Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's a Girl!

To deny it, to be too uncomfortable to look
at it, to be too embarrassed to see it, is 
to be complicit in it.
~ A.G. Harmon 

The "it" to which A.G. Harmon refers is gendercide, specifically the killing of newborns who are female; in more dramatic words, "it" is described as sex-selective mass murder. Harmon wrote October 18 about the insidious cultural practice in his essay "The Three Deadliest Words in the World: It's a Girl" for Image Journal.

Readers of this blog know that I'm not shy in speaking out when an issue deserves attention. I've written about the repression of artists in the Middle East and Asia, gang rape on school grounds, the price we pay for blind obedience to government policy, bullying, Haiti, poverty and the experience of homelessness, AIDS in Africa, the brutal treatment of students in Iran. I don't kid myself that there are any easy answers to overcoming the enormous challenges these and other issues present. But as A.G. Harmon so wisely points out, to not speak out, to not sign a petition to increase awareness, to turn your face away from an "ugly" issue because you don't think anything you could do matters, is to sanction wrong-doing through your silence. We cannot afford silence.

Aborting, killing, or abandoning newborn females (also known as female infanticide), denying girls education to keep them in poverty, allowing child marriages, subjecting girls and women to neglect or worse physical abuse such as rape, enslaving girls and women via sex trafficking are deeply ingrained, culturally sanctioned and sustained practices. According to United Nations' estimates, as many as 200 million girls (!) are "disappeared" because of gendercide. Gendercide is prevalent especially in India (Harmon writes of one woman who has killed eight of her newborn daughters) and China but it is by no means limited to countries in Asia. In a May 5, 2012, article, "Gendercide in Canada?", The Economist cites a provocative study about the spread of sex selection to so-called developed nations. In the United States this year, proposed legislation (Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act) that would have banned abortions on the basis of a fetus's sex, failed to be enacted.

Addressing gendercide in law (as is the case in India, for example) goes only so far. Gendercide is not a women's issue but a moral and human rights issue. Profound and lasting change, meaning elimination of gendercide and related customs and practices that treat girls and women as less than equal, requires constant agitation and many voices raised together.

Some of those voices against injustice are captured in the documentary It's a Girl (Shadowline Films) by filmmaker Evan Grae Davis. The film relates not only the stories of women victimized by dowry-related violence, abandoned and trafficked girls, and women fighting to save their daughters' lives but also the stories of women "who would kill for a son".  Here's the sobering trailer:

It's a Girl is now partnering with Causes to leverage social media to increase awareness of gendercide and promote activism on the issue. In addition to encouraging  donations on behalf of initiatives of nonprofit partners such as Women's Rights Without Frontiers and Invisible Girl Project, It's a Girl and Cause are circulating petitions to end gendercide and forced abortion in India and China, respectively (I've signed both). They also are campaigning for worldwide screenings of the documentary. You can bring It's a Girl to your own town or city (learn how). An educational version of the documentary is available for classroom use, and the documentary is expected to be made available for sale to the public on DVD in 2013.

It's a Girl on FaceBook and Twitter

Join me in educating yourself about gendercide (I've provided some resources below), signing the petitions, helping to circulate the End Gendercide Manifesto, attending a screening of the documentary, donating to causes that support initiatives to help girls and women worldwide, and getting the word out through social media. 

You have a voice. It counts. Please add it to initiatives that can and do make a difference to us all as citizens of the world.


Gendercide: Boys Without Girls at Worldlife Expectancy

Girls' Rights (The Working Group on Girls at the UN) (See the factsheets.)


Kathleen said...

Scary, sad. Thanks for speaking up. Thanks for encouraging our education.

S. Etole said...

Thank you for addressing this, Maureen. Having read the article earlier, it nags at my heart and mind.