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news 20 Nov 17

BIRN Probe Prompts Montenegrin Campaign Against Sex-Selective Abortions

Women's organisation in Montenegro have begun a campaign against illegal prenatal gender tests and sex-selective abortions, following BIRN's investigation into the reasons behind the country's marked gender imbalance.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
 
 Photo: Gradjanska alijansa/Facebook.

Following an investigation by BIRN into the subject, Women's Right Center, an NGOs in Montenegro, on Monday launched the first phase of a campaign to highlight the problem of gender-selective abortion and to urge the authorities to tackle the phenomenon.

#Nezeljena [#Unwanted] was launched at an event in Podgorica and several other towns were flooded with pink obituaries with a girl character drawn on them and a printed message.

"Dear #Unwanted, your parents wanted a boy and that's why you didn't get a chance to be born. Forgive them. Your grieving Montenegro," the obituary reads.

Although genetic testing to find out the sex of an unborn baby is illegal, in Montenegro, as in other Balkan nations, a strong traditional bias remains in favour of sons, who are seen as the only guarantee to pass on the family line.

The new campaign in November will run under two slogans: "Let’s create a society where being a woman is not a disadvantage!" and, "Unwanted is the name of many girls in Montenegro."

The campaign was launched after an investigation produced by BIRN and Montenegro’s Center for Investigative Journalism, CIN-CG, in September revealed that many women have abortions if they find out their baby is female.

The result is a markedly skewed ratio of boys to girls, with about 113 boys born for every 100 girls, against a global average of 103.

The exact number of sex-selective abortions in Montenegro remains unknown, however. An informal code of silence means that there are no hard data about the numbers of women terminating their pregnancies after getting the results of genetic tests.

Women undergo a painful CVS test so they can learn the sex of their child before the expiry of the legal deadline for an abortion, which is ten weeks in Montenegro.

In Montenegro, such tests are only legal if serious genetic disorders are suspected and may only be done at the Clinical Centre in Podgorica, which is why many women travel to Belgrade, in Serbia, to have the tests.

Montenegrin MPs have tried to tackle the problem by passing laws to regulate the use of genetic science to detect a child’s sex, as well as limiting abortion.

The government has also said it aims to tighten controls of hospitals and medical procedures used for gender testing after health inspectors admitted they were powerless to intervene because they can only do so if a patient files a report, which none of them ever does.

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