Daughters Meant Nothing: The Problem of Gendercide
An Anonymous woman from South Asia and Beverly Hill
“Imagine an affluent and well educated professional woman. This woman cherished her two daughters and loved them dearly, yet her friends and family always expressed pity or sympathy that she had only daughters.”
The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 117 million women are “missing” in the world due to selective abortion, infanticide, gross neglect, and (for older women) lack of access to food and shelter. (See announcement. http://www.unfpa.org/public/home/news/pid/8542) All these atrocities constitute gendercide, or femicide. Each year we lose almost 2 million baby girls to a combination of selective abortion and infanticide; that’s about one girl every four minutes. The scope of gendercide emerged just twenty years ago, when the Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen demonstrated it using census data. Now UN demographers monitor these numbers. Statistics, though, are just the tip of the iceberg. Each statistic tells a story.
Imagine an affluent and well educated professional woman. This woman cherished her two daughters and loved them dearly, yet her friends and family always expressed pity or sympathy that she had only daughters. Daughters meant nothing. Many remarked that she had bad fortune and gave blessings for a son. It pained her that the daughters she prized were not esteemed by others.
This woman and her loving husband soon learned that they had a third girl on the way. The in-laws reacted with strong displeasure. They had not wanted a second granddaughter, and they certainly did not want a third. After receiving much pressure from the family and community, the couple decided to abort the unborn girl child. As a woman, the mother felt terrible taking the life of another like herself. The decision ran counter to her strong and instinctive desire to nurture this child. The abortion took a devastating emotional toll on the mother, exacerbated by the abrupt hormonal changes and their physical consequences. The woman suffered.
Years later she bore a son, fulfilling the wishes of the elders. She was no longer an object of pity, but her trauma did not end. From time to time her subconscious thoughts surfaced to confront her with what she had done. To this day she regrets that she aborted a perfectly healthy baby girl.
The woman who sent us this story wishes to remain anonymous. Her story is representative of thousands, even millions, of others. Yet not all gendercide occurs during pregnancy, and not all gendercide victimizes unwanted daughters – it also affects the hapless mothers who bear those daughters. Despite increased medical sophistication in most South Asian countries, and despite the widespread availability of medical facts, the blame for a female child is generally placed on the woman who conceived her. As a result, families and communities urge husbands to abandon their wives and remarry in hopes of having sons. To this day women are still killed or burned alive to permit remarriage.
The preference for girls has traveled with the Indian diaspora. Many Indians living abroad, though highly educated and wealthy, remain preoccupied with having boys rather than girls in their own families. While many couples tolerate a first girl, second girls are usually not welcome. Much of this has to do with tradition and the desire to carry on the family name. Ironically, the same culture that worships goddesses and reveres women also condones their killing. There are just handfuls of individuals who go the long way to save and adopt baby girls.
The Gendercide Awareness Project is a team of women from four countries working to create awareness and action through an art installation and exhibit. We are collecting 11,700 pairs of handcrafted baby booties from around the world, with each pair representing 10,000 missing women. We will display them on all sides of a long, winding corridor. We will use multi-media to present basic information about gendercide at the beginning, as well as practical information for combating it at the end.
We are working to forge alliances with as many individuals and groups as possible – women’s groups, Asian-American groups, peace groups, human rights groups, knitting groups, etc. – in Dallas, Texas, throughout the United States, and across the world. We want our project to have a multi-ethnic face and very broad support. We are seeking endorsements and help in collecting baby shoes (especially from overseas). We also are seeking groups who will host our installation in their cities.
For more information please see www.gendap.org. We plan for our first exhibit to debut in Dallas, Texas, USA in 2015 and travel to other cities afterward. If you can help us please contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for your support!
Please note – the GENDERCIDE AWARENESS PROJECT is neither pro-life nor pro-choice. We are strictly neutral regarding the question of abortion. We are fighting the devaluation of women that results in abuse and death for females of all ages – from the unborn to the very old.
The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.