“It’s a Girl, a film being released this year, documents the practice of killing unwanted baby girls in South Asia. The trailer’s most chilling scene is one with an Indian woman who, unable to contain her laughter, confesses to having killed eight infant daughters.
The statistics are sickening. The UN reports approximately 200 million girls in the world today are ‘missing’. India and China are said to eliminate more female infants than the number of girls born in the US each year. Lianyungang in China has the worst infant gender ratio on record with 163 boys born for every 100 girls. Taiwan, South Korea and Pakistan are also countries in which unwanted female babies are aborted, killed or abandoned.
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.
The Chinese cultural bias towards male children is one exacerbated by the birth control policy. India, however, poses a more complex problem where the primary cause is a cultural one.
Activists attribute a culture of valuing children by their economic potential to South Asia’s patriarchal social model in which men are the sole breadwinners. Sons both carry the family name and work from a young age. Daughter, on the other hand, impose the burden of a dowry before leaving the home upon marriage. Strict moral codes, onerous cultural expectations and demanding domestic responsibilities are all forces that further subjugate women.”
Via Ram Mashru for The Independent