Our beautiful, sacred world and humanity is plagued by a monstrous and LOUD “known secret” called gendercide. Simply put, gendercide is the methodical slaughter of members of a targeted gender. The term is often confused with ‘genocide’ (deliberate mass murders), however, gendercide pursues exclusively one gender, usually women. So gendercide is the genocide of a particular gender. When the murder is aimed at women, it is defined as femicide.
In the age of the internet and easy access to information, this horrific reality should not be kept from our ears or eyes. I must agree that staring blatant hatred in its ugly face is repulsive and stretches our comfort, BUT we should be appalled and act. Looking the other way from the comfort of our recliner and turning our eyes to Hulu or Netflix accomplishes nothing. Female movements have been in the forefront of media lately, but we have failed to bring this atrocity to the limelight so let me pull it out of the shadows for a moment.
Gendercide is on the rise in many countries, such as India and China. If we dive into statistical information from the census report, we find that the male to female ratio for those countries is as high as 120 males per 100 women.* How can those unnatural numbers be occurring? Femicide!!!
The crisis is multi-faceted. In India, male offspring are favored because of the cultural need for an heir to care for aging parents. In addition, in a society where many are of low socioeconomic status, the weighty cost of a dowry is often a heavy burden, while the funds brought in by a son owed a dowry is extremely beneficial.
So how do these countries get away with mass murder of girls? Let’s break it down. Keep staring!!!
Feticide or sex-selective abortion is illegal in India. Regrettably, those policies are not enforced, and around 700,000 girls are aborted every year. That is one precious baby girl per “Dilly Dilly” commercial. That certainly gives “dilly dilly” a weighty meaning beyond just being a silly phrase.
Infanticide is the continued discrimination by murder after birth. There is a burdensome expectation on women from family members to have male children. As if the women had control over it. “It’s a girl” should be the sweetest words a family could hear (equal, of course, to “It’s a boy), but that is not the case for many countries around the world. For a baby in India, those words often translate into a death sentence. Baby females die 75% more often than males.**
Another illegal yet often seen custom? The dowry. Appallingly, dowry death is commonplace. If a bride’s family does not present a dowry of adequate value, there’s a good chance she will be killed. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, the slaughter of over 8,000 women in 2012 was attributed to dowry disputes. To put that statistic in perspective, it would be equal to one strong woman an hour being murdered for about 333 days.
The earth has to feel the butterfly effect of these massive population gaps. Perhaps if measly massacre doesn’t rock your boat enough, let’s dissect how else female gendercide is affecting the world.
It would seem logical that, in a land where men are hungry for women due to the limited amount, females would hold a sense of status. NO ma’am. On the contrary, the disparity has weakened the power of women.
Exhibit A—Sex trafficking. Girls are captured or sold into a life of prostitution. There is scarce local effort to push against the problem. More than not, officials protect the perpetrators.
Exhibit B—The objectionable traffic of “brides,” an arrangement duplicating slavery. Brides can be sold over borders, generating a population of exceedingly helpless women with no citizenship and no rights. A family with meager means may purchase a bride to oblige all the men of the family. Age is not of concern. The shortage of females has girls becoming brides before puberty and birthing before their bodies have ripened. As you can imagine, the maternal/infant morbidity and mortality rates are sky high. If women survive, they lead a life of servitude and domestic violence, leaving no time for education and destroying their sense of self-worth.
Exhibit C— Exhibit C—China’s Institute for the Study of Labor discovered a 5% increase in crime with as little as a 1% sex discrepancy. In other words, when there is not a 50/50 male to female ratio, problems increase. Research in India indicates a noticeable relationship between sex ratios and murder rates. Shockingly, an unbalanced sex ratio forecasts crime more accurately than poverty, illiteracy, or urbanization. This undeniable correlation between the opulence of a culture and the rights relished by the women proves that when women are treated fairly, with justice, a society is more like to flourish and have fewer issues.
Exhibit D—Violence against females is a result of the tipped sex ratio. I am sure many of us recall the recent story of a student being gang raped on a bus and later dying because of her injuries. Such atrocities against women materialize habitually in regions where men outpopulate women. In nations where females are devalued, their lives are dehumanized, they do not carry weight, and they do not matter.
Keep staring at it in its ugly face! Why should we care? This is a reasonable question—if you lack the ability of human feeling. But let’s look at some facts.
- It is estimated that over 117 million women are missing due to femicide.
- Gendercide has stolen more females in the last five decades than males killed in all the combined battles of the 20th century.
- Gendercide has eradicated more girls than the AIDS or great flu epidemics.
- Each year, 3.5 million females are lost to gendercide. 400 females lose their lives as we watch one episode of Game of Thrones (one hour).
I look back at Hurricane Harvey. I firsthand witnessed what the heart is capable of when we pull together. The nation rushed to help a hurting people. Celebrities used their popularity to raise funds. Why is the media so quick to jump in at water devastation, plastering it on the news around the clock for days, but the ongoing destruction of women is not thrilling enough to make viral headlines? When it isn’t in our line of vision, we tend to back burner it. Don’t look away…keep staring at this!
Perhaps, we hold the power to help?
Gendercide is similar to other atrocities we sat back and remained silent about. Slavery. The Holocaust. We know these events are horrid and inhumane, but, historically, we complacently looked the other way. It takes a group of dreamers to persuade others that a change has to happen.
I am not here to meet hostility with hostility. I hope to introduce this war to peace and growth. Rescue Pink (http://www.rescuepink.org/) has that mission in mind as they have set out to rescue girls in India from female infanticide, slavery, bonded labor, child marriage, and trafficking through rescue, prevention, and awareness. I recently had the privilege of spending time with a dear friend and the soul behind Rescue Pink, Sherry Naron. Her vision has always been to create an India where a female’s value is respected. I asked her a few questions and she eagerly responded.
Me: How did Rescue Pink become your journey?
Sherry: I’ve spent a lot of time traveling overseas, but nothing captured my heart as much as India. The more time I spent there, the more I learned about the byproduct of its suppression of its women. With over 60 million missing girls and extreme violence against its women, the researcher in me wanted to know what was at the core of all these issues. Why were babies killed just because they were girls? Why was sex trafficking and slavery higher in India than in anywhere else on earth? Why were little girls getting married at seven, eight, nine years old?
The issues are extremely complex, and I could talk with you for days about what I found, but at the very core of it is that much of India did not value their girls. The root of this stems from extreme poverty and an age-old practice of dowry that is deeply ingrained in its culture. The justice fighter in my spirit wanted to do something about it, but all of its complexities were completely overwhelming. The massiveness rendered me helpless.
The thing that changed me was working in an orphanage in the hills of East India where I came face to face with a tiny baby girl, seven days old, who had been rescued by my friend. He found that this particular community was paying the midwives $7 to kill baby girls at birth when they were delivered. He worked with the midwives, paying them $70 dollars to secretly bring the girls to him instead of disposing of them. I held this tiny baby girl in my arms and all the numbers and complexities went away. I knew I couldn’t rescue every girl, but this one matters, and she’s looking me in the face right now, asking me to help.
Me: The words “It’s a girl” are often met with jubilance in many parts of the world. Talk to us about what those words could mean for a baby in India.
Sherry: Oh, “It’s a girl” said in India comes with extreme sadness. Women feel cursed when they have a girl. Women don’t even feel free to celebrate their girls—they are devastated. There’s a cultural saying in India. It’s well-known, that having a girl is like watering your neighbor’s garden. This stems from the knowledge that women take money (dowry) from the family at marriage, so the money and the girl leave your household and go to the husband’s family, where she is meant to take care of the in-laws in their old age. Boys bring dowry and wives into the household, where girls do nothing but take from the family. Mix all that in with extreme poverty, and you have the massive issue that is today. Women end up feeling like property passed from her family to the next at marriage. Women are not only sad because they had a girl and they know the struggles she comes with, but they also know what this life is like to only feel like property, feeling no value. They are quite devastated at the birth of their girl.
Me: What is the vision for Rescue Pink?
Sherry: Our vision is to create an India where a girl’s value is respected. Our mission, how we do that, is through rescue, prevention, and awareness.
The first thing we do is rescue. It’s the thing we can do right now to protect young girls that are already at risk. We rescue them from infanticide, death from malnutrition or inadequate healthcare, trafficking, child marriage and slavery. We find the most vulnerable girls in the villages and host an after-school program for them every day at our centers. We offer them life-skills to help break the cycle of poverty in their family and supplemental nutrition because most of them are malnourished. Then we get them free healthcare for any medical needs they have.
One of the biggest things we do is instill in them that they are beautiful, strong, and brave, and they can do anything they set their minds to. We intervene with families when we hear they are about to get rid of their girl. I’ll never forget the day we rescued a little 9-year-old girl from being sold into slavery by her father. She was about to be sent to a brick kiln where she’d work 22 hours a day in extreme heat with little to no nourishment or rest. We were able to intervene and now she’s thriving.
We also rescue and prevent through our pregnancy and lactating mothers program. We find the most vulnerable mothers and offer them a monthly gathering and community where we give them supplemental nutrition. We teach the women how the health of the mother directly affects the health of their baby. We also teach them family planning. They had no idea. We use this nine months of building relationship with them to be able to speak into their lives when they give birth to their girls. Through this, we are able to rescue babies from being killed at birth, and then we talk to the mom about getting her to join our women’s entrepreneurship program to help create long-term, self-sustainable change.
Through this program, we teach women to hope and dream again and how to use their skills to benefit their community. We teach them business skills and give them a microloan to help them launch their businesses. All our women entrepreneurs have more than doubled, and many are tripling, their household incomes. Now the moms are able to feed their girls and take care of them, not to mention how it gives them a voice in their household and over the treatment of their daughters.
We also help create awareness in the villages. We find that much of India has become desensitized to the long term affects of the decision they make today.
Me: How has Rescue Pink changed the world for baby girls so far?
Sherry: In just a little over two years, we now have four centers in rural areas in different states in India. We have 156 girls in our after-school program and 96 mothers in our pregnancy and lactating program. We treated over 1,450 women and girls in our medical camps last year alone and reached over 2,500 people in awareness programs. And we are so proud to say that we have launched 114 successful women entrepreneurs! It’s been amazing to see how quickly we are already seeing change.
Me: How can the normal everyday person help?
Sherry: Spreading the word about us is huge. We are growing at a rapid pace, and we still have a lot of work to do. The more people who know about us then the more people are called to give. We could also use some corporate sponsorship so people willing to go to bat for us in their companies would be amazing.
Following us on our social media pages will also keep us in front of you as a reminder (www.facebook.com/rescuepinkgirls and @rescuepink on Instagram and twitter). You can also check out our website at rescuepink.org (www.rescuepink.org).
Another thing is to just give. Regularly, monthly committed donors are a godsend because it’s money that we can count on and plan for. We had astronomical growth last year. At the end of the year, Hurricane Harvey did affect our fundraising – as it should – there were and are so many here needing help. But even if we just had 65 people give $25 a month, then they would sponsor a whole center. Most of us don’t think we have a lot of disposable income, but when you look at your checkbook it’s easier to find $25 than you think. It just takes an effort to do it. Then you get to be a part of something amazing on the other side of the world. That tastes a whole lot better than a cup of coffee!
Just think—while you read this, 100 girls were lost to gendercide. Almost half were babies, victims of sex-selective abortion and infanticide. Don’t look away. Keep staring. And do something.