Letters: The wrong way to stop selective abortion of girls

These letters appear in the February 20 edition of The Independent

Independent Voices
Thursday 19 February 2015 19:11

We are deeply concerned about the proposed amendment currently being introduced in Parliament to allegedly clarify existing abortion law in the UK.

The amendment seeks to make sex selection a criminal offence, and explicitly targets South Asian women because of widely acknowledged cultural attitudes which prefer sons. However, the current proposal is not the means by which to address the issue of sex selection.

The evidence presented in a statement by Fiona Bruce MP is at best speculative in nature, while the Department of Health and other academic studies have highlighted that there is no significant evidence to show sex selective abortions are being carried out to warrant such a move.

By embedding the Abortion (Sex Selection) Bill into Part 5 of the Government’s Serious Crime Bill as statute, the amendment seeks to criminalise abortion more fundamentally by positing the fetus at the centre of any potential criminal cases. Women need support, and if there is coercion involved in any such cases of sex selective abortions, the existing Abortion Act sufficiently covers this area and requires strengthening with the support of social services.

The closure of so many Asian women’s organisations and specialist services has meant that the vital support needed to strengthen women and help them resist the pressure to produce sons is no longer available. This needs to be remedied.

If the amendment were adopted, doctors and service providers would be under further pressure to screen and use methods of ethnic profiling when reviewing requests for abortions, which is problematic on many grounds. In our view, the pro-life lobby is using this as an opportunity to fracture the pro-choice lobby (which, we emphasise is not pro-abortion, but pro-choice).

Those signed here are entirely against sex selection and gender discrimination of all forms. However, the proposal to criminalise sex selective abortion fails to support the women who are at the very centre of the discussion. The Serious Crime Bill is not the means by which to address sex selection in our communities.

Pragna Patel
Southall Black Sisters

Shaminder Ubhi
Ashiana Network

Dr Navtej K Purewal
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Umme Imam
The Angelou Centre

Dr Aisha Gill
University of Roehampton

Yasmin Rehman
End Violence against Women

Dr Jagbir K Jhutti-Johal
University of Birmingham

Professor Ravinder Barn
Royal Holloway, University of London

Newham Asian Women’s Project

Southall Black Sisters


Ashiana Network, London

The Angelou Centre, Newcastle

Yasmin Rehman, End Violence against Women Coalition

Freedom without Fear Platform



The Henna Foundation

NEWomen’s Network

Mariam Faruqi, solicitor

Dr. Goldie Osuri
University of Warwick

Professor Claire Alexander
University of Manchester

Dr. Rubina Jasani
University of Manchester

Dr. Navtej Purewal
SOAS University of London

Professor Maya Unnithan
University of Sussex

Dr Ravinder Thiara
University of Warwick

Dr. Anandi Ramamurthy
Sheffield Hallam University

Dr. Virinder S. Kalra
University of Manchester

Dr. Opinderjit K. Takhar
University of Wolverhampton

Dr. Shirin Housee
University of Wolverhampton

Professor Ravinder Barn
Royal Holloway, London

Dr. Kalpana Wilson
LSE Gender Institute

Dr. Surinder Guru
University of Birmingham

Ms. Dawn River
University of Birmingham

Dr. Agomoni Ganguli Mitra
University of Edinburgh

Professor Elizabeth Dowler
University of Warwick

Dr. Khursheed Wadia
University of Warwick

Dr. Jagbir Jhutti-Johal
University of Birmingham

Professor Ann Stewart
School of Law, University of Warwick

Dr. Subir Sinha
SOAS University of London

Dr. Sumi Madhok

Dr. Pippa Virdee
De Montfort University

Dr. Amina Yaqin
SOAS University of London

Dr. Sukhwant Dhaliwal
University of Bedfordshire

Dr. Kaveri Qureshi
University of Oxford

Dr. Aisha Gill
University of Roehampton

Professor Raminder Kaur
University of Sussex

Professor Eleanor Nesbitt
University of Warwick

Dr. Shoba Arun
Manchester Metropolitan University

BBC news recalls bad old days in Poland

Michael Church is right (“Why is the BBC just so bad at TV news?”, 17 February). The BBC news service has become an embarrassment. Clearly its main function has become parallel to that of the media in Poland and other eastern European countries under the communist governments of yore. (I was there, I know.)

That is to manage the public, to smooth the waters, damp down alarm, tuck us all up in bed at night with our weather news and our cocoa.

“Controversial” has become a bad word. To rock the boat by raising ignored and inconvenient facts is tantamount to disloyalty to the public peace, to queen and country.

Michael Trevallion

I gave up watching BBC News for balanced international reporting ages ago. Now I watch Bloomberg News instead.

It is very biased towards business of course, but because it is, it has to get things right and make sure it covers every story worldwide which is likely to have an impact on business.

When dealing with guests, Bloomberg interviewers ask a question and then shut up and listen to the answer. Follow-up questions can even be related to the previous answer, something that very rarely happens on BBC News.

Michael Church advises watching Al Jazeera. Could I add Bloomberg to that? Between the two, viewers should get a much wider perspective.

David Pollard
Salen, Isle of Mull

What drives the madness of Isis

Carole Penhorwood asks if someone could point out the crazy gene driving Isis and others to such barbarous extremes (letter, 18 February). But it’s a meme, not a gene we should be looking for.

Politics always risks being hijacked by religion when corruption and tyranny reach a certain point. When reality is too harsh to bear, people are driven into the arms of idealists who offer the attractive vision of a pure world certified by some absolute revealed truth.

Poor and oppressed people with nothing to lose will get behind someone who claims to be acting on behalf of a higher moral power, and their pent-up rage is then channelled against anyone who disagrees. Such violent revolutions usually end badly, but we have to acknowledge that there are real causes that fuel the madness that attends them.

Every region threatened by Isis has been subject to generations of meddling by selfish external forces at the expense of local populations. Those of us who have sown the wind are now reaping the whirlwind. It may be that things have now reached a point where a military straitjacket is the only option to prevent the horror sweeping the Middle East from becoming a wholesale contagion, but until we address the inequities at the root of the problem, we will not solve it.

And that, however unpalatable, means talking, and listening, to terrorists.

Simon Prentis

“Depicting the Prophet of Islam as a dog and lampooning divine religions should not be considered as freedom of expression. Such acts sow the seeds of discord and division.” With these words Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob (letter, 17 February) reveals his failure to understand the nature of human freedom and why Islam is fundamentally incompatible with it.

Notice too the implicit threat of what is to come should those of us who value our freedom continue to exercise it.

Jamie Baker
Bridgwater, Somerset

Wrecked cities make friends

John Soane comments about allegations of exaggerated “victim mythology” in Dresden (letter, 17 February).

I was a member of a group from the Friends of Coventry Cathedral, invited to attend the commemoration of the destruction. I was struck by the willingness to reach out in reconciliation and friendship from everyone I met, whether in organised events, or conversations with passers-by.

The overwhelming message was that victimhood is not confined to one country or city, but that harking back to the past does no one any good, and we can and should now work together to build a future of peace. As soon as people knew I was from Coventry the respect and gratitude were overwhelming; no sign of any resentment at all. Even the extreme right were pretty quiet.

Richard Parker

Dame Sally Coates is quite right (“Leading headteacher exposes underhand tactics used by schools to get round curbs on selection”, 19 February). A wide-ranging review of school admissions is needed. Comprehensive Future has been lobbying for this for some time.

“Fair banding” is one of the many issues needing investigation. She highlights one aspect, another is that in most cases parents have to get their children to the school to take the test, easier for some parents than others.

More and more schools are becoming admission authorities, able for example to select on so called “aptitude”.

The only real means of making changes is by complaining to the adjudicator, which is time-consuming and piecemeal. So all political parties need to include a promise for a review in their manifestos.

Margaret Tulloch
Comprehensive Future
London SW20

Chris Hazell (letter, 19 February) describes offering the late Anne Naysmith money for food, whereupon she spat at his hand and called him a “cock”. Mr Hazell’s assessment that she was a “fiercely independent lady” “who will be much missed” demonstrates what a generous soul he is; I would have described such behaviour as boorish and unpleasant.

Edward Collier

I often watch football on TV. I see many black faces on the pitch, but have never seen one among the spectators. Does this tell us something?

Jacqueline Simpson
Worthing, West Sussex

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