Skewed Sex Ratios in Canada

University of Manitoba public health researcher Dr. Marcelo Urquia shared the outcomes of his research studies on skewed sex ratios among certain minority populations in the Toronto region. He began his Oct. 24, 2018, seminar by discussing how not all countries in the world have the same level of women’s rights as Canada. He also reminded the audience that marital rape was recognized through the Criminal Code of Canada in 1983. He then presented the audience with a chart showing the number of recent immigrants to Canada as well as their country’s level of gender equality. He shared that there was a time in Toronto when medical practitioners weren’t disclosing the gender of unborn babies to their parents as a response to parents choosing to abort those that were female.

Urquia’s research focused on son preference among Indian populations in Canada. He published a study in 2016 that showed that, among Canadian-born parents, female- and male-born ratios were very close, whereas with Indian-born mothers, the ratios were very skewed with preference for males. He noted that within the Indian community, it is accepted to have one or two girls because of the family size. His paper focused on the mechanism and asked whether the sex ratios were associated with abortions. His results were inconclusive, however, there was an increase in women having sons after having two daughters. He also found that there was an increase in having sons after late-term abortions.

After his research paper was published, there was a followup study by a female student from India, who hypothesized that the longer people stayed in Canada, the more equal the sex ratio would be. However, this subsequent study found that this was not in fact the case. Dr. Urquia said a nationwide study conducted in India in 2006 found that Punjab was the Indian state with the most skewed sex ratio. As a result of these findings, some of Dr. Urquia’s students of South-Asian descent received funding to do an intervention pilot with the community in Canada and began an awareness campaign about male preference practices. They hoped that, through this project, they could raise awareness around this issue and promote women by showing that they can do many of the same things that sons can do.

Questions

What triggered this practice of medical practitioners being more cautious about disclosing the gender of an unborn baby to parents?

Not entirely sure. However, maybe many family physicians did disclose the gender and since they had a relationship with the families, they were seeing patterns.

When you approached the community groups, who did you approach and why? Was the partnership part of all aspects of the research?

We approached them right after we published the first study because the perception was that we weren’t telling the whole story. At first, they were reluctant, but we said we wanted them to guide our research and we were open to doing the kind of research that they were comfortable with, and they gave us permission to share the findings. It took three years to publish because we had an advisory board that went through the findings.

The data you have is showing that this selective process is occurring in Canada. What is the impact on Canada’s male and female sex ratios?

The impact is negligible as it is only for a minority in Canada.

Listen to podcasts from seminars in this series.

 

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