As an administrator of the 50 Million Missing Campaign against female genocide in India, one of the most frustrating challenges I face is when people question the term “female genocide”. Even more puzzling is if I ask ‘why?’ I don’t get a definite explanation!
I lay bare these facts: More than 50 million women have been killed in India over 3 generations. EVERY YEAR — more than a million unborn girls are selectively aborted; thousands of new born girls are strangled, poisoned, drowned or buried alive; girls under 5 are 40% more likely to die than boys the same age because of starvation and deliberate neglect (their parents don’t think girls are worth spending on); more than 25000 young married women are murdered for dowry; thousands more are tortured; 1 Indian woman is dead every 5 minutes because of pregnancy complications often due to forced and repeated abortions to rid the girls. Companies are now selling kits online to select out girls even before they are conceived!
Females in India are killed because they are regarded as undesirable — but usable and disposable objects. Like victims of any genocide. Then why is this systematic dehumanization of women and their massive annihilation not recognized as ‘genocide’?
What I have realized as I work with this campaign, is that what people are really uncomfortable with – is the killing factor here. Where it is generally assumed that genocide is committed by groups alien to each other, in India the killing factor is the family. Girls and women are being killed by their own – parents, grandparents, husbands and in-laws.
For India where family is a sacred altar, immaculate, and untouchable — perhaps the easiest way of dealing with this genocide is through denial and apathy. For the rest of the world – where family is still assumed to be the ultimate safe haven, India’s female genocide is incomprehensible.
It is this refusal to call it ‘genocide,’ that has resulted in all kinds of ridiculous attempts by government and NGOs to stem the killing. Attempts that have failed miserably! Attempts to plead for mercy – ‘Save the girl,’ ‘Please let girls be born,’ or to provide incentive for why women should not be killed. Who will the men marry? Who will bear the children? Some have attempted to add “economic value” to the girl – through education or vocational training so their families could be tempted to keep them! Some of the highest rates of female fetal abortions are among the wealthiest, “a life-style” choice, and educated, upper-class women are also victims of dowry violence and murder.
If the subject of this genocide was a religious or ethnic group – the above endeavors would be unthinkable. Even distasteful ! Statements like ‘Please let the Tutsis live,’? Or ‘Don’t kill the Jews because they good for our economy’ would be unthinkable. Then why is it different for women as a group? Why do we have to justify why girls and women should be allowed to live?
The bottom line is – that every girl and woman in India has the fundamental human right to life.
Even if she never marries. Never has children. If she is illiterate, uneducated, and poor. This right to life, nobody has the right to take – not even her family! Till such time India and the world contend with this, and accordingly deal with this genocide, there is no hope for change.