unique kind of control, combining a lack of responsibility for this “women’s issue” with allowing a disproportionately large number of new men to be born, to perpetuate the belief that men are more powerful, more valuable, and more essential to society.
There are some signs that we recognize the inherent bias of sex-selection. The Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits sex-selection when it comes to in vitro fertilization. But once the embryo develops into a fetus, sex-selective abortion is freely allowed in Canada.
This disconnect in the law and the underlying devaluing of women is the reason we continue working to draw attention to the injustice of sex-selective abortion. The International Day of the Girl is not only about issues facing girls outside of Canada. Called a “women’s issue”, abortion does indeed impact women far more than men – from the very earliest stages. We have work to do to defend girls right here at home.
You can learn more about sex-selective abortion in Canada at DefendGirls.com.