A woman has spoken of the distressing pressure she felt from her in-laws to give birth to a baby boy after having three girls in succession.

Fauzia, not her real name, asked for her identity to be concealed for fear of a backlash from family and her local community.

Fauzia, 35, said she experienced intense stress after the birth of her first daughter 14 years ago.

“My in-laws made it clear they only valued baby boys.

“When I first told them I was pregnant, they told me to pray regularly and make dua for a boy.

“I did as I was told.

“When we found out it was a girl, my in-laws told me my prayers had not been sincere enough.

“They refused to tell any of their family or friends about the birth.”

Fauzia said the pressure intensified when she fell pregnant again with her in-laws using religion as a tool of manipulation.

“In my second pregnancy they told me to read the entire Quran and only then would my dua to have a boy be answered.

“When my second daughter was born, my in-laws said they had made a big mistake marrying their son to me and that they should have chosen my sister instead, who had just had a baby boy one month earlier.”

After her third daughter was born, Fauzia was exposed to a new challenge from her husband’s family.

“My sister-in-law told my husband that he should divorce me.

“She was on a mission. She would call and text him relentlessly.

“My in-laws echoed this saying it was his Islamic right.

“They even said I was a bad wife for not being able to do one thing to please her husband and his family.

“My husband didn’t divorce me, but he started praying and asking God to give him a son.”

It was after Fauzia found out she was pregnant with her fourth child did she attempt to terminate the foetus.

“I was experiencing similar symptoms to all my other pregnancies and I knew it was going to be a girl again.

“I am ashamed to admit this, but I tried to abort my baby.

“I couldn’t go through all that mental pressure and emotional blackmail all over again.

“I cried for hours every day after I took the pregnancy test.

“I was already suffering from depression for years and this pregnancy just triggered it even more acutely.

“I did horrible things to myself so that the baby wouldn’t survive.

“I can only thank God that I was unsuccessful.

“I now have four beautiful daughters who are my pride and joy.

“My relationship with my husband is still strained as I am bitter towards him for enabling his parent’s behaviour and for not sticking up for me and his children.

“I started speaking to a councillor who helped me realise that I have to put myself and my daughters first.

“I have learnt to ignore the demeaning comments my in-laws still make about me and my daughters.

“I pray that my daughters will be strong women when they grow up and will not let culture or narrow minded attitudes affect them negatively.”