Karishma Dharni

SBS Urges MPs to Examine Sex Selective Abortion Within a Safeguarding and Not a Criminal Framework

Vote against the amendment on sex selection abortion in the Serious Crimes Bill

We urge MPs to vote against Fiona Bruce’s amendment to the Serious Crime Bill on sex selective abortion on 23 February. If passed, it will have far reaching and unintended consequences for the very women it purports to protect.

We urge a NO vote for the following reasons:

  1. There is no sound evidence base of the prevalence of the problem in Britain.
  2. The majority of case studies that have been provided as evidence of the prevalence of sex-selective abortion highlight domestic violence where there is son preference but not specifically sex selection abortion.
  3. Other laws and measures already exist that can address the concerns. These include the newly enacted law on coercion and guidelines issued by NICE for the screening of domestic violence by medical professionals. These laws and measures should incorporate specific guidance on sex selective abortion and if properly implemented can protect vulnerable women and provide appropriate pathways for support.
  4. Criminalisation may drive the problem underground and raise the prospect of criminalising vulnerable women forced into sex selective abortion by family pressures.
  5. Advocates of this amendment are seeking to use sex selective abortion as a way of overturning key principles of the 1967 Abortion Act
  6. There is an urgent need to examine the impact of the austerity measures on Asian women’s support services. Many refuges, counselling and support services have closed or are under threat of closure and lack of access to legal aid is impacting on access to protection and justice. Prevention work in schools and communities to raise the broader question of gender discrimination is also adversely affected by the lack of resources.

Whilst we acknowledge the value of the second amendment calling for well-researched evidence based policy making, we are concerned that the question of protection of women from sex selective abortion is being located within a criminal framework and not a safeguarding framework. There is a need to examine the issue alongside other forms of gender discrimination that impact on the practice, including the practice of dowry, domestic violence and honour based violence. For this reason, we urge MPs to call for a wide ranging inquiry into gender discrimination in South Asian communities that examines sex selective abortion and its interrelationship with other specific forms of harms, and the lack of provision of support services for South Asian women that are being decimated despite the fact that they offer the best hope for protection.

Image credit: Nursing Times

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