It is a girl. The four deadliest words in Asia. In the past 5 decades 200 million girls went ‘missing’ in India and China. In Asia the horrible phenomenon female infanticide occurs on a large scale. According to M. P. , “Female infanticide is the intentional killing of baby girls due to the preference for male babies and from the low value associated with the birth of females”. Research shows that female infanticide happens all over the world, but especially in Asia. Girls are being aborted, killed or abandoned.
China and India are the two most populous countries in the world where female infanticide is a very big issue. These two countries have similar but also different reasons for female infanticide and these reasons will not cease to exist soon. In 1978 China introduced the one-child policy. The Chinese population was growing too fast and already was enormous. The government introduced this policy to slow down the growth of the population of China. This encouraged female infanticide even more.
Before the introduction of the one-child policy female infanticide already existed. According to Ansley J. Coale and Judith Banister, a missionary (and naturalist) observer in China in the late nineteenth century who interviewed 40 women over age 50, who reported to have given birth to 183 sons and 175 daughters, of whom 126 sons but only 53 daughters survived to age 10. By their account, the women had destroyed 78 of their daughters. To Chinese families the son is the most important child. They believe that the son can work, carry the family name and look after elderly parents. Only after the desire of having a son or two has been met, do Chinese families prefer having a girl.
The question that needs to be answered is whether this preference for sons is caused by culture or economics. According to Confucius there are some rituals that can only be performed by boys. But this is not the major reason for female infanticide. “The major factor is patrilocality, which refers to the firmly entrenched cultural norm for elderly parents to co-reside with their adult children, and for the son to have a woman “marry in” and assist him in this function. Patrilocality is an economic factor affecting almost every country that participates in sex-selective abortion. (Avraham Ebenstein)
Due to the one-child policy and the son preference population, statistics suggest there are 118 boys born for every 100 girls. (Sherry Karabin) In India there is also an unbalanced sex ratio. In India female infanticide is also a big issue. India and China do have similarities as to why families prefer boys. To Indian families, the son is also the most important child. In India sons have long been prized over daughters. Sons preserve the family name and traditionally look after elderly parents. Daughters are often seen as an expensive burden.
Parents are faced to pay a costly wedding dowry when they get married; this amount is equivalent to three years of earnings. If they have a daughter and do not have the money to pay the dowry they would also lose pride. Most interviewed Indian women have a similar reason of why they abort, kill or abandon their daughters. They rather abort, kill or abandon them than let them suffer. (Ashok Prasad) In China the groom will give the bride’s family betrothal gifts and a sum of money. In return the parents of the bride will deliver the bride’s dowry to the groom’s family.
If one of the families cannot offer gift or the dowry, they would also lose pride. But for Chinese families this is not a reason for not having a girl. Not only poor families have a preference for boys but even educated middle class women face pressure to produce sons. Indian people feel that they will need a son for everything. Indian women call this “the son obsession”. Due to the son preference in India, population statistics suggest there are 940 girls per 1000 males in rural areas, whereas in urban areas there are 900 girls per 1000 males. Samar Halankar) Unfortunately this horrible phenomenon will not end soon.
Both countries have a strong and long history, which means an old tradition. Their preferences for sons will not change soon. In both China and India the government tries to prevent female infanticide by taking certain measures. In China the government tries to ban sex-selective abortion but at the same time they declare that the care of old people is the task of the family and not the state.
In India the government has banned dowries under the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961; still few get married without the dowry. Female infanticide in India and China) Despite of this government interference, female infanticide has not stopped. Statistics show that over 200 million girls went ‘missing’ in the past fifty years. Research shows that the number of girls is still declining. (Ashok Prasad) Not only the government tries to stop this, also people who got aware of this fact are trying to stop female infanticide. In 2006 Rita Banerji founded The 50 Million Missing Campaign in order to raise awareness of the phenomenon in India.
Although female infanticide has a long history, a lot of people over the world are not aware of this fact. In September 2012 a new documentary film It’s a girl will be released. This documentary film explores female infanticide in India and China. It tells the stories of abandoned girls, of brave mothers trying to save their daughters, of mothers who would kill for a son and women who suffer extreme violence.
Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice. Marie Vlachova) To conclude, female infanticide in China and India is still a serious issue and will not end soon. In both countries the preference for sons has similar but also different reasons. This son preference will not change soon due to the old family tradition. They truly believe that sons can bring prosperity, continuity and valuable support and care. Which means that female infanticide will not end soon. Statistics support this fact by showing that the number of girls is still declining and will keep declining.
Courtney from Study Moose
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