Indo-Canadian women give birth to far more boys than women born in Canada

Interesting and disturbing study:

The research, presented in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the online CMAJ Open, looks at more than 6 million births in Canada and reveals that a greater presence of boys among Indian-born mothers may in part be linked to abortions in the second trimester, when parents can learn the baby’s sex.

The birth data was compiled from databases administered by Statistics Canada and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto between 1990 and 2011, and 1993 to 2012, respectively.

“The main implication is that among some immigrant communities, males are placed at a higher value than females. This is not just about abortions, it is about gender equality,” said lead author Marcelo Urquia of St. Michael’s Hospital. “I hope that this is conducive to a respectful debate on the value of girls and women in today’s Canadian society.”

His study newly exposes a relationship between induced abortions and the previously reported large numbers of boys among Ontario’s Indian community, said Urquia, noting the data likely explains an imbalance in the rest of Canada too. Some of the “deficit” of girls may be due to “implantation of male embryos,” said Urquia, but the data is insufficient.

While the natural odds of having a boy over a girl are slightly higher, they are consistent across the globe: up to 107 boys for every 100 girls. But Indian-born mothers living in Canada with two children had 138 boys for every 100 girls. In Ontario, that number inflated even more among Indian-born women with two daughters, who then gave birth to 196 boys for every 100 girls.

After abortions, the numbers rise dramatically: 326 boys after one abortion, 409 boys after multiple abortions, and 663 boys for every 100 girls following multiple abortions in the second trimester, when doctors can determine the sex of the fetus.

Miscarriages, or spontaneous abortions, were not linked to the births of more boys, the study found.

The implication is that the disproportionate ratios are a result of “sex discrimination fuelled by son preference” among people from Asian countries, particularly India, whose immigrants have the highest documented male to female ratio in the world, the study says. The new research focuses on immigrants from India as they contribute the most to immigrant births in the country, though disproportionate male births have been observed in other communities as well. The research found an imbalance among Chinese immigrants, but this could not be linked to abortion.

Data did not indicate how long Indian immigrants had lived in Canada and whether that impacted the sex ratio. Nor did it indicate what country the baby’s grandparents were from. These are questions for future research, said Urquia.

“We are currently looking at whether the skewed sex ratios diminish with time after immigration. The idea is that exposure to a more gender equal environment, such as Canada, will result in placing more value on females over time,” he said.

With this new research, it’s no longer a question of whether prenatal sex discrimination exists. It is evident over the last two decades across Canada. The “real question,” said researcher Abdool S. Yasseen III in a published commentary on the studies, is “why this practice persists, particularly in a Canadian society that espouses sex equality.”

For Baldev Mutta, CEO of Brampton’s Punjabi Community Health Services, it’s a question he and other community leaders will have to face. With this new research, he says, it is “time for some soul searching,” in the country’s Indian community.

Source: Indo-Canadian women give birth to far more boys than women born in Canada | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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