Gospel for Asia (GFA World), Wills Point, Texas – Discussing the topic of gendercide.
Whoever dreamed up the idea of gender reveals was onto something fun. Have you seen them on social media? Sometimes, they’re baby shower games or scavenger hunts that bring the participants ever closer to finding out the big secret. Sometimes, they’re clever videos. One of the most bittersweet examples was for a military wife whose husband had been killed in action before meeting his new child. His fellow soldiers made a video of the big reveal with a shower of pink tissue paper and confetti descending as they cheered for the new baby girl.
Gender reveals have surprise endings by nature: something pink or something blue. In America, we tend to cheer for girls and boys, alike. In parts of Asia, the happiness scale dips heavily in favor of boys. Many girls never have confetti, applause or even a chance at life beyond the earliest days of protection in their mother’s tummy.
Selective Abortion Accounts for an Untold Number of Missing Girls
Would you say that you’re undecided about whether or not gendercide is okay? Certainly, the answer is, “No!” How about eugenics? More than one notorious, historical figure has proclaimed that culling people they believed were bad for society was a good thing for all. But there is a direct connection between abortion, gendercide and eugenics. No matter where you stand on the vitriolic issue of abortion, one undeniable truth exists: when a child is aborted because of its gender, that abortion is gendercide.
In many parts of Asia, gendercide is real and it’s not uncommon. Along with improved access to prenatal care comes one of the most common procedures that any pregnant woman undergoes. But the ultrasound that so many mothers and fathers eagerly await can quickly turn into a death sentence if it doesn’t reveal a boy.
It’s difficult to separate the issue of choice from that of violence against women when choice is used to exterminate the life of a girl child specifically because she is female. Even worse, if that’s possible, is the fact that the choice is usually not their own. Heartbroken women are forced into abortions by aggressive and abusive family members. What happens in truth is often much different from what should happen on paper.
Sex Selection Continues After Babies are Born
If you have read this far, you might already be in turmoil. There is more. Gendercide isn’t just practiced during pregnancy. Especially in poorer parts of Asia, it continues after birth. An unwanted girl child isn’t inherently safe just because she managed to make it into the world. Some people have no compunction about terminating the life of a precious little girl even after they have seen her face, held her and heard those first sweet baby sounds.
Unimaginably, some girls approaching school age are killed because they are both female and unwanted. The BBC reported in 2011 that there are millions of missing girls. According to The Atlantic, girls 5 years old and under are killed in abusive homes as an extension of gender selection, violence against women, and general contempt for the lives of females of any age.
Infanticide, which specifically is killing a child after birth, isn’t new, and it isn’t unique to South Asia, but it is likely underreported. Societies the world over have expressed a fondness for boys. The most frequently cited reasoning is to carry on the family name.
The World Bank expands on the terrible, regrettable practice in their report, Violence Against Women and Girls: Lessons From South Asia. They found that infanticide is the “most direct postnatal driver of excess female child mortality” throughout South Asia. Sadly, the mindset that girls are less than boys and that violence against girls is tolerable persists from birth until death, oftentimes an early death.
For girls who survive infanthood, laws forbid violence against women. That sounds like a step in the right direction. But the realities lie elsewhere, not within those pages.
In major cities and small villages across Asia, women and girls are often at a very literal, daily risk of being attacked, raped and killed. The law does little to help, even when it does manage to overcome its apathy toward those who harm women. Sometimes, attackers end the lives of their victims. But sometimes, a girl’s family plays an equally heinous role in her untimely end.
It doesn’t take much search time to find news story after news story of girls who were raped by a man or group of men, and then beaten or killed by her parents or extended family for bringing their so-called shame back to their family’s threshold. In some places and in some families, just being a girl must feel like a crime.
Gendercide Has Far-Reaching Effects
If you wonder how anyone could kill a child, regardless of whether or not they’ve been born, you’re in good company. But beyond the most obvious terror of killing girls and girl babies, the longstanding practice has far-reaching, damaging effects to a society.
According to Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques (INED), the proportion of boys born in Asia “is abnormally high because couples practice sex-selective abortion.” These imbalanced birth rates affect marriages and population growth long into the future.
Although many Asian families treasure their little girls as much as they do boys, girls come at a cost. That cost is the most common reasoning behind gendercide.
A boy will grow up, marry, have children of his own, and will always contribute to the welfare of the family that raised him. For girls, it’s different. Girls are married off. The families that raise them, feed them and clothe them will eventually need a dowry just to watch them leave for their husband’s home. Dowries were largely outlawed decades ago, but the traditional practice is still observed.
Girls are expensive and then they leave. Boys are also expensive, but they’re an investment that has the potential to pay off later. It’s a very sad truth that’s difficult to leave in the past.
INED explains that the girl/boy imbalance in Asia also has a practical problem. It affects the way men find the wives who will join their family and bear the next generation.
With so many girl babies killed, fewer and fewer women are available to marry later. Some men must find wives elsewhere, which accounts for a growing female migration trend. And some men wait until they’re older to find a wife and marry, which, in an ironic twist, can exacerbate the so-called problem of having daughters.
Men play the deciding role in the sex of their children. The older a man is when he fathers a child, the greater his chance of fathering a daughter. According to Psychology Today, the likelihood of older men having fewer sons is well-documented. Two-thirds of girls, they explain, are born to parents over the age of 40. Every year, a man’s chance of having a son decreases by 1 percent. And so the cycle grows as it continues.
Gendercide is violence against women. There are no two ways around it. In families where women of all ages are not uniformly treasured as precious children of God, but sometimes merely tolerated, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Killing a girl child who can run and skip and laugh is bound to be more difficult than aborting a female baby who hasn’t taken her first breath. But both practices have equally disastrous and heartbreaking consequences for the child, her family and society.
For girls who are allowed to live, life may become harder than anyone could ever deserve. Some girls are put to work before they’re old enough to enter school. Again, laws may forbid child labor, but that doesn’t mean it’s uncommon. Many surviving girls are underfed and neglected, with boys getting a better share of food, care and education. Marriage for girls may come at an unusually young age. Then she takes on her role as the extremely hopeful mother of precious boys, and probably also girls whose fates lie in someone else’s hands.
Gender reveal games and parties almost seem like a silly decadence when judged alongside the plight and even terror of abused women and girls in Asia. But they’re not. Every child God creates is precious in his sight, just like the nursery song taught to us in Sunday School. Every baby deserves confetti and a celebration just because they exist. Every girl deserves parents who protect and care about her. Every woman deserves a warm, loving family where she is safe from discrimination and abuse.
Someone must help the women and girls in Asia. Gospel for Asia (GFA) supports the devoted workers who are on the job.
Missionaries, pastors and everyday people reach out to their communities with programs that offer the resources they desperately need. Through kindness and generosity of spirit, they educate whole communities. Through earnest compassion, they share the love of God with women who may never have known any life besides one of pain and abuse.
Gospel for Asia (GFA) supports literacy training, health care education, Bridge of Hope programs for children, and tools that help women earn much-needed income, which helps communities learn to value women, and helps women to understand that they are valuable.
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