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Selective abortion deepens the gender gap in Albania

2024-02-10 15:33:00, Sociale CNA

Selective abortion deepens the gender gap in Albania

When Lina has realized that she is pregnant with another girl, she has decided to end the pregnancy, as her husband is very nervous about the idea of ??having a fourth girl, instead of a boy.

Such a decision is often made in Albania and the Balkans, where the dominant patriarchal culture has pushed many families to pin all their hopes on a son.

"When my husband realized that the fourth child will be a girl, and we won't be able to have a boy, he got so nervous that he almost killed me," said Lina, who used a name other to protect the identity.

"I was able to risk my life, just not to give birth to that child", said the 40-year-old with tears in her eyes.

She said that she continues to suffer from the pain she suffered during the procedure, which was performed in unhygienic conditions, three years ago.

Selective abortion deepens the gender gap in Albania

Even from the most modest estimates, thousands of girls have "disappeared" from Albania, after many years of selective abortions.

"When the parents have learned that the fetus is a girl, they have decided, for various reasons, to abort it, rather than keep it", said Manuala Bello, representative of the United Nations Population Fund, for the area of ??Albania.

"In the last 20 years, 21,000 girls have disappeared in Albania", she told the AFP news agency.

For families who already have a daughter, almost a quarter said they would choose to have an abortion rather than have another daughter at home, according to research conducted by the UN.

"Social imbalance"

In the period 2000 - 2020, Albania is ranked fourth in the world for the gap in births between girls and boys - with an average of 111 boys born for 100 girls, UN data show.

An increase in education rates is believed to have helped reduce the margin over the next four years, including an awareness campaign by the UN office in Albania.

The figures are "higher than the biological average, which is about 105 boys for 100 girls", said Arjan Gjonca, a professor who specializes in demographic issues at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Selective abortion deepens the gender gap in Albania

"Well, if the phenomenon is repeated and if legal measures are not taken... the consequences in the future will lead to social imbalance", warned Gjonca.

Abortion is legal in Albania until the 12th week of pregnancy, while later it is only allowed with special permission from doctors.

Terminations of pregnancy related to the sex of the baby are illegal.

But increasing opportunities to find out the gender of the baby, such as blood tests - which can be done in many countries - means that ending this practice is difficult.

"It is very difficult to prove that the pregnancy has been terminated, because the fetus was a girl", said the gynecologist in Tirana, Rubena Mosiu.

Women in Albania take the tests every time and more often, since the seventh week of pregnancy they show the gender of the baby, with 90 percent accuracy.

A doctor's permission is not necessary for such tests.

'Sad Family Stories'

Despite the increase in awareness, values ??deeply embedded in society are difficult to overturn.

In many regions of the Balkans, the boy is considered the "pillar of the family", while the girls carry the burden of the "gentle gender in an aggressive society", said Anila Hoxha, investigative journalist from Tirana and activist for women's rights.

In neighboring Montenegro, gender-based abortions are a permanent problem, despite the improvement of the demographic balance in this country.

"There is a connection between patriarchal social norms and the preference for a boy over a girl," said Maja Rai?evic, who leads the Center for Women's Rights in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica.

The role of women in the family, together with economic dependence on men, because most do not inherit property, only increases the level of inequality.

In 2017, the center launched the campaign called "Unwanted".

The program aims to put an end to patriarchal notions, calling on Montenegrins to "ask themselves on what values ??a gender is more desirable, when there are people who don't even have the opportunity to have children", explained Rai?evi?.

Often, the biggest challenge comes from tensions within families.

In Albania, Maria - who spoke on condition of anonymity - said that she faced a lot of pressure from her mother-in-law and brother-in-law, after realizing that she was pregnant with a girl.

"They were extremely upset", she said during an interview with the UN office.

"My mother-in-law even told me that we can go to someone's house so that I can have an abortion, using old, very dangerous methods," she said.

But in the end, Maria has decided not to submit to the pressure.

"I decided to keep the baby", said Maria.

"But I will never tell my daughter our sad family story"./ REL

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