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Where are all the feminists now?

    On ‘gender selection abortion’ feminists cannot have their cake and eat it.  To retain any vestige of credibility or morality they have to condemn it outright and now, writes Research Fellow Kathy Gyngell. 

    After a summer of anti-misogynist tirades, outrage over the wage gap and evermore demands for gender parity - whether in the board room or over paternity leave - you’d think feminists would now be up in arms about the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute doctors willing to abort foetuses on the grounds of femaleness. You could hardly dream up a more fundamental violation of the female body and subjugation of the female sex.

    So it is curious that not one feminist voice has been raised in protest at the extraordinary CPS conclusion that it is not in the public interest to prosecute. Nor one raised in support of Jeremy Hunt’s call for a judicial review of this decision.

    Their silence is deafening. Not even that honorary champion of compulsory parity Nick Clegg has put his head above the parapet on this one.

    For an answer you need go no further than the centre pages of Saturday’s Times and read Janice Turner’s extraordinary outburst denying the existence of the problem at all.

    “There is no ‘gendercide’ problem with baby girls in Britain”, to be horrified about Turner claims. It’s, “..just the agenda of anti-choice zealots”, to make abortion harder.  

    Quite what evidence does she have for her remarkable conspiracy theory?  Well, mainly her own experience.  She doesn’t know anyone who has done this. And birth stats broken down by ethnicity give no cause for alarm.  So that is all right then?

    It is certainly not how Kishwar Desai has experienced it. She says society needs to realize the horrific consequences of sex selective abortions; that the UK doctors offering these should look to India to see the emotional and social disaster they create.

    She reports, from her research into this practice in the UK, meeting UK Asian families, “who still carry the cultural baggage of the "male child preference". One example she gives is of a young, working, British woman of Indian origin whose father made her look after her sister while he took her mother for a sex-selective abortion. It was a chilling account – he told her he did not want a third unwanted daughter in the house.

    Whatever Janice Turner personally believes, that such examples are insufficient in number to impact on statistical trends, is entirely irrelevant.

    It makes these cases no less vile and wrong.  Nor does her ‘cultural’ explanation make sex selective abortion more excusable, whether in India or here.

    What Turner describes as ‘the grim logic’ of gender termination in India apparently suffices. The culprit for her is the ‘cultural boy bonus’ not the act of 'foeticide' itself.

    This betrays her logical as well as her moral confusion. She confuses explanation with culpability in an example of cultural relativism at its worst. The law does not allow sex selective abortion in India any more than it does here. That it is ignored, like here now apparently, because of cultural norms and the prevalence of ultra-scan technology, does not justify it.

    The simple fact is that neither ‘cultural’ values nor flouting of the law absolve the base inhumanity or criminality of the act.

    It is pure intellectual laziness to think it does; though a mightily convenient way of dealing with the conundrum this problem particularly poses feminism.

    Side-lining gender selection as a symptom of the pre-existing unequal society, which needs to be fixed first is a feminist cop out. It does not stand the test of reason.  Nor does sanctioning prosecutors who pick and choose their cases on spurious grounds – as Laura Perrins details. This is behaviour symptomatic of state tyranny, not of western democracy.

    Feminists want social change.  It beggars belief that they think it will come about if violations against women are ignored and not prosecuted case by case.

    Do they likewise advise we have to wait for the next equality millennium before we can prosecute a rape or female trafficking because the pre-condition of sex inequality remains the norm?

    This is all so patently daft that you have to question Turner’s own agenda.

    She would have us believe that it is enough for something to be illegal alone. But the point is it is not. If the law is not enforced, it falls by the wayside. This seems to be the state of affairs that Turner and Jenny Hopkins, the Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor, are happy with. So happy that nothing must interfere with this ‘non’ law.

    The truth is that nothing, but nothing, must risk interfering with that sacred cow of feminism – a women’s right to abort. That sex selective abortion has turned out to be a deeply misogynistic tool in India, where female offspring are deemed a financial burden and where women’s, especially daughter in laws’ rights, are often frighteningly non-existent, is no matter to the Turners and Hopkins of this world. 

    No matter that migration has imported the practice here and that we don’t live in the multicultural utopia we dream of.

    It is depressing how deceitful and cowardly the "feminist" response to all this has been.  One feminist, who at least addressed the conundrum it poses the sisterhood, made the spurious case that the answer is:

    "...not to legislate against it or attack the women who seek it – it's to create cultural changes that transform the place of women … To get there, though, we must first accept that women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, on their own terms. Because if no one gives them autonomy in their own skin, why should they believe that their potential daughters deserve it either?"

    Her statement confirms that the right to abort (even if this opens up women being pressured into abortion) is the pre-eminent condition of equality.

    This is feminist fundamentalism gone mad. Is this Turner’s position? If yes she should come clean.

    Surely the pre-eminent condition of equality necessary for women to ‘get there’ must be for women to know they are fully protected by the law - that they are neither chattel of husband nor of in-laws. Equal protection under the law must be the primary condition of equality, not their right to do whatever they want to their bodies. It is the law that will protect women at risk of being corralled into selective abortion, and which if enforced will change abusive practices.

    Sadly this is just what the Crown Prosecution decision undermines. Yet Turner not just defends their stance but creates trumped up conspiracy charges against ‘pro-lifers’ to dismiss the real concerns of others.

    This is where an infatuation with abortion ‘choice’ at all costs leads.  Yet carrying abortion rights this far hardly counts as an expression of inspired autonomy for women.

    The tragedy of this thinking, as Kishwar Desai warned last year, is that, “just as not a single doctor in India who helped pregnant women get rid of their girl children will ever be held accountable for what has become an enormous social problem, it is doubtful if any UK doctors will ever feel a twinge of guilt over sex-selective abortion either, regardless of the consequences.”

    That there will be no legal consequences for these doctors should rest heavy on the collective feminist conscience.

    Kathy Gyngell has a first class honours degree in social anthropology from Cambridge and an Oxford M.Phil. in sociology. She has worked for the former ITV companies, LWT and TV-am as a producer and senior programme executive. A full time mother after the birth of her second son, she founded the voluntary organization Full Time Mothers.

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