Focus on imbalanced birth rates in Canada on International Day of the Girl

By We Need a Law

Surrey, British Columbia – On October 11th, the International Day of the Girl, 50,000 pink flags will be planted in a Surrey, B.C. park. Tabitha Ewert, legal counsel for We Need a Law, the advocacy group hosting the event, hopes the event will draw attention to an injustice facing girls in Canada.

“We talk often about women’s rights, and equality rights, and abortion being a quote-unquote ‘woman’s right’,” Ewert said, “but we have to deal with the fact that abortion disproportionately targets 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, or lack thereof, that we place on women in Canada when we allow 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 for every 100 girls. There is no elevation in boy birth rates when no abortions are reported.

It was initially thought that sex-selective abortions in South Asian communities would decrease with the next generation. This most recent study, however, confirms that second-generation South Asian women, born in Canada, continue to show this 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.” As executive director of Laadliyan Celebrating Women, Bhangu is passionate about promoting the value of girls and women, as she often encounters women who continue to face pressure from their families to have sons.

Ms. Ewert also pointed out the inconsistencies in Canadian law as it pertains to discrimination based on gender. “The Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits sex-selection when it comes to in vitro fertilization. But once the embryo develops into a fetus, sex-selection is freely allowed in Canada.”

“Polls show that more than 90% of Canadians are opposed to the idea of sex-selective abortion, and we hope drawing attention to this issue will encourage politicians and those who vote for them to make this a priority issue,” said Ewert. “Pre-born children are being killed simply because they are girls, and we need to draw a line that says this is not okay.”