Tradition and religious edict in Hindu culture demands that the widow be burnt on the funeral pyre of the husband. John-Thor Dahlburg has written about it in the Los Angeles Times. The seminal film “Water” sheds light on the plight of Women and “White Widows” in which Depa Mehta sheds light on the issue of surviving widows in “India“. These “White Widows” are only allowed to wear “white” (hence the term “White Widows“) and are considered cursed and jinxed. They are ostracized from society and cannot live with any of the surviving relatives. In rare cases where the “White Widow” lives with the relatives, her life is worse thant that of the slave. Dehumanized she is relagated to menial jobs, worse off than indentured servants, the “White Widow” is made to suffer a life of invisibility. Even her shadow is considered cursed.
Deepak Mehta shows the plight of one woman–a story which personifies the neglect which according to her is faced by 50 million other Indian women. Mehta shows the reality of India in which millions of these “Whie Widows” are incarcerated in temples and then sold as prostitutes to keep their upkeep.
Extremist Hindus show power using the Swastika in triple entendre–as an ancient Hindu symbol, reverence for Hitler and sign of Anti-Western Indian power.
As John-Thor Dahlburg points out, “in rural India, the centuries-old practice of female infanticide can still be considered a wise course of action.” (Dahlburg, “Where killing baby girls ‘is no big sin’,” The Los Angeles Times [in The Toronto Star, February 28, 1994.]) According to census statistics, “From 972 females for every 1,000 males in 1901 … the gender imbalance has tilted to 929 females per 1,000 males. … In the nearly 300 poor hamlets of the Usilampatti area of Tamil Nadu [state], as many as 196 girls died under suspicious circumstances [in 1993] … Some were fed dry, unhulled rice that punctured their windpipes, or were made to swallow poisonous powdered fertilizer. Others were smothered with a wet towel, strangled or allowed to starve to death.” Dahlburg profiles one disturbing case from Tamil Nadu:
Lakshmi already had one daughter, so when she gave birth to a second girl, she killed her. For the three days of her second child’s short life, Lakshmi admits, she refused to nurse her. To silence the infant’s famished cries, the impoverished village woman squeezed the milky sap from an oleander shrub, mixed it with castor oil, and forced the poisonous potion down the newborn’s throat. The baby bled from the nose, then died soon afterward. Female neighbors buried her in a small hole near Lakshmi’s square thatched hut of sunbaked mud. They sympathized with Lakshmi, and in the same circumstances, some would probably have done what she did. For despite the risk of execution by hanging and about 16 months of a much-ballyhooed government scheme to assist families with daughters, in some hamlets of … Tamil Nadu, murdering girls is still sometimes believed to be a wiser course than raising them. “A daughter is always liabilities. How can I bring up a second?” Lakshmi, 28, answered firmly when asked by a visitor how she could have taken her own child’s life eight years ago. “Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her.” (All quotes from Dahlburg, “Where killing baby girls ‘is no big sin’.”)
A study of Tamil Nadu by the Community Service Guild of Madras similarly found that “female infanticide is rampant” in the state, though only among Hindu (rather than Moslem or Christian) families. “Of the 1,250 families covered by the study, 740 had only one girl child and 249 agreed directly that they had done away with the unwanted girl child. More than 213 of the families had more than one male child whereas half the respondents had only one daughter.” (Malavika Karlekar, “The girl child in India: does she have any rights?,” Canadian Woman Studies, March 1995.)
The bias against females in India is related to the fact that “Sons are called upon to provide the income; they are the ones who do most of the work in the fields. In this way sons are looked to as a type of insurance. With this perspective, it becomes clearer that the high value given to males decreases the value given to females.” (Marina Porras, “Female Infanticide and Foeticide”.) The problem is also intimately tied to the institution of dowry, in which the family of a prospective bride must pay enormous sums of money to the family in which the woman will live after marriage. Though formally outlawed, the institution is still pervasive. “The combination of dowry and wedding expenses usually add up to more than a million rupees ([US] $35,000). In India the average civil servant earns about 100,000 rupees ($3,500) a year. Given these figures combined with the low status of women, it seems not so illogical that the poorer Indian families would want only male children.” (Porras, “Female Infanticide and Foeticide”.) Murders of women whose families are deemed to have paid insufficient dowry have become increasingly common, and receive separate case-study treatment on this site. Gendercide.
GENDER MURDER IN INDIA:-50 million baby girls killed before and after birth
Harassed in India: Women face an uphill battle in a culture that devalues females By Raymond Thibodeaux, February 22, 2008
In its global campaign to attract foreign tourists, India’s “Incredible India” ads feature a young woman enjoying her morning yoga session on a secluded beach.
In reality, what female tourists experience too often is this: persistent ogling and heckling by Indian men.
“At times I find it hard traveling around as a woman in Delhi. I’ve been groped twice in public,” said Amanda Burrell, 36, a blue-eyed, blond-haired documentary filmmaker from England on vacation in India. “I think Indian women have it much worse.”
If the Indian male ever had a reputation for being suave and sophisticated, that image has hit rock bottom. In recent weeks a spate of attacks against women and a new study showing rape as the fastest-growing crime in New Delhi are painting a less flattering picture.
In India, the fact that men are being held under such heightened scrutiny is a sign of changing social rules between men and women as the country modernizes.
While more and more Indian women move into the high-tech workforce or rise to key government posts in the new India, some analysts say many women appear to be losing the battle to overcome centuries-old cultural attitudes that tend to devalue the role of women and keep them dependent on men.
“Many of India’s social values have not kept pace with the development of its modern cities,” said Shaibal Gupta, a social analyst for the Asian Development Research Institute, a nongovernmental agency based in the northeastern Indian state of Bihar.
India’s predominantly Hindu culture is skewed in favor of boys and men, say some social experts. In India’s deep-rooted system of dowry, a bride’s family pays the groom for marrying her – a custom that has been outlawed but only loosely enforced.
“Most Indian men don’t have opportunities for intimate contact with women until their mid-20s,” Gupta said. “For some of them, their only exposure to women in a sexual context has been in the virtual realms of Bollywood and Internet porn sites.”
For many women in India, the result can be terrifying.
In an incident that rattled the country, dozens of young men taunted and groped two girls as they left a New Year’s Eve party at a popular five-star hotel in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. An Indian newspaper photographer called the police and recorded the melee in a shocking series of photos that ran on the front page of almost every major newspaper in India, launching a flurry of editorials.
In a televised interview, the outraged chief of India’s ministry for women and child development called for the death penalty for those convicted of rape.
There have been several high-profile assaults recently against foreign women in India. A British freelance journalist allegedly was raped by the owner of a guesthouse where she was staying in northern India. A 28-year-old American tourist was groped by a Hindu priest while visiting a temple in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan.
Several Western embassies have issued warnings on the dangers women often face in India.
“I get stared at, and sometimes men approach me and say things. But I’ve lived in India long enough that I’ve almost stopped paying attention to it,” said Lauren Olsen, 16, a student at an American school in Delhi.
India is also the heartland of sex-selective abortion. Amniocentesis was introduced in 1974 “to ascertain birth defects in a sample population,” but “was quickly appropriated by medical entrepreneurs. A spate of sex-selective abortions followed.” (Karlekar, “The girl child in India.”) Karlekar points out that “those women who undergo sex determination tests and abort on knowing that the foetus is female are actively taking a decision against equality and the right to life for girls. In many cases, of course, the women are not independent agents but merely victims of a dominant family ideology based on preference for male children.”
Dahlburg notes that “In Jaipur, capital of the western state of Rajasthan, prenatal sex determination tests result in an estimated 3,500 abortions of female fetuses annually,” according to a medical-college study. (Dahlburg, “Where killing baby girls ‘is no big sin’.”) Most strikingly, according to UNICEF, “A report from Bombay in 1984 on abortions after prenatal sex determination stated that 7,999 out of 8,000 of the aborted fetuses were females. Sex determination has become a lucrative business.” (Zeng Yi et al., “Causes and Implications of the Recent Increase in the Reported Sex Ratio at Birth in China,” Population and Development Review, 19: 2 [June 1993], p. 297.)
Deficits in nutrition and health-care also overwhelmingly target female children. Karlekar cites research
indicat[ing] a definite bias in feeding boys milk and milk products and eggs … In Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh [states], it is usual for girls and women to eat less than men and boys and to have their meal after the men and boys had finished eating. Greater mobility outside the home provides boys with the opportunity to eat sweets and fruit from saved-up pocket money or from money given to buy articles for food consumption. In case of illness, it is usually boys who have preference in health care. … More is spent on clothing for boys than for girls[,] which also affects morbidity. (Karlekar, “The girl child in India.”)
Sunita Kishor reports “another disturbing finding,” namely “that, despite the increased ability to command essential food and medical resources associated with development, female children [in India] do not improve their survival chances relative to male children with gains in development. Relatively high levels of agricultural development decrease the life chances of females while leaving males’ life chances unaffected; urbanization increases the life chances of males more than females. … Clearly, gender-based discrimination in the allocation of resources persists and even increases, even when availability of resources is not a constraint.” (Kishor, “‘May God Give Sons to All’: Gender and Child Mortality in India,” American Sociological Review, 58: 2 [April 1993], p. 262.) Gengercide.
The main reason for the widespread female foeticide and the continuing prevalence of female infanticide in parts of India was the dowry system, which although long prohibited by law, continues to play a significant role in Indian society. Dowries and wedding expenses regularly run to more than a million rupees ($35,000) in a country where the average civil servant earns about 100,000 rupees ($3,500) a year. Added to this the low status of women in rural India, where they perform the menial tasks of the family such as carrying water and firewood and seeing to feeding the animals, and it is clear where the roots of the discrimination spring.
The situation is even worse regarding educating these children. India, which is estimated to have some 432 million illiterate people, must give top priority to compulsory elementary education for social and economic growth to occur. 64 percent of Indian men are literate, but fewer than two out of five women can read and write. About 41 percent of Indian girls under the age of 14 do not attend school, said the report.
According to a recent United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of the World Population Report, these practices, combined with neglect, have resulted in at least 50 million “missing” girls in India. http://www.wunrn.com/news/2007/03_07/03_12_07/031707_female.pdf
Bharat is fast becoming the land of the boys. The infanticide of girls is changing the male female ratio and many males are without wives. Despitethe shortage of women the infanticide goes on. This is one of the many dozen stories that are available about the brutla practice of girl infanticide
“There is a little-known battle for survival going in some parts of the world. Those at risk are baby girls, and the casualties are in the millions each year. The weapons being used against them are prenatal sex selection, abortion and female infanticide – the systematic killing of girls soon after they are born.”
The imbalances are also giving rise to a commercial sex trade; the 2005 report states that up to 800,000 people being trafficked across borders each year, and as many as 80 percent are women and girls, most of whom are exploited.
According to a recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) up to 50 million girls and women are missing from India’ s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination in India. In most countries in the world, there are approximately 105 female births for every 100 males.
In India, there are less than 93 women for every 100 men in the population. The accepted reason for such a disparity is the practice of female infanticide in India, prompted by the existence of a dowry system which requires the family to pay out a great deal of money when a female child is married. For a poor family, the birth of a girl child can signal the beginning of financial ruin and extreme hardship.
However this anti-female bias is by no means limited to poor families. Much of the discrimination is to do with cultural beliefs and social norms. These norms themselves must be challenged if this practice is to stop.
Diagnostic teams with ultrasound scanners which detect the sex of a child advertise with catchlines such as spend 600 rupees now and save 50,000 rupees later.
The implication is that by avoiding a girl, a family will avoid paying a large dowry on the marriage of her daughter. According to UNICEF, the problem is getting worse as scientific methods of detecting the sex of a baby and of performing abortions are improving.
These methods are becoming increasing available in rural areas of India, fuelling fears that the trend towards the abortion of female foetuses is on the increase from the February 09, 2005 edition More than a million girls are killed at birth or aborted
In some parts of the country, bias against baby girls remains ingrained despite efforts to counter such attitudes. The practice of sex-selective abortion has exacerbated India’s gender imbalance. RAJESH KUMAR SINGH/AP/FILE
The discrimination is not limited to unborn or recently born females in India. When a husband dies, the widow is supposed to die with her. Millions follow this tradition every year. Thousands are burnt alive against their will. Hundreds survive and show up in Trauma Centers in the cities. Many are never heard of in the villages. Deepak Mehta has personified these stories on film. All her films are banned in India and her life has been threatened.
For India’s daughters, a dark birth day Infanticide and sex-selective abortion yield a more skewed gender ratio. By Uma Girish | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
MADRAS, INDIA – The oleander plant yields a bright, pleasant flower, but also a milky sap that, if ingested, can be a deadly poison. It’s one of the methods families use to kill newborn girls in the Salem District of Tamil Nadu, a part of India notorious for female infanticide.
Though the government has battled the practice for decades, India’s gender imbalance has worsened in recent years. Any progress toward halting infanticide, it seems, has been offset by a rise in sex-selective abortions. Too many couples – aided by medical technology, unethical doctors, and weak enforcement of laws banning abortion on the basis of gender – are electing to end a pregnancy if the fetus is female.
The vanishing girls of India
‘It’s a boy’ is still what parents hope to hear
The consequence of female infanticide and, more recently, abortion is India’s awkwardly skewed gender ratio, among the most imbalanced in the world. The ratio among children up to the age of 6 was 962 girls per 1,000 boys in 1981, but 20 years later the inequity was actually worse: 927 girls per 1,000 boys.
Infanticide is illegal in India (though never prosecuted), and laws are also in place to stop sex- selective abortions. But in some places, national rules don’t hold enough sway to overcome local religious and social customs – which remain biased in favor of sons over daughters.
“Factors like dowry, imbalance in the employment sector whereby the male is seen as breadwinner, and societal pressure to abort female fetuses conspire to increase the antigirl bias,” says Ajay K. Tripathi of the Advanced Studies in Public Health Programme, of the Institute of Health Systems in Hyderabad. Government and the medical profession, he says, need to put more resources – and more political will – into strengthening and enforcing the laws.
A case in point is legislation – introduced last year but now stalled – that would prohibit all genetic-counseling facilities, clinics, and labs from divulging the sex of the fetus. The hope is that if parents don’t know “it’s a girl,” fewer will resort to abortion. But the proposal, which would amend a 1994 law, is opposed by medical groups. They argue that technology used to monitor fetal health – such as ultrasound scans and amniocentesis – cannot be put under such intense scrutiny.
Others, though, see another reason for the opposition: Abortion is a lucrative business that many doctors do not want to see curtailed.
“Abortions are a low-risk, high-profit business. As a specialist in fetal medicine, I can tell you that no pregnant woman would suffer if the ultrasound test were banned,” says Puneet Bedi, a gynecologist at Apollo Hospitals in New Delhi. “Right now, it is used to save 1 out of 20,000 fetuses and kill 20 out of every 100 because [it reveals that the baby] is the wrong gender.”
India stipulates that only a government hospital, registered facility, or medical practitioner with appropriate qualifications may perform an abortion. The reality, however, is that only about 15 percent of all abortions take place under such circumstances, according to the Indian Medical Association. About 11.2 million illegal abortions are performed each year off the record. Such abortions are often “female feticide,” experts say.
In Salem district, for instance, signs posted in towns reinforce the societal message: “Pay 500 rupees and save 50,000 rupees later,” a suggestion that aborting a female fetus now could save a fortune in wedding expenses in the future.
Salem district, a mostly rural part of Tamil Nadu, has a longstanding reputation as a deathtrap for baby girls. The Vellala Gounder community, the dominant caste there, owns most of the land and is intent on retaining property rights within the family. Sons represent lineage; daughters marry and relocate to their husbands’ homes. As a result, local women, like Lakshmi, who gave birth to a girl early last year, may refuse to nurse their newborns. They leave it to midwives or mothers-in-law to administer the oleander sap, say anti-infanticide activists.
Nearly 60 percent of girls born in Salem District are killed within three days of birth, according to the local social welfare department. That doesn’t count the growing number of abortions there to ensure a girl baby won’t be carried to term.
Amid such stubborn statistics, activists are at work to counter the forces of tradition. A focus of their work: improving the standing and self-image of women themselves.
Community Services Guild (CSG), a nongovernmental organization, works with rural women in particular to discourage female feticide. One of CSG’s interventions targets women who already have at least one girl. Now 20 years old, the program sends workers to visit these mothers, teaching them and their daughters skills that contribute income to their families (such as basket-weaving or selling produce) and reeducating them about the value of girls to society.
“Educating the new-generation girl – and empowering her with the skills necessary for economic independence – is the only long-term solution,” says G. Prasad, CSG deputy director. Though CSG works in a patriarchal culture where female inferiority is ingrained, the group encourages women to become decisionmakers.
In pockets of India where female infanticide persists, the practice is rooted in a complex mix of economic, social, and cultural factors. Parents’ preference for a boy derives from the widespread belief that a son lighting his parents’ funeral pyre will ensure that their souls ascend to heaven; that he will be a provider in their later years (India has no form of social security); and that he will preserve the family inheritance.
Conversely, a daughter is considered an economic burden. Pressure to conform can be intense in rural areas, and some families borrow heavily to pay for the rituals prescribed for a girl – the ear-piercing ceremony, wedding jewelry, dowry, and presents for the groom’s family on every Hindu festival.
The Tamil Nadu government has started several programs to protect girls – with mixed results. One urged families to hand over their baby girls to local officials, who saw that they were adopted by childless couples. Between May 2001 and January 2003, officials received 361 baby girls. An informal survey by CSG, however, found that many women would abort rather than have a baby and give her up for adoption.
Tamil Nadu’s “Girl Protection” program may be more practical. Here, the government opens a bank account in a girl’s name at her birth, depositing between 15,000 and 22,000 rupees during her childhood, depending on the number of girls in the family.
“The only way to wipe out this evil is by an attitudinal shift,” says CSG’s Mr. Prasad. “Educate a girl beyond eighth grade and encourage her to find her voice.”
Deepak Mehta on mistreatement of women in India
THE FARCE OF DEMOCRACY:
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APPENDIX AND DETAILS WITH REFERENCES
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The issue of girl infanticide, or the murder of children because they are female, is of growing concern in contemporary society worldwide. This violation of a girl’s basic right to life requires urgent attention and action. The following report, drafted by members of the Working Group on the Girl Child (part of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women in Geneva), focuses on two main areas: the right to be born (female foeticide) and the right to live (girl infanticide). The Working Group recognizes these two areas as being of particular importance in the education of the concerned societies. This report also identifies many of the root causes of girl infanticide in the private and public sphere of society, thus identifying specific actions to be taken.
The publication and presentation of this report is to coincide with the 51st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women meeting in New York (26 February to 9 March 2007) focusing on the “Elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child”. This is hoped that this report will serve as an educational and working tool for civil society, social entrepreneurs, other NGOs and the interfaith community to help them speak out against girl infanticide. Through this report, the Working Group also calls upon governments to get more involved in developing and promoting effective policies to bring an end to the girls’ human rights violation of girl infanticide, everywhere in the world.
Girl children are undesirable in many regions of the world. In fact, due to the high occurrence of foeticides, infanticides, including newborn neglect and abandonment, the world is currently deprived of over 100 million women. China and India alone are responsible for 80 million missing females. The first warning against this scourge was voiced in 1990 by Amartya Sen – an Indian 1998 Nobel Prize winner in Economy – though since that time the situation has worsened. Economic modernisation has exacerbated the phenomenon. Wealth and economic development do not reduce son preference according to Rohini Pande and Anju Malhotra.
Isabelle Attané further states that the economic and social liberalization of China has strengthened the traditional social power structure which is detrimental to women.
The use of medical technology for sex selection and abortion has become a lucrative business. Finally, the girl deficit is more common among educated women and wealthier families. Female foeticide, the practice of sex-selective abortions, has taken over infanticide, the practice of killing children at birth. Female foeticide is now practiced in different parts of the world but is most prevalent in Southern Asia. This section of the report will consider the magnitude of the problem, the root causes and the consequences of all “missing girls”.
Finally, we will look at means of enforcing national laws and changing mentalities in order to reassess girls’ most basic human right – the right to life.
Female infanticide has been practised in India for thousands of years, but with the increased availability of modern sex determination techniques such as amniocentesis, ultrasound and trans-vaginal probes, sex-selective abortion has become common in most of India’s big cities.
In 1990, there were 25 million more males than females in India and by 2001 the gender gap had risen to 35 million. Experts now estimate that it may reach 50 million. Isabelle Attané, Une Chine sans Femmes ?, Perrin, Paris 2005 6 Compared to 1991 when only two districts – Salem and Bhind – had an adverse female sex ratio, as many as 51 districts in India now have more male babies born compared to female, according to UNICEF.
“In 80 per cent of districts in India, the situation is getting worse“.
According to the UNFPA 2003 statistics, there were 770 girls counted for every 1000 boys in the district of Haryana (one of India richest states), 814 girls in Ahmadabad (Gujarat), and 845 in South West Delhi.
According to the Christian Medical Association of India in New Delhi when the third child coming after 2 previous girls is a female foetus, 70% of them are aborted leading to 219 girls for every 1000 boys born. When the first child born is a girl, the birth ratio becomes 558 girls born for every 1000 boys.
According to the British medical journal The Lancet (9 January 2006), over 10 million female foetuses (1 in every 25) have been aborted in India since 1994. The journal also reports that prenatal sex-selection in India causes the loss of 500,000 girls per year.
Discrimination does not end with the sex-selective abortion of female foetus. In most cases, it continues beyond birth. Despite the progress made due to government-run programmes for instance in India, the girl child continues to lack adequate nutrition, healthcare, education and maternal care. The child mortality data indicates that a larger number of female children do 4 UNICEF, 2007 World’s Children Report 5
Christian forum alarmed at female foeticides in Indian capital, Anto Akkara, Ecumenical News International, 18 July 2005 7 not reach the age of five. And India and China are among the countries where boys far
outnumber girls at age five, as reported by UNICEF 6
FORMS OF INFANTICIDE
The crude methods of eliminating girl babies after birth include poisoning, throat splitting, starvation, smothering and drowning which illustrate the insignificance accorded to these young female lives 7.
Cases of female infanticide in Indian North Arrot villages were often reported as natural deaths or still births. Some parents have even succeeded in having false death certificates issued after bribing doctors. The bodies of the infant girls are then burned to destroy any evidence. Further when evidence surfaced that people were poisoning their girl children, they began to adopt methods such as starving the baby to death
Many other girl children are disposed of, often in garbage dumps. Although some girls are found and revived, most die. Brutal treatments of mothers and newborn girls have been reported in cases where a daughter is born instead of the desired son
The mother and newly born baby are treated badly because they are viewed as a burden and often receive no medical care.
Eighty to ninety percent of victims of female infanticide are girls of higher birth order (when there are more than two in a family). The girls who survive are likely to suffer neglect as parents often do not hide their contempt for these girls. Most of the killings of these infant girls are committed by senior women in the family.
Each year the number of girls who die is higher than boys. This is an unnatural phenomenon caused, in part, by girl infanticide. A 2001 National Family Health survey in India showed that post neonatal mortality is 13 percent higher for females than for males. Child mortality figures were 43 percent higher for females than for males. Yet, the scientific facts show that genetically girls are considered stronger and more resilient than boys at the time of birth. The 6 UNICEF, op.cit. Gendercide Watch, Female infanticide 2000 p.1-9 8 Nielsen, Liljestrand, Hadegaard British Medical Journal 1997, 24 May, vol 314:1521 9
Many girls who are granted the right to be born are then denied the right to basic lifesustaining nutrition and health and are instead neglected by their families and communities. The resulting ill health of the child often leads to death.
Studies have shown that neglect and abandonment during the first few years of life leave a lasting mark on a child’s life, and can often result in the death of the child 10. Girl children, in particular, are often victims of deadly neglect and abandonment due to culture, tradition, religious beliefs and social attitudes that continue to make girls vulnerable in the family and the community. In many countries, the girl child endures a low social status that results in fewer rights and benefits than the boy child. In those countries, the issue of adequate food and basic living conditions necessary for the survival of the girl child is of little concern to the members of the communities. These social customs tend to give preference to boys.
Cultural Factors in India
India has an age old fascination with the boy child. The culture in India is profoundly patriarchal and is a feudal society where women are neither seen nor heard. There is societal pressure for women to have male children and as a result women are often considered failures and tend to feel guilty after giving birth to a girl. Women who are considered to have less value because they did not give their husbands a son are at risk of being beaten and rejected by their husbands. Giving birth to a girl can lead to rejection by in-laws and by the community as a whole. “If you don’t kill your girl, you are rejected by the community and/or by your in-laws“acccording to Manjeet Rathee, an English teacher.
In the Hindu religion, the son is responsible for lighting his parents’ pyre, in order for them to reach Nirvana, and having only girls in the family amounts to being condemned to a lower caste in the next world. In Punjab – where the illiteracy rate is close to 70 percent – there are places of worship called “Son temples,” exclusively for people who want a male child.
The superstitions are various and some are very detrimental to girls. For example, ‘Blessings and curses’ of Eunuchs, who travel from village to village to curse mothers who have girls while blessing those with baby boys. Another superstition is that if the first child is a girl and that girl is killed, the next child will be a boy.
Social and Economic Factors
Among the factors which lead to a consideration of females as less valuable, the following are of special importance: 10
In many regions of rural India there is a strict social taboo on a daughter inheriting land, since if she does so the land is lost by her father’s lineage. If a woman attempted to exercise her legal claim to her share of her parents’immovable property, she would be likely to lose the affection of her brothers together with their sense of obligation to support her in a family emergency or in the event she is widowed without sons. The recent Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 which deleted the gender discriminatory clause on agricultural land only benefits Hindu women leaving intact the obstacle faced by non-Hindu women.
This can give rise to:
Inter-community trafficking, which is something relatively new, such as the “Paros” (women from the outside) phenomenon: women are easily bought just like commodities with a price range between 50 and 900 dollars; the younger the girl, the higher the price.
According to UNIFEM, 45,000 “Paros” have been sold in and around Haryana (India) in 2006 alone.
UNICEF has warned that “the alarming decline in the child sex-ratio is likely to result in more girls being married at a younger age, more girls dropping out of education, increased mortality as a result of early child bearing and an associate increase in acts of violence against girls and women such as rape, abduction, trafficking and forced polyandry”. ( Isabelle Attané, op. cit. 17 UNICEF, 2007 op.cit. 12 In a near future, we could see what Amin Maalouf describes in his book “Le premier siècle après Béatrice”)
“Today the social flaw of the male cult could become collective suicide“. We would therefore witness the “auto-genocide of the misogynous populations”
Results in some countries are encouraging:
India In 1994, India not only banned the misuse of ultrasound and other medical techniques but also condemned sex determination as a criminal offence.
Nevertheless, foeticide is still practiced due to the enormous family and social pressures to produce males. Moreover, they have only bolstered patriarchal values further undermining the status of women:
In the district of Salem (Tamil Nadu), government schemes suggest that parents should not kill their unwanted girls but abandon them in cradles where 621 babies were left in 2005.19
However, the challenge remains:
Decades of policy efforts have not achieved positive change. In fact the worsening ratios indicate that the situation is deteriorating rather than improving. Today, the focus of most Indian government policies related to son preference has been on reducing sex-selective abortions, but with little or no result.
The magnitude of the phenomena of female foeticide and girl infanticide in India, China and other parts of Asia has reached a critical level creating a worldwide demographic imbalance with, in turn, drastic economic and social consequences. Over 100 million women are now missing in Asia which will result in a 12 to 15 percent excess of young men in the next twenty years.
This report has argued that female foeticides or sex selective abortions, promoted by modern medical techniques, have dramatically increased in the last ten years thus exacerbating the killing of girls. Yet nothing can justify these killings.
As Swami Agnivesh, religious leader and social activist, said last year when talking about foeticides: “There’s no other form of violence that’s more painful, more abhorrent, more shameful“.
Female foeticide not only denies the girl child her most basic human right – the right to be born – but it also turns women into silent victims. Scientific evidence has shown that mothers who have been put under pressure to kill their baby girls remain deeply hurt and injured for the rest of their lives as they cannot forget their own offspring.
This report has mainly focused on two areas on the killing of girls but other practices leading to the death of the girl child need to be mentioned:
Sexual abuse of girl children is also often fatal and takes many forms including rape and sexual exploitation including the phenomenon of snuff movies made possible through the misuse of new mediatechnologies. During war time rape is used as a weapon of war and as a way of durably humiliating the enemy, thus exacerbating violence. Contamination by HIVAIDS of young “virgins” as a way of purification of the man is also leading to the death of very young girls.
Additionally, female genital mutilation and early marriage with its consequences of exceedingly young childbearing are practices which result in medical complications and often lead to the early death of the girl child.
It will take generations to change people’s mindset but the situation worldwide is so dramatic that we cannot afford to wait any longer. It is imperative that the International community calls on the governments and all actors responsible for this human and demographic tragedy to enact laws and take urgent measures to fight these violence and discrimination which, by denying the first basic right of all – the right to life – denies all other human rights. 28
Snuff movies are short films, generally of bad quality, showing a (supposedly) real murder, often preceded by pornography including women and child rape.
Statement to CSW 51 Working Group on the Girl Child: Of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women in Geneva Written statement to the 51st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women – 26 February-9 March 2007. Submitted and endorsed by the following NGOs:
We, the above named Non Governmental Organizations in consultative status with ECOSOC, through this statement and our report on girl infanticide and female foeticide that will be presented and distributed during the CSW in its 51st session, reaffirm and call attention to the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of the girl child. Despite the legal human rights framework and namely the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), we are deeply concerned with the phenomena of girl infanticide and female foeticide, which deny the girl child the most basic human right, the right to be born. Not only has the status of the girl child not improved but in many regions of the world, it has worsened and its future is threatened.
Girl infanticide, which consists of killing a baby girl at or very soon after birth is a traditional practice most common in India and China, but also spreading to other parts of Asia.
Female foeticide is a modern version of infanticide which consists of killing a female foetus via sex-selective abortions. Female foeticide, which has rapidly increased over the last ecade, is even more perverse than girl infanticide in that modern technology has made it easier, more silent and an industry has developed to promote it.
Both these practices are based on the traditional belief that a girl is less valuable than a boy, and therefore is not worth living. Mainly due to cultural, religious or social factors and practices, such as dowry requirements and inheritance laws, having a girl child is still considered a burden or a failure in many countries. There is no rational explanation for this phenomenon, given the knowledge that sex-selective abortions are even more common in wealthier and educated families.
The magnitude of this human rights violation is building to a worrisome demographic imbalance with economical and social consequences worldwide:
The phenomena of girl infanticide and female foeticide are alarming and this is the reason why we are calling upon the UN Commission on the Status of Women, in its 51st session focusing on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child to:
- Reaffirm the equal dignity of men and women, and especially the right to be born.
We also call upon the UN CSW to request political commitment from governments to:
Madame Chair, nothing can justify the mass-killing, torture, ill-treatment or sale of girls. We expect that at this UN CSW, a recommendation will be adopted to address this deplorable situation. 29
Isabelle Attané, Une Chine sans Femmes ?, Perrin, Paris 2005 and L’Asie manque de Femmes, article from Le Monde Diplomatique, July 2006 19
Reference to Major Treaties and Other Documents
Principal causes for female foeticide and girl infanticide
Demographic imbalance (ex. villages of bachelors in India, lack of young women in age of marriage in China, etc…); this creating, among other things, violence, alcoholism, theft, depression, drugs and rape.
Actions / Recommendations
Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) should:
Working Group on the Girl Child Report published on the occasion of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 51st Session – 26 February to 9 March 2007
“It can be difficult being a girl here,” she said.
Chilled Urine drinking hot in India. From Gandhi to PM Desai. ——————————————–
Why did Buddhism disappear from South Asia? Reviving Hinduism in Budhdist lands: The Hindu extremists use the Safron Swastika flag instead of the tri-colored flag of India. (see Hindu unity dot org)
Indian penury: The reality vs. the Bollywood marketing gloss:
India as World Power 1
Extremist Hindus show power using the Swastika in triple entendre–as an ancient Hindu symbol, reverence for Hitler and sign of Anti-Western Indian power
Superpower India Pt 2
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