The intentional abortion of unwanted female fetuses is typically associated with societies like India and China, where the preference for baby boys has reigned supreme for uncounted centuries.
However, evidence has arisen that this gender-based custom may have spread to Britain and Europe, particularly among immigrant communities.
In Britain, where sex-selective abortion is illegal, the government revealed this phenomenon in a preliminary analysis of the latest birth statistics. The preponderance of male births suggested outside intervention, according to The Daily Telegraph, which investigated the allegations.
The UK is home to at least 2-million immigrants and their descendants from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where infant male preference is widespread.
“While the overall United Kingdom birth ratio is within normal limits, analysis of birth data for the calendar years from 2007 to 2011 has found the gender ratios at birth vary by mothers’ country of birth,” said health minister Earl Howe, the Telegraph reported.
“For the majority of groups, this variation is the result of small numbers of births and does not persist between years. However, for a very small number of countries of birth there are indications that birth ratios may differ from the UK as a whole and potentially fall outside of the range considered possible without intervention.”
Howe was responding to requests from Lord Alton of Liverpool, a long-time abortion opponent.
“Abortion has become so routine in Britain with 600 taking place every day that people have accepted the mantra that it’s just a matter of choice but that’s not what the law says,” Alton said. “There is a fundamental debate to take place here.”
Howe nonetheless rejected a proposal by Alton for health officials to record the gender of aborted fetuses.
“Identifying the gender of aborted fetuses over ten weeks’ gestation raises ethical and clinical issues,” Howe said according to The Daily Mail.
“We have no plans to introduce such a practice.’
In response to the findings, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said that it may press criminal charges against several doctors who performed such illegal terminations of pregnancies.
The problem has likely existed in Britain and Europe for the past fifty years, ever since large-scale immigration from the Middle East and South Asia to the continent commenced.
The Council of Europe (which includes Britain as a member) has already proposed that physicians refrain from informing parents of their fetuses’ gender to prevent such sex-selection abortions.
New Europe reported that ultrasound can help doctors determine the sex of a fetus after the fourteenth week of pregnancy -- however, in most European nations performing an abortion at this late a date is illegal.
A report in the German paper Deutsche Welle noted that gender imbalances are also prevalent in poorer parts of Eastern Europe.
Franziska Brantner, a Green Party member at the European Parliament and womens rights campaigner, cites “poverty… as well as strong discrimination against women" as the principal factors behind sex-specific abortions in places like Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro.
"One might assume that in societies dominated by men, women would be treated as princesses," Brantner noted.
"But the reality is violent and unpleasant for them… It is not just a health question; it's a human rights question."
According to UN studies, the normal biological gender rate is about 105 boys to 100 girls – but in parts of China and India, there are as many as 130 boys for every 100 girls. In Albania, the current ratio is about 112 to 100.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.