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03 / 12 / 2007 - UK Indian women `aborting girls`
Some Indian women in the UK are aborting daughters in order to have more boys, according to research.
The study from Oxford University indicates that 1,500 girls have gone "missing" from the birth statistics in England and Wales since 1990.
It is a subject that is rarely spoken about openly.
But BBC's Asian Network has testimony supporting the theory that some women from the UK are using "sex selective abortion".
Dr Sylvie Dubuc, who studies human geography and population at Oxford University, studied birth rates of different ethnic groups in England and Wales, and was surprised by what she found.
She said: "According to my calculation around 1,500 girls are missing... it's significant compared to the total number of births."
Dr Dubuc found that the proportion of boys over girls has increased over time abnormally.
The most probable explanation, she says, seems to be sex selective abortion by a minority of mothers born in India.
But the BBC has learnt that it is not just women born in India who are prepared to go to extremes to ensure they have a male heir.
"Meena," a British woman who spoke to the BBC anonymously, already has three daughters. When she became pregnant again last year she was desperate to know the sex of the child.
Many health authorities in the UK refuse to tell couples the sex of an unborn, so Meena and her husband travelled to India to find out.
She told the BBC: "Unfortunately it was another girl. My husband and I thought the burden would probably be too much and the pressure when I got back home. So we decided to terminate".
With its largely unregulated medical profession, and a culture that is well known for its preference for boys over girls, India was an easy option.
The couple simply looked on the internet to identify a doctor to approach - and found one who was willing to perform the scan and abortion.
Getting rid of baby girls is a practice that is so widespread in some parts of India that it has skewed the ratio of males to females dramatically.
Female foeticide, as it is known, has been illegal in India since the early 1980s.
It is also illegal to offer scans to find out the sex of a baby - but the law is regularly flouted.
To see how difficult it is to find a doctor willing to carry out the service, the BBC sent a British couple to one of Delhi's top gynaecologists, Dr Mangala Telang - a doctor recommended by the British High Commission.
Dr Telang specialises in IVF treatment and has practised in some of Delhi's top hospitals, and has actually campaigned against female foeticide, calling it an "evil" crime.
The BBC had heard that her clinic would offer ultrasound scans to determine the sex of a baby - even though a sign in the waiting room clearly said it was illegal.
Secret filming shows that within minutes Dr Telang agreed to perform the scan. She warned the couple not to tell anyone about what they were doing as it was illegal.
The couple also ask whether, if the unborn child is a girl and they decide to abort the baby, she could recommend someone to carry out a termination.
Dr Telang said: "Yes I can recommend someone."
In the ultrasound room, another doctor tells the couple the "good" news - "It's a boy". Both doctors had broken several laws.
When the BBC told the doctors about the evidence, they denied doing anything wrong.
Dr Telang said she was not in the room when the scan was carried out. But she is clearly seen in the room congratulating our couple.
An estimated seven million girls have gone missing from India's population over the last 25 years.
Some of them will have been killed after they were born, or allowed to die within their first few days. But most of them will have been aborted.
Selective abortion is happening all over India as ultrasound machines - which carry out the scan - have become cheaper, but it has always been worst in Punjab and Gujarat.
It is impossible to say how many British women are travelling to India for terminations.
The UK has a substantial community though with strong links and often the same pressures as families in India.
"Meena" says she knows other Britons who have terminated their daughters, despite the emotional consequences.
She said: "That was about a year ago now. I still do think about it. I still think about how old she would have been now, how well she would have fitted in with her family, with her sisters."
The story of the Indian community's missing girls is only starting to emerge, but the preference for sons and the lengths people will go to have them can no longer be kept a secret.
Source: BBC NEWS