Femicide~ A Global Disease
Written By Aishi Banerjee
Illustrated by Carissa Tran
Edited by Anvita Tripathi
In a statement issued in 2011 by the United Nations, “sex selection in favour of boys is a symptom of pervasive social, cultural, political and economic injustices against women, and a manifest violation of women’s human rights.” And rightfully so, hundreds of nations around the world have worked to make sure that the barbaric practice of female infanticide is abolished once and for all. Yet, today, we live in a world where millions of girls have to fight for the most basic right of humanity: the right to a life. After centuries of protest against all the crimes, hate and prejudice, are we even halfway through? Here to elaborate further on this topic, is Perspectoverse’s Aishi Banerjee.
Female infanticide, as a term, means the deliberate or intentional killing of newborn girls due to a desire and preference for male children and because of the misinforming cons ascribed to a female child in society. Throughout its long history, the practice of female infanticide has become a worldwide phenomenon which implicates that there is no country which has never been involved with this inhuman practice. Mary Anne Warren, in her paper, states, "There are very few cultures in which male infants are more likely to be murdered than females” (1985, P.32). This is carried out mainly through two procedures:
Sex-selective abortion which is where in nations which prefer sons, the concept of ‘reproductive tourism’ arises whereby people travel to Thailand, the US, Mexico and othersuch countries where it is legal to undergo Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) for selecting the sex of the unborn child.
Killing the female infant upon birth using methods such as feeding the infant poisoned milk, drowning and asphyxiation or smothering.
The origins of female infanticide cannot be traced directly. The primary concept of infanticide is ancient and there are various sources from which it might have emerged as a practice. For example, Confucianism regards male children as more desirable since they provide security for the elderly, work for their family and are important for the performance of ancestral rites. The Vedas, Epics and Upanishads that originated in the Later Vedic Period have quite literally stated the argument that a son is much more beneficial for a family and is preferable when compared to a daughter. As a result, orthodox Hindu families began to resort to inhumane and discriminatory practices against women and girl children.
Girl babies are often killed for financial reasons which include earning power as men are usually the main income-earners, either because they are more employable or earn higher wages for the same work due to social stigmas. Potential pensions is another economic factor as parents often depend on their children to look after them in old age. But in many of these cultures a girl leaves her parental family and joins her husband's family when she marries. This gives parents another reason to prefer male children because they consider the girls to be a financial drain on the family.
Governmental policies have also increased the rates of female infanticide as an unpredicted side-effect. For example, when the Chinese Government introduced a One Child per Family Policy, there was a surge in female infanticide as families needed to have a son because of their higher earning potential, so a girl baby was an economic disaster for them and there was a strong motive to ensure that girl babies did not survive, thus leading to mass infanticide of the girl child. Some female infants are also killed because they are regarded as being lower in the caste hierarchy than males.
Due to the male surplus in countries that practice female infanticide, there are severe and extreme consequences. One of the consequences resulting from this is violence against married women. Undoubtedly, it is an absolutely unfair consequence of gynocide as women in cultures and societies that prioritise sons have to bear the consequences of giving birth to an unwanted girl child, the result of which can be severe domestic violence, abuse, divorce or even death.
One of the most dangerous consequences is the severely skewed gender ratio imbalance and its negative effects because in countries with an unequal sex ratio with far more males than females suffer from a range of negative outcomes which include a rise in crime driven by young male aggression, increased human trafficking in the form of bride purchasing or kidnapping and the complete disruption of the social hierarchy wherein there are too many unmarried men in cultures where social status and acceptance is dependant on being married and able to produce a child.
Examples of the practice of female infanticide are evident all over the world. In Polynesia, where populations often reached high density, similar practices prevailed. Children have been allowed to die or have been killed with cultural sanction because of irregular mating (such as incest or conception out of wedlock) and in many advanced societies, female children have been killed in the belief that it would ensure health and good fortune of the family. Religious offerings, especially of the firstborn, are mentioned in the Bible and are known from the histories of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, too.
China and India together account for over one-third of the world’s population and both countries have considerably fewer women than men with long histories of skewed sex ratios and gender discrimination. Because of these factors, the two countries have experienced a sharp decline in the birth of girls since the late 20th century. Family planning policies of both nations, advocating small families, and the advent of pre-natal sex selection technologies further set the stage for the prevention of birth of daughters. Governments in both countries have since banned sex determination and launched policies and schemes to redress the gender imbalance and improve the value of the girl child. While these policies have not been highly successful, other social forces such as urbanisation and rising educational levels are transforming the way girls are perceived.
Following are some hard-hitting facts about female infanticide according to the global study on female infanticide published in 2018 by the Asian Centre for Human Rights:~
117 million girls demographically go “missing” due to sex-selective abortions.
Liechtenstein recorded the most skewed sex ratio at 120 males to 100 females.
Due to the rampant elimination of female babies, China’s sex ratio stands at 115.9 boys for every 100 girls.
In Delhi, a state in India, 89 hospitals and nursing homes reported child sex ratio at birth of 800 girls for every 1000 boys.
A household survey conducted by Centre for Research on Environment, Health and Population Activities (CREHPA) in 2007 found that a whopping 98.8% of Nepalese women surveyed stated that it was necessary to have a son in a family.
However, not everything in this world is supportive of this cruel practice as many people are working towards the betterment of the issue. There are Non-Government Developmental Organizations (NGDOs) which have gender awareness policies that are designed to prevent female discrimination all over the world. These NGDOS usually begin as small groups and go to corporations to educate the staff about gender discrimination and majorly focus on the importance of educating the men who are in the workforce on the issues of women within society. Therefore, over the course of this social education, the men are able to sympathize with the women in terms of how being a woman in society may make you feel inferior.
The Girl Child Protection Scheme is an organization that is designed with the aim to set up cradles near stores so that families who have mostly daughters may leave them in a safe place instead of engaging in the practice of killing the female thus allowing the government to take over and place the female child up for adoption. Implementing gender education within schools and the workplace will add to gender neutrality within society and sympathizing with women's suffrage in countries limiting women’s rights will add to the battle in which women fight for freedoms in their home state. Building upon gender equality in education and teaching women strategies to cope with their situations will aid in the growth of their self confidence which they will then be able to pass on to their own daughters.
Unfortunately, the main issue with female infanticide is that women devalue their own gender because if mothers give away their own daughters, it lessens the image of women in the eyes of society even further. The implementation of self- respect and a healthy sense of self-worth is necessary for all women as it will help them to see how extremely crucial females are to the circle of life. Societal change has always been a slow process but nothing is impossible so if every woman across the globe can learn to cherish their daughters just as they love their sons, so many pure and innocent lives will not have to be sacrificed for the sake of social prejudice, dogma and pathetic stereotypes and girls will be able to move on further on the path of development and empowerment.