By Gular Abbasova
17:03 pm... I'm waiting for the phone call. The thought that she might refuse to speak at the last moment worries me. Finally the call comes.
"Hi. Can you speak?
"Hi...Yes, I can.
"You know what we are going to talk about. Are you comfortable?
She pauses for a while.
"Yes. We can talk."
When I tried to connect with women who had been forced to do abortions, because they were pregnant with girls, I failed. No woman wanted to speak about this topic. I went on Facebook and found active, closed groups where women, mostly housewives, discuss social life and family problems, and get group members' advice and opinions. I asked if there is any woman suitable for my topic. Although many women face this problem, only one of them reacted to my Facebook post:
"I had a such problem. But, please admin, delete my comment after reading it.
I wrote to the group admin, and she said the woman can speak to you after a few days, when her husband is at work. She asked to delete the comment because her husband reads her messages. It was her.
She is 25 and lives in Baku. She got married at 22 and a year later gave birth to a girl. She was forced to about a second pregnancy because it was a girl.
"When I had a baby girl first, all the relatives said: 'now it is ok, later you will have a boy.' After nine months I realized that I was pregnant again. My husband said he cannot manage financially if I have another baby. He did not care whether it's girl or boy. I was against it and said I cannot do any abortion. But then we decided to. I was in my fourth week," she says.
Her husband, 34, is a musician. He plays the accordion and earns about 1,000 manat (about $US590 a month) from wedding ceremonies. Besides his wife and daughter, he also provides financially for his mother, father and divorced sister and her son, who live together in the same rented home.
When her mother in-law found out that she was pregnant, she took her for an ultrasound check-up, but they didn't ask about the sex of the unborn child. They went again when she was 12 weeks pregnant and the doctor said it was a girl.
Her mother-in- law insisted on another check-up. “ I wanted to go to the check-up alone," she says. "I thought if it showed it was a girl, I could lie and say it was a boy. But mother-in law did not let me. She and my husband took me, so they also knew it was a girl.”
Her voice was so low and trembling that I could hardly catch her words. Suddenly she stopped and said.
"I am so sorry. I’ll check the door. Maybe someone is coming into the room.
I heard a women say “come and close the door.” After a few seconds she was back and carefully continued to talk with me.
“ We had a conflict with my mother in-law. She blamed me for not being pregnant with a boy. I had a conflict not only with her, but also with my husband. His mother forced him to take me to the abortion. I said no and for a while I persuaded my husband to save this baby. He is a religious man, so somehow he agreed with me. At this time, I was on my third and one-half month.”
Her parents live in Ismayilli, which is about 180 km from the capital city Baku. She is the only child in her family. Her mother is a housewife, her father is retired. She says her parents did not know about the abortion in advance.
“It was my own family problem. I do not want to tell my parents about problems and bother them. After the abortion, there was nothing to say. They just said: “be patient, everything will be good.
In Azerbaijan, many people with old-fashioned beliefs mock and humiliate a man if he doesn't have a son. In her case, her mother-in law and other relatives still tell her husband: “You are a man, and a real man should have a son, not two daughters.”
“My husband was disappointed," she says. "He and his mother argued with me. Every day we had conflict at home. They were aggressive towards me. I did not want to go to the abortion. I cried, but nothing…they took me to the surgery by force.”
She says she was four and a half months pregnant when they took her to maternity hospital number 7 in Gara Garayev , about 8 km from the center of Baku. She thought the hospital would refuse to do the abortion because it was so late in her pregnancy. But the doctors accepted her and did it.
According to Article 30 (Artificial infringement of pregnancy ) of the Law "Protection of Population Health" of Azerbaijan(1997) :
"Every woman has the right to settle the issue of motherhood independently. Artificial infringement of pregnancy is carried out within 12 weeks of pregnancy with the wish of a woman. Abortion is allowed up until 28 weeks in cases of psychological or physical harm, harm to the fetus or other grounds deemed by a commission of local physicians. The procedure must be carried out by qualified doctors and only in approved state and non-state medical institutions.
According to the Decision of the Cabinet of Ministers of the AR in 12 January 1999 on some issues related to the application of the Law "Protection of Population Health" of Azerbaijan Social guidelines on artificial infringement of pregnancy are defined as below. Artificial infringement of pregnancy can be done in case:
“I was alone in the hospital room. I did not know what they said to the doctor. After having a second anesthesia, my baby was aborted. Then I had strong
bleeding and after that a hormonal disorder. Every day I was looking at my baby’s ultrasound scan and crying. It was my daughter, but I could not save her. I have sinned.”
She stops talking.
"Sorry again. Wait for a moment, please." She is checking the door.
"Sorry, really. You know I am not alone."
"Do not apologize. Can you continue now?"
Her husband was at work. She could manage the others and talk with me. She stressed there was no physical violence towards her. But she also said she could not bear the aggression in her family and was under psychological stress.
“If we had our own house and we were living alone, I think my husband would never have forced me to do this abortion. I had already persuaded him. My mother-in-law and others’ ridiculous words and behaviors influenced him.
"You know that we have such a mindset, that to continue the generations each man must have a son. That is why my husband agreed with their opinion.”
"Thank you for your story. If any questions, could I call you again?"
"Yes, you can. Just say that you are calling because of something I ordered. Then I can manage to talk with you."
"You are making something?
"Yes, my profession is musician. I am a piano teacher. But now I am still on a maternity leave, not working. Making accessories like jewelry. It is my little business. I am making a little money for myself."
" Ok. Thank you again."
At the initiative of the Azerbaijan State Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs, an online survey on abortion was conducted during October-December 2016. The main purpose was to obtain accurate sociological information on marital relations, reproductive health and abortions.
The analysis shows that one major reason for the abortion of girls is not wanting to have more than two children. Young families want the second child to be a boy when they already have a girl. A second major reason is that contraceptives are either used improperly or not at all.
According to the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs, official statistics of sex-selective abortions are not collected in Azerbaijan. Aynur Veysalova, senior consultant for Information and Analytical Research for the Committee, shared these findings:
“Sometimes selective abortions are not registered by doctors, and also there are abortions done at home. In general, the number of abortions in country has increased. There were 27,220 abortions registered in 2014; the number increased to 34,569 in 2016.”
23331 newborns were registered by the district's (city) registration departments of the The Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan in January-February of 2018 year. The percentage of girls among newly born babies is 47.3 and currently 112 girls were born for every 100 boys (biodiversity is between 105-107).
Veysalova stressed that various educational campaigns are organized by the Committee to address sex-selective abortion issues. A three-year government project to prevent selective abortions, to show the value of girl babies, and to fight gender-based violence, is also supported financially by the United Nations Population Fund, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the European Union. A number of trainings were held for media representatives, young fathers and other men to emphasize the value of girl babies and women in the family and society.
Charts below show the changes in number of men and women and newborn girls and newborn boys through years.