Religion and sex-selective abortion: a comparative study of immigrants from South Asia to Norway

Journal article

Brekke, Torkel (2013) Religion and sex-selective abortion: a comparative study of immigrants from South Asia to Norway, Diaspora Studies 6 (1): 31–40.

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Sex-selective abortion is a contentious issue in some Asian countries. Recent research suggests that some Asian immigrants to the West continue this practice. A recent retrospective cohort study of live births in mothers of Indian (n = 1597) and Pakistani (n = 5617) origin suggested a skewed female-to-male sex ratio among children born in Norway. Significant differences were observed in the sex ratio of children born to mothers of Indian origin compared with children born to mothers of Pakistani origin. A skewed number of female births among higher birth orders (i.e. third or later) may reflect an increase in sex-selective abortion among mothers of Indian origin, although the numbers are too small to draw firm conclusions. In this article, I build on this work in order to discuss possible cultural and religious differences between the Indian and Pakistani Diasporas in Norway that may contribute to an understanding of the differences between the two groups in the use of abortion to determine the sex of children. The two groups are dominated by people of Punjabi origin and share many characteristics, but not religion. It seems likely that Islam is a factor that inhibits the practice of sex-selective abortion.

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