British Asian community leaders have rubbished claims by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) that a ban on sex-selective abortions will divide communities.
MP’s are today voting to introduce an amendment to the UK’s Serious Crime Bill which will outlaw abortions on the grounds of the baby’s gender – a problem that is particularly widespread among South Asian immigrant communities.
However, a document circulated by the TUC urged Labour MP’s to oppose the amendment arguing that sex-selective abortion can be the correct decision in some cases – for instance for what it described as “cultural” reasons or if a woman is at risk of domestic abuse as a result of giving birth to a baby girl.
Religious leaders however, slammed the TUC’s claims saying that South Asian communities – be it Hindu, Muslim or Sikh – were vehemently opposed to the practice.
Bal Sandhu, of the Sikh Council UK, said she was “appalled” at the TUC’s claims that a ban would violate cultural sentiments.
“It is very offensive and appalling that they can make such generalised statements. We are in support of sex-selective abortions being a criminal offence because it will act as a deterrent and people might think twice.
“It doesn’t mean that there will be wife- battering as a result. It will simply send out a clear message that sex-selective abortions are illegal, unacceptable and will not be tolerated in this country.”
Dr Majid Katme of the Islamic Medical Association said: “All the major faith groups in the UK are strongly united against this criminal act of killing girls in abortion. Why in a civilised society do you target girls to be killed? Why are we going the way of India and China in targeting girls?”
The amendment to the Serious Crime Bill has been proposed by Conservative Party MP Fiona Bruce and has received cross-party support in the House of Commons as well as prominent British Asian activists such as Jasvinder Sanghera and Rani Bikhu.
Many others however, have opposed the amendment, saying it would criminalize mothers.
The true extent of so-called “gendercide” is unknown with supporters of the amendment citing significant anomalies in the ratios between girls and boys in some ethnic minority communities and opponents insisting that gender imbalances are non-existent or highly negligible.
A 2013 study by the Department of Health found no significant discrepancy in gender ratios in the UK even in relation to particular ethnic groups.
Campaigners such as Sanghera and Bikhu say that there has been an increasing number of women who have approached organizations such as Karma Nirvana and Jeena International that they have been forced to have gender-specific abortions either in the UK or abroad.