It’s a girl.
That is a seemingly innocent arrangement of three words which has caused the deaths and ‘disappearance’ of more than 200 million girls worldwide, mostly in India and China. That’s the United Nations estimate, by the way.
Let’s find another way of putting that into perspective, as mentioned in the film. India and China abort or kill more foetuses every year than are actually born in the United States.
Let that sink in.
The staggering statistics are created by a culture in many parts of South Asia that sees women as inferior. A uterus is not desirable in these countries because men are seen as the providers. Ram Mashru writes in The Independent:
“Gendercide in South Asia takes many forms: baby girls are killed or abandoned if not aborted as foetuses. Girls that are not killed often suffer malnutrition and medical neglect as sons are favoured when shelter, medicine and food are scarce. Trafficking, dowry deaths, honour killings and deaths resulting from domestic violence are all further evils perpetrated against women. This femicide has led the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces to report in ‘Women in an Insecure World’ that a secret genocide is being carried out against women at a time when deaths resulting from armed conflicts have decreased.
The brutal irony of femicide is that it is an evil perpetrated against girls by women. The most insidious force is often the mother in law, the domestic matriarch, under whose authority the daughter in law lives. Policy efforts to halt infanticide have been directed at mothers, who are often victims themselves. The trailer shows tragic scenes of women having to decide between killing their daughters and their own well-being. In India women who fail to produce sons are beaten, raped or killed so that men can remarry in the hope of procuring a more productive wife.
It is an oft-made argument that parental discrimination between children would end if families across south Asia were rescued from poverty. But two factors particularly suggest that femicide is a cultural phenomenon and that development and economic policy are only a partial solution: Firstly, there is no evidence of concerted female infanticide among poverty-stricken societies in Africa or the Caribbean. Secondly, it is the affluent and urban middle classes, who are aware of prenatal screenings, who have access to clinics and who can afford abortions that commit foeticide. Activists fear 8 million female foetuses have been aborted in India in the last decade.”
Take a look at the movie trailer:
So what’s the solution?
Simply changing the laws won’t work. Dowries were banned in India decades ago but are still pervasive. They make women ‘expensive’ in the long run as their families must pay their future husbands. And alleviating poverty (were it so easy) isn’t a fix-all. Data shows the killing of baby girls and aborting female foetuses happens across the socio-economic divide. Indeed, abortions are more common among the wealthier who can afford the ultrasound technology to reveal the sex of the child before birth. Education helps, of course, but only so much.
In China the problem is exacerbated by the One Child Policy which placed even more stress on a society based in Confucianism which saw male children, especially firstborns, as vital to the culture and economy. When families only had one shot at having a boy, infanticide of girls increased dramatically.
Part of the problem is that women in these countries are still very much considered to be an economic liability. Especially when dowries are taken into consideration.
According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development’s Child Right Handbook, there is a common myth in India that daughters don’t benefit their families.
“Bringing up a girl child is like watering a neighbour’s garden,” the handbook states. “You raise them up, protect them all through and also plan for their marriage and dowry till they are ﬁnally gone.”
So even public education campaigns are framed around offsetting the liabilities of the woman by explaining how beneficial they may be in a modern economy.
So even in trying to limit the damage of femicide, women are reduced to an economic unit.
“[A] Mumbai doctor says that increasing women’s status is the only way to stop sex-selective abortion in India.
“No amount of education, rules and punishment can stop female feticide,” he says. “It will stop only when the status of girls and women will be raised high in our society. In fact, her status should be more than that of the men. Only this will bring about a vigorous change.”
Advocates say they hope that the country that worships many goddesses will one day begin to desire daughters, too.”
What are your thoughts on the situation in South Asia?