Genocide is defined as “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, esp. those of a particular ethnic group or nation.”
The Holocaust during World War II killed more than 6 million European Jews as part of a deliberate extermination program by Hitler’s Germany.In a span of 4 years between 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge organized mass killings of ideologically different groups and ethnic minorities resulting in a death toll pegged at around 2.5 million. One of their mottos for the people they killed was “To keep you in no benefit.To destroy you is no loss” Chairman Mao, under whose administration systemic human rights abuses caused the deaths of over 63 million people in People’s Republic of China, can easily claim the top slot for being responsible for the worst genocide in history.
But what if there were 200 million people already killed and more being killed every minute?Vanishing off this face of earth even before majority had a chance to have an identity.
And what if we might even know the killers.They could be our friends, colleagues, relatives, maids, the person who salutes you or the driver you travel with everyday.
What if it is one of us ?
Genocide with a minor difference. Femicide.”The deliberate killing of a large group of people, esp. gender specific elimination of females.” 200 million women/girls/infants foetuses have been killed,aborted or abandoned through deliberates acts of extermination which is more than all the casualties of World War I and II combined. India and China are the leading countries responsible for the maximum number of deaths, eliminating more girls than the number of girls born in America.
India kills her daughters in millions.Of those who manage to survive past the fetus stage, many will die before they turn 6.The 2013 census shows there are 940 females for every 1000 males. The killers are the parents, relatives and caregivers of the child.How would you imagine the face of a killer ? Whatever you imagine would be a far cry from the smiling faced genial looking woman shown in the video below.She smilingly admits to having killed 8 of her female children.Her apparent nonchalance about the act shocks us into a realization of exactly how ubiquitous a practice this has become.How is she different from the average psychopath ? Human beings have been known to adapt to the most bizarre of circumstances where even the most bizarre can get commonplace.Our culture of patrilineal families where male children traditionally inherit,contribute economically and perform last rites gives preference to male off-springs vis-a-vis a female offspring where she is perceived as a liability and a drain on the family’s resources. Exorbitant dowries lends credence to this perception.
In China,the stringent restriction on family sizes and adoption of the one child policy lead to more couples opting to terminate female fetuses.In 1979, when China introduced the one-child policy, the effect was to create a premium on the one child, couples would have and in the second generation of the ‘one-child’ parents, there were no siblings,aunts,uncles or cousins leading to the reliance of the adults on a single child for all economic support.
Generations of male preference along with the tradition of bride money and dowry for females, results in selective abortion. Infants are killed either by the family by drowning,suffocation and starvation, or are killed by the state,where doctors kill third children or infants born without permission.
Keeping aside the human rights violation involved, a skewed sex ratio is a precursor to various other societal ills. There are more ‘free’ unattached men or ‘bare branches’in a society leading to increased crime rate, depression, sexual attacks on women,prostitution and trafficking. More crimes against women would mean more female foeticides and the cycle would continue.Haryana is the worst hit state,with the lowest sex ratio of 877 females per 1000 males.With a complete dearth of brides, families often pay money to a broker to buy a bride from another state.An India Today article reads “A woman costs Rs.30,000, a buffalo Rs.70,000”.
Surprisingly the literacy theory,which is often touted to be the panacea, falls flat when we look at the census data from Jhajjar which has high literacy of 80% but the worst sex ratio of 774 girls per 1000. The 2005 Amendment to the Hindu Succession Act, which allows daughters equal ownership in property, has had a negative impact in Jhajjar where land prices are very high.Here fetuses are aborted as families don’t want the daughters to get a share in the property.
Clearly, the solution needs further consideration. Removing the perceived liability and increasing the economic stature for a girl is most obvious way to go.Easier said than done, legal solutions can help to a certain extent. An interesting case in point is South Korea, the one country that could change this pattern.In the 1990’s South Korea’s sex ratio was as skewed as China’s, but female education, anti-discrimination suits and equal rights rulings worked in its favor.Legal prohibitions, which have been enforced to a certain extent, do help but they have to work hand-in-hand with the larger reformative/supportive practices which encourage girls and increase the ‘value’ the society sees in a girl in the process.
What we direly need is not just ‘literacy’ but ‘education’ which enhances progressive thoughts and inculcates the right values.All traditions which equate a bride with an economic gain have to be strictly dealt with.The traditional practice of sons supporting their parents lies at the root cause of a lot of problems.This can only be changed with female literacy, increased employment opportunities and empowering a woman to support her parental family,financially if required.
We have a long way to go, but all of us in our own small ways can make a difference.In our own life, let us undertake a pledge never to be part of any deed which is gender discriminatory and let us take responsibility for changing the attitudes of the small percentage people who come in contact with us.
Evan Grae Davis speaks about the issue in this video
Franklin Templeton Investments partnered with TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012 and Evan Grae Davis was one of many inspiring speakers at the event.