When researching and reporting on sex-selective abortions in Indo-Canadian communities, context is key

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  • Stew Hooey says:

    My, has the dialogue ever changed on this- In March 2021, CITY TV did a lengthy news segment called “Deadly Patriarchy” where the journalist reporting squarely blamed sex selective abortion in Canada on colonialism, (read white men), without identifying any other single group at all, at any point. Yes, finger pointing is ugly, but blatantly scapegoating white men for this would be laughable if it wasn’t such a blatant example of the current toxic hatred towards whites. Yes, we can always do better, but Western Europe, Canada and Australia in fact have the best record on women’s rights and
    gender equality anywhere in the world. (Look up UN rankings etc) This reporter should be fired, but if anything, she’ll likely get a raise.

  • Dave Miller says:

    I didn’t understand what sex selective abortion was, didn’t know it existed! I believe every life is born of God and he has a purpose and plan for each baby born. I applaud you for your efforts in changing deep cultural beliefs in the importance of males in society to cary on the family name and inheritance, and females being lesser and just caregivers and punished if they bring dishonour on the family. Your article was well written and shame on the media for blaming your community.
    Yours Sincerely Dave Miller.

  • Jayza says:


  • Preet Singh says:

    sounds like someone is KILLING BABY GIRLS then getting upset that someone else called them backwards for doing it

    • pc says:

      Actually, it sounds like “don’t air our dirty laundry, we know it’s backwards, but we’ll handle it”. The bottom line is, a study was done showing son preference, but it offended people. So more studies were done involving the community, which… showed the same son preference. The new researchers seemed to feel that involving the community was the best way to address it, and perhaps it is. I understand if the women most hurt by this law are dependent women in terrible marriages pressured to unceasingly bear children until a son is born. That is not exclusive to Indian communities.

      But it is understandable if most Canadians (including Indo-Canadians) want laws banning the practise of sex-selective abortion. It is damaging to society. It would have been more honest to say, “listen, some of these women are in distress and get these abortions in secret, because it is their health and bodies and psyches that suffer”.

      Instead, we get this ridiculous quote:
      “It is important that this be understood rather than condemned (or reduced to barbarism) if it is to be effectively addressed. And it is not as if this idea about female shame is so foreign in Canada. Indeed, the systems of power and privilege in this country—as in so many others—continue to promote toxic masculinity and perpetuate ideas of female weakness.”

      In fact, that is what the media is highlighting – female shame IS foreign to Canada. The culture I immigrated to in Canada *was* more liberated than what my parents grew up with. Canada as a policy or a tradition never culturally condoned bride-burning, widow-harassing, FGM, child marriage, polygamy, ostracism or “honour” killing, etc. Misogyny and sexism from the past till now, sure, but it has been actively fought. Family law has changed. Access to birth control is available through socialized healthcare and is often free. This moral relativism is nonsense. This shibboleth of “toxic masculinity” is useless. This quote is saying, “yeah, we know it’s horrible, but don’t tell them, or they’ll dig their heels in, we’ll have to present it a certain way” – that’s just marketing and psychology- that doesn’t mean they fundamentally disagree with the position of the original study.

      Also, there is nothing you need to “understand” about sex-selective abortion. It IS barbaric and it IS to be condemned (as is anyone pressuring women to conceive and bear child after child with the purpose of gaining a male child). If not, why do the researchers append this helpful infographic teaching the community that their held beliefs are scientifically incorrect?

      • Stew Hooey says:

        Man you nailed it! Yes, it is a good idea to involve the community most being affected. What a balanced and accurate depiction of what is actually going on here.

  • Paul Anderson says:

    Very interesting article. I agree that it is unwise to try to draw too firm a connection between any particular culture and the practice of sex-selective abortion. It would also be unhelpful to try to pretend that there is no such thing as a culturally driven preference that would incline a couple to want their first child to be a son.

    In societies where the preference for sons over daughters is very strong and supported by tradition, there tends to develop a lopsided gender ratio. When the ratio of males to females becomes too great, history would suggest, a sequence of predictable societal problems tends to follow. Pronounced gender ratio imbalances ought to be avoided if possible. The question is how to approach the issue in a culturally respectful way.

  • Aurelia says:

    Excellent study and information surrounding the issue. Context does matter!
    I’d like to know if the attitudes and beliefs are different, depending on the ages when the couple came to Canada, or if they are second generation, or if education, or economic status changed the attitude. There is a saying in Western culture, (paraphrased)
    “A son is a son until he takes a wife, your daughter is a daughter for life.”
    Women often end up caregivers for elderly parents in Canada and the US, and I assume this saying is just one myth that contributes.
    I mention all this because many white Canadian couples have preferences for a boy or a girl, and I have been told by Stats Can researchers that (excluding recession years) Canadians stopped having children, once they had “one of each gender”.
    So two boys….they’d keep trying until they had one girl, and vice versa. I have no idea if any of these White women have had abortions….but in adoption parents get to choose the gender, and Canadian parents most often pick girls. Not boys.
    Boys are seen as rowdy, poorly behaved, hyperactive, less likely to be studious, more likely to be “trouble.” Even though child development studies show that it’s gender socialization that shapes kids behaviour, and when it isn’t that, it’s developmental delays/LDs/autism/ADHD that cause those issues, and genetics says those happen in girls and boys at equal rates.
    So, I look forward to seeing more research on this. I am a mother of three boys, 2 are adults, and actually one is transgender and will soon be my daughter.
    Thing is, I have ADHD and so do all of they, but I was never hyperactive, I was severely distracted, same for my oldest son, the other two are more on the hyperactive scale.
    The difference is that we have recieved treatment; intensive therapy and medications. And we’re doing well so far, so maybe everyone has preconceived notions about what’s it like to raise boys vs girls? :)


Amrita Kumar


Amrita Kumar-Ratta (MGA) is an equity and inclusion strategist, a social researcher, and a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. She is pursuing Collaborative Specializations in Global Health and South Asian Studies.

Ratta Manvir Bhangu


Manvir Bhangu (MA) is the founder and executive director of Laadliyan Celebrating & Empowering Daughters, a non-profit organization focused on gender issues in the Greater Toronto Area’s South Asian community.

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