“Blaming your faults on nature does not change the nature of your faults”- Indian proverb
I caught an article today about a recent study showing a growing gender gap in India (story here). The culprit? Selective abortion of girls. As the story notes, girls are often seen as a liability in Indian culture, if for nothing else than the expense of their dowries (more on this later), and are therefore less desirable.
The statistical analysis indicates that selective gendercide is primarily carried out against the baby girls in families where the first born child (not aborted) was a female. The story notes that there is not significant evidence for gendercide of firstborn girls, or of girls where the firstborn child was a boy. Apparently families are willing to tolerate one girl in the family before getting a boy – but two is just a bridge too far.
I will admit that I don’t know a whole lot about the abortion debate and legislation in India (other than that the story notes that selective abortion for gender purposes is illegal). My context is obviously colored by the rhetoric of the American abortion debate. On that note though, the trend in India is downright absurd.
Consider the American debate, in which abortion and “choice” are declared to be empowerment for women. (No argument here – the power to kill is power indeed.) And what is this power being used for in India? To Kill Little Girls!
Don’t go out like this, ladies. You kicked and screamed and demanded the right to maternal-directed murder … and got it. Don’t turn around and use it to destroy the next generation of women! That’s just dumb.
How do we explain this? Are these just self-hating women who allow subsequent little girls to be killed off? Is the life of a female so deplorable in India that caring mothers find death a preferable outcome for their little girls? Or are women completely disenfranchised and must submit their daughters and their bodies to selective murder as directed by husbands who prefer sons? None of these is encouraging.
This instability will not end well …
China and India both face massive shortfalls of women. In China, there are 117 boys for every 100 girls under the age of 15; the number is 113 boys for every 100 girls in India. (For reference, it’s 104 to 100 in America. One would expect this to be slightly over 100 boys per 100 girls, as there tend to be slightly more boys born than girls – somewhere between 3% and 10%. Given the better health and longer life expectancy of females, it all evens out eventually.) In China, 94% of the unmarried people between 28 and 49 are males (noted in the article).
I tell you, I would have great concern about walking down the street alone if I were a female in southeast Asia. (I’m a male in the eastern US, so it’s not really an issue for me.) Your value as a human being has been utterly reduced, but your value as a commodity may well be on the rise. Not a good combination for your own safety.
(On that note though, simple supply and demand should insist that the “dowry problem” for Indian families with many girls would dissipate. If young men just can’t find brides, then surely they’d be willing to take one for a less-than-customary dowry, right?)
Breaking down traditions and valuing women …
A few years back, and American missionary to India, David Grant, spoke at our church. His discussion of the plight of little girls in India is consistent with the snippets given in the linked article. Women, in general, are seen as less valuable; little girls are a liability, and widows are a curse.
David related his story and a necessary heart-to-heart with the Indian church. You see, his wife, Beth, was a widow before they were married. They have two daughters, and no sons. Here it is, the missionary, the man of God – married to a widow (curse) and father to only daughters. While I can’t possibly do it justice, I recall that even in the church this was met with, at the very least, disconcertion. (Perhaps even concern that the missionary would be made to “suffer” like this.) Interesting how our cultural tendencies will infiltrate the church – but the light of God’s word sets things straight. Eventually David had to have a heart-to-heart with the ministers of the gospel in his locality, and unpack the Bible’s stance and God’s heart for the widow, and the value of women.
David and Beth, along with K.K. Devaraj, have started numerous “Homes of Hope” for Project Rescue (www. projectrescue.com). They work to rescue young women from sexual slavery in Bombay’s red-light district, and also to provide a safe place for the children of these sex slaves, so they can escape the fate of their mothers. In a place where little girls are seen as a liability or an object to be bought and sold, Project Rescue works tirelessly to give them safety and hope and a brighter tomorrow.
To find out more, please check out their website (linked above). There is something you can do; these victimized little girls in India are not beyond your reach. First, you can pray (it is quite effective). Beyond that, I will note that the American dollar still goes quite a ways in India, and even a little bit can have a significant impact on a little girl’s life.