Why Did Baby Falak’s Murder Not Irk India’s Feminist Movement?

Baby Falak before she died in the hospital

Baby Falak is finally dead after a long battle for her life in a hospital in New Delhi.  India obsessing with its annual budget and cricket, was too busy to mourn this little girl.  But then thousands of little girls are battered to death by their families in India every year.  And baby Falak was just another one of them.

How low does India’s unchecked misogyny strike — the misogyny that so does not want women in its household?  The misogyny that is so fixated on a narcissistic, obsession with male progeny and masculine lineage that it has killed more than 50 million women in 3 generations.  Well it aborts millions of girl fetuses and murders thousands of women — using, dowry, ‘witchery’, ‘honor’ and widowhood as excuses!  Yes! YES! EXCUSES! And it does not even spare little girls!!

Between 1985-2005, a study revealed, that there were 1.8 million little girls between birth and the age of 6 years, who like Falak, had been battered to death by their families.  The research came to the conclusion that, “Shockingly this violence does not pose a threat to your life if you are lucky enough to be born a boy.”  See this report I wrote for the Women’s News Network.

I have known a little girl like Falak, through my work with The 50 Million Missing Campaign.  To read Karishma’s story click here.   When I first met Karishma, she was almost 2 years old.  There had been attempts to kill her.  When that didn’t work out, she was beaten, battered, and starved.  She had not even been given a name in the assumption that she wouldn’t make it part a certain age.  Her brother on the other hand was loved, pampered and treated like little prince.  So I named her Karishma, which means ‘miracle.’  Baby Falak too at 2 years had no name and the hospital staff that took care of her in the last few weeks of her life, had named her.

I have now given up wondering, how a family that is supposed to be a person’s source of love and safety, can do this to their own child!!  I am sick of looking into their heads and hearts and trying to understand.  I also know that Karishma’s family had enough money to open a motorcycle show-room in their village and if she had been born a boy she would not have been abused!  I am also certain that if Karishma’s family had tried to kill the child of a neighbor, the village would have lynched them. Then why don’t they respond the same way when a family tries to or kills one of their own little girls?

I now realize this about the brutal killing of little girls in India: The only reason the families are able to do it, is because we as a society and system allow them too.  We make excuses for them.  And that makes us complicit in the mass murders of India’s little girls.    Every time someone offers a ‘reason’ or ‘explanation’ for why families are mass murdering their daughters in India all they are doing are being a part of the system.  They too are making allowances for the brutal murder of another little girl or woman.  It is more important for me, for us as a human society, to think about what’s happening to these little girls, specially because they are small and helpless. They cannot speak.  Or run.  Or explain.  Or understand.  Or try to protect themselves in any way.

What I just absolutely cannot comprehend is why this does not rattle the feminist movement in India?  Baby Falak’s death does not rattle India’s feminist movement.  Nor does the ongoing female genocide.  But recently they did make a big sound — a loud, vocal, irate, objection in the name of women’s rights which was heard all over India and in the press.  The chair of the the National Commission For Women, Mamta Sharma, while speaking at a function had told the girls there that “sexy” is not a bad word.  She said sometimes it can be meant like a compliment.    Women’s groups got fired over this, and demanded that Sharma resign as the chair!!   I  wonder why this “sexy” comment is so much bigger an issue for Indian women than the mass murder of girls and women in India?  I do not understand why the battering and murder of girls and women does not get the women’s movement in India similarly fired up?

Leave a comment


  1. Swathi

     /  March 19, 2012

    Many times the mere frustration and denial of having such deeply rooted and embarrassing problems such as female infanticide causes activists to step away. Although this sounds very ironic, that is the argument that I have heard most often. The problem is so large that no one is willing to even recognize it. Personally, when I was working in India every time I tried to bring up issues that to me seemed intolerable and requiring immediate attention I was told to quite down or better yet I was ignored. No one is willing to fight this battle because they have already resigned themselves to failure due to the complexity of the issue. I agree that it should be simple. Babies, girl or boy, should not be murdered in any culture under any context and “I am sick of looking into their heads and hearts and trying to understand” as well. Especially when the whole feminist movement is in flames about the use of the term “sexy” but this battle is easier to fight than infanticide. Also, the Indian government and health service does not want to recognize this issue because it would be another statistic that the world would criticize India over (not that they already don’t). I agree whole-heartedly with your statement that “The only reason the families are able to do it, is because we as a society and system allow them too.” This is where we can hack and change this system and that is what we need to be discussing. Everyone knows that this issue exists but no one is offering solutions even if they will require time to implement.

    • Rita Banerji

       /  March 22, 2012

      @Swathi — Perhaps “The problem is so large that no one is willing to even recognize it.” But so was the killing of Jews. And so was the killing of Tutsis in Rawanda. This is the difference between sporadic killing due to hate — for e.g. the recent killing of the Jews in France — and mass, across the board killing hate crimes. The latter happens and can happen only when a system is complicit. For e.g. I always ask: What if human flesh was sold for consumption along with fish and chicken at our local market. To cater to a small demand. Would the public allow it? What’s happening in India will require the government to take responsibility and respond as a system. What I think the problem with the women’s movement is that women in India are raised from a very young age to defend, and protect the cultural system. Everytime I give a talk at a university or college or at a women’s group, and tell the women, that we have to bring this revolution home: speak up when we see it in our family, respond the way we know is morally and legally right, I can see women get very uncomfortable. It’s important to ask: When Jews got killed for being Jews, Jews all around the world were angry. When women/girls are killed for being female, why does it not make Indian women angry?

  2. Sweet Marmot

     /  March 20, 2012

    The problem is that Indian culture doesn’t value human life as it should. It’s a life hating culture. As the bearers and nurturers of life, the females are also hated.
    They need the Lord desparately.

  3. Mel

     /  March 20, 2012

    This is horrible!! what God would allow this kind of act and not let individuals suffer for their horrific acts. This must be put to end. Her image has been imbeded to my heart and my brain permanently. God rest her little soul. Death penalty should be given to those who commit these kind of acts to stop this madness.

  4. emery

     /  April 30, 2012

    you are right again those people who make excuses for crimes against humanity are just as guilty as those who carry them out. in Nazi Germany Joseph Goebbels was minister of propaganda and he used that post to help bring about the Holocaust. anyone today who helps cover up or minimize these crimes is effectively working in the “ministry of propaganda.” what i want to know is what individual or group is the minister of propaganda in India today?

  5. Replacing the basic lies about who we are with truth is a good start, no?


    Analyzing any motive can easily be a slippery slope into rationalized justification, i.e. excuses for behavior, others or our own. But at the end of the day we are all willful creatures.

    But how an informed, challenged, hopeful will can do away with excuses!

    • Rita Banerji

       /  June 7, 2012

      You are right. We are very accommodating actually in a way that we would not justify the killing of any other people on basis of religion or color or race. So why do governments and NGOs have to rationalize female gendercide?

  1. India: How Many Lives More To Ignite A Movement? · Global Voices

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