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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 13:30 GMT
Doctor queries Indian abortions
Girl in India
Girls are often seen as a drain on families in India
A senior Indian doctor has called on UK health officials to investigate what he says are rising numbers of British Asian women having abortions in India. According to gynaecologist Puneet Bedi, the women are travelling to India to have abortions if they find they are expecting girls.

He said British GPs were referring women to clinics in India.

It is common, although illegal, in India for women to have terminations if the foetus is female.

A recent report in medical journal The Lancet estimated that as many as 10 million females may have been aborted in India in the last 20 years.

However, the Indian Medical Association disputed the findings, saying gender selection had dropped since a court ruling in 2001 clamped down on the practice.

There's no difficulty at all in getting either sexing or abortions done at the right time from almost any clinic in north India and the rest of India as well
Puneet Bedi
Gynaecologist

Dr Bedi, a gynaecologist at one of India's leading hospitals, the Apollo in Delhi, said the practice was lucrative for doctors.

"If anything it's on the rise because the basic economics dictate and there's a lot of money for the doctors to be made," Dr Bedi told the BBC.

He said it was common knowledge among gynaecologists that UK women were going to India from the UK for this practice.

"We all know that it happens all the time and most of the gynaecologists are directly involved in the business and practice of it."

He said it was easy for women to access doctors as there was an "openness and frankness" around the issue.

"There's no difficulty at all in getting either sexing or abortions done at the right time from almost any clinic in north India and the rest of India as well."

He said British GPs were referring women to clinics in India.

TERMINATION REASONS
Daughters require dowry
Daughters cannot carry on the family name
Daughters are seen as lower than sons

However, Dr Mayur Lakhani, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners said the practice was not widespread in Britain.

"In this country, this is the first that I've heard of it, so I think we need to gather more evidence about this practice in this country.

"But just to be absolutely sure: GPs operate to a very high standard in this country, we have some of the highest standards in the world, I'd be very surprised if this was a widespread or common practice."

An Asian women's project in Derby said there could be various reasons why some Asian women would not want a girl.

The director of Karma Nirvana, Jaswinder Sangheera, said: "With daughters come the issue of a dowry; with daughters they can't carry on the family name; daughters' positions are seen as less than a male.

"So I think that this is a pressure that Asian communities perceive, and it's a real one on the lives of a woman."




SEE ALSO:
India 'lost birth' study disputed
11 Jan 06 |  South Asia
India 'loses 10m female births'
09 Jan 06 |  South Asia
India confronts foetal sex checks
10 Sep 03 |  South Asia



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