Some of the UK's Asian communities may be actively aborting female foetuses in favour of sons, with mothers born in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan most likely to opt for illegal gender-based abortions, a media report said today.
"The illegal abortion of female foetuses solely to ensure that families have sons is widely practised within some ethnic communities in Britain and has resulted in significant shortfalls in the proportion of girls," according to a new child birth data analysis by 'The Independent' newspaper.
Mothers born in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have been singled out as most likely to opt for gender-based abortions, while those born in India and Nepal may also be guilty, the report claimed.
"A government investigation last year found no evidence that women living in the UK, but born abroad, were preferentially aborting girls.
However, our deeper statistical analysis of data from the 2011 National Census has shown widespread discrepancies in the sex ratio of children in some immigrant families, which can only be easily explained by women choosing to abort female foetuses in the hope of becoming quickly pregnant again with a boy," the report said.
Abortions based solely on gender are illegal in Britain and in many other countries.
'The Independent' had commissioned a series of tables from the UK's Office for National Statistics showing the numbers of families with dependent children who were registered in the March 2011 census, broken down by country of birth of both the mother and father.
To double-check the analysis, they asked professional statisticians to analyse the data in more detail.
Christoforos Anagnostopoulos, a lecturer in statistics at Imperial College London, found sex-ratio anomalies persisted across families of all sizes, notably for mothers who were born in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
"The only readily available explanation that is consistent with a statistically significant gender shift of the sort observed in the census data is gender-selective abortion. In the absence of a better theory, these findings can be interpreted as evidence that gender-selective abortion is taking place," he said.
There is also some statistical evidence to suggest that gender-based abortions may also be occurring among women living in England and Wales who were born in India and Nepal – although there is insufficient data to confirm this effect, he added.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "Abortion on the grounds of sex selection is against the law and completely unacceptable."