Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Three Deadliest Words in the World - It's a Girl / Beti Hui Hai

Update: This post written for Franklin Templeton Investments sponsored Idea Caravan won a prize on IndiBlogger. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai.

There's something very warm and welcoming about this woman featured above. I am not too sure how to define or describe it, but there's something about her disposition that makes her come across as a very warm human being.  She looks like a typical south India woman from the rural areas - homely, modest, nurturing and very motherly. Yes, she has such motherly aura about her. But I am glad she is not my mother. In fact, the truth is, long ago she had decided that she does not want to be a girl's mother. So much so that when nature bestowed her bosom with daughters - 8 of them - she strangulated every single one of them, and buried the bodies in some corner of her farmland. 

The warmth and the motherly disposition is now lost on me, as I watch her giggle and remorselessly gesture how she strangulated the girl child as soon as she was born - all 8 of them - year after year. ALL BECAUSE SHE WANTED A MALE CHILD. 

And this, I have now discovered, is the just tip of the iceberg, all thanks to American film maker and activist Evan Grae Davis' enlightening and goose-bumps inducing talk on gendercide at the TEDxGateway Mumbai. All this while, we had been hearing and discussing about female infanticide, female foeticide and selective abortion but it was only after watching Evan talk in detail about this horrifying phenomenon, that I was introduced to the word GENDERCIDE. Yes, in all honesty, I feel so ashamed of this, that as a supposedly 'aware' woman of the world, I was never aware that the randomly discussed-and-discarded issue of female infanticide and foeticide has now become a monster called gendercide.

                                                                                  A Monster called Gendercide

Gendercide is the deliberate and systematic killing of a gender group - usually girls. The United Nations estimates that as many as 200 million girls are 'missing' in the world today. Millions killed, aborted or abandoned simply because they were girls.

200 million girls 'missing' from the world

Census statistics report that in countries such as India and China, the male to female ratio is as high as 120 men for every 100 women. Today India and China eliminate more girls than the number of girls born in America every year. In addition to sex-selective abortion, gendercide also takes the forms of infanticide and violence against female gender at any stage of life. So much so that the girls who survive infancy are often subject to neglect, and many grow up to face violence and even death at the hands of their own husbands or other family members. A perfect case of the proverbial 'out of the frying pan into the fire'.

Evan says he too was introduced to the word gendercide only after he traveled to India. (I am ashamed to write this - a country of snake charmers, magicians, and whatnots and now gendercide too - our country's another claim to fame.) He had spent nearly two decades travelling around the world covering calamities of all kind - war, hunger, poverty, HIV Aids - but no horror of genocide had prepared him for this - standing at the edge of a farmland in southern India, looking at a row of graves and listening to a woman share how she had personally strangled 8 of her own newborn baby girls. Because she did not want a daughter, she wanted a son. 

And that's when he discovered that in this part of the world the three most deadliest words were: It's a Girl, or as we say it in Hindi - Beti hui hai.

Here's the video where Evan talks about gendercide and how his documentary film 'It's a girl' is educating and coercing people about taking up a more active role against gender discrimination. I request everyone of you reading this post to please see this video, for indeed it will open your eyes to the harsh facts about gendercide.

As we see in the video, Evan has no hatred or derision towards the lady who killed her eight daughters, for he knows that this war against girls is rooted in centuries-old tradition and sustained by deeply ingrained cultural dynamics which push for the elimination of girls. That's the social structure most Indian women grow up in - with the deep embedded thought that the girls are inferior, a burden on the family and the society. 

What's ironical is the fact that it is not just the poor and supposedly unaware sections of society that hankers after a male child. The urban class is there too, albeit they do it all very discreetly. I am sure many of us know of family members or extended family members who bowed before the pressure of the so-called need for a male heir to carry forward the family name. And if it did not happen naturally, then there were many ways to work around god's will. 

So we see how an American activist comes to India and comes face to face with one of the deadliest genocides of his time, just that this genocide is gender specific - it is gendercide. So what does he do? Make a film out of it, express concern and move on? No, what Evan did was something very inclusive and of course, heartening. He collaborated with concerned Indians working in this field and came up with what is now called - It's a Girl manifesto.

It's a Girl manifesto
Here's a clip from Evan's documentary film It's a Girl. The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughter's lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son.

Both this videos give us a fair idea about the plight of women in India and China, caught up in a war against girls. In fact in China, the situation is worse. Government's notorious One Child Policy has had serious repercussions on not just the male-female ratio in the country but also on the mental well being of millions of women who were forced to abort their girl child. 

China's ruthless One-Child Policy has had serious repercussions

Studies and surveys reveal that besides the imbalanced sex-ratio, gendercide in China has had far reaching effects on its women and children. 

1. Around 500 women commit suicide in China everyday.
2. Violence against women and girls, discrimination in education and employment, traditional preference for male children and birth-limitation policies are the major factors that contribute to the high female suicide rate.
3. Around 8 million women undergo abortions every year.
4. Over 35 percent of women who have had an abortion have another shortly after.

According to researcher Steven Mosher, it is no accident that, “China's women have the highest suicide rate in the world, not to mention the highest rates of breast cancer, all in consequence of having had their babies killed in utero by a state ruthlessly bent on population control.''

Here are some stark statistics that gives an idea about where India and China stand when it comes to male-female ratio as compared to some other develop and not so developed countries in the world.

In the wake of all these stark statistics, Evan's talk and work for the It's a Girl campaign looks like a big ray of hope. For this campaign aims at not just enlightening the local communities of the affected countries about the numbing horrors of gendercide, but is also try to get the support international community in pushing for stringent measures to rein this brutality against the female gender.

What Can We Do for the Campaign?

I believe most of us here come from a different breed of women, women who were proud to have us and who gave us all the freedom to live our lives the way we wanted to live. They brought us up, nurtured us and guided us to make us what we are today - independent, healthy and happy individuals.  They made men who love their daughter and respect their wives and see women as strong independent entities whose existence run parallel to them and not just around them. 

So we all collectively can play a significant and practical role to help mobilize support for the movement against gendercide. As Evan so aptly suggests, we can all be the Culture Changers. 

Let's Take a Stand - Just because we are privileged enough to have a life that is largely devoid of the misgivings related to gender discrimination does not mean that we dismiss gendercide as an exception rather than a rule. Let us all talk about it and not just talk about it, let's condemn it with well meaning powerful  words. Let us make our friends and families and everyone aware of gendercide, let's make it famous, so famous the every one knows about it, and feels ashamed to be a part of a culture that has for so long supported this heinous cultural trend.

Let's Speak Out - Millions of girls in India and China have no voice to demand dignity and equality and need support to defend them. Let's speak out for justice for them, let's stand with them in solidarity in every way we can - petitions, more documentaries, protests - whatever it takes to attract people and government's attention. Let us push the government to make stringent  laws against female infanticide, let us relentlessly push for severe punishments for crimes against women.

Let's Involve the Men - No girl deserves to die because of her gender, and the good men in our lives and outside of it know that. Let's us involve them in raising a strong voice against this reprehensible crime .

Involve the Media - Let us involve the media in highlighting the horrors of gendercide. Print, broadcast, web - all forms of media should be brought together to work in unison to create public awareness campaigns to increase the perceived value of girls in society.

Use Our Creativity - Let us use our creative skills to influence the people to come forward and show their support for this noble campaign. Sing, dance, perform, stage a play, make a film, write, walk, run - let's do whatever we can do, use all our talents to help bring about a positive turnaround.

Beside the above-mentioned broad steps, following concrete measures too would go  along way in curbing gendercide: 
  • Ensure hospitals and doctors uphold the law against sex determination tests.
  • Create rapid action task forces to arrest those who engage in violence against women.
  • Better enforce laws against giving and receiving dowries when women marry.
Besides this, we can help make gendercide famous and mobilize a movement to restore dignity and value to the girls of India and China by taking one of the following actions (It's a Girl campaign initiative) : sign the China petition (, sign the India petition (, donate to save girls in China (, donate to save girls in India (

This post is written for the Idea Caravan and Indiblogger in association with Franklin Templeton Investments. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012. 
Photo Courtesy: Google Images.

P.S It's heartening to see Evan interacting with concerned citizens on Twitter - he's been following people and tweeting back replies to tweeple's questions, thoughts and musings on gendercide. Here's what he had to say on my blog post:


  1. here I read the most detailed post on the issue exactly representing Evans pain and concern.. 2050 to maintain equilibrium ? ..
    Well.. I think practically the stringent laws are bought by monetary greed :( of docs and cops and many more involved in this . Women herself is spoonfed since childhood .. that a girl child is bad .. Spiritual awakening in hypocrite Indian society is a must.

    1. Thanks for spending on this long post mysay. Studies say 2050, but I have my doubts. Do you the way things are in our country, everything will turnaround at this pace? Administrative system, population, economy...everything needs overhauling.

  2. girls are so nice and sweet...i don't know why parents don't want more of them :'(

    1. Ritesh, thanks for stopping by. You simple sentence carries such warmth and affection. I so wish everyone thought like that.

  3. If this mother has killed eight of her daughters after birth she should be sent to jail. Why is she made a hero here?

    If female feticide is a real issue then why is NCW demanding legal age of abortion to be raised to 24 weeks instead of 22 weeks and why is the women's rights groups demanding abortion to be a right for women> Is it that women want right to kill other human beings and blame men in the world or patriarchy.

    Today, thanks to patriarchy 64000 married men commit suicide every year compared to 32000 married women. If gender ratio of 0-6 years is cited as female feticide and how will you explain dwindling ratio of male / female in above 60 years age when avg life expectancy for both gender is more than 60 yrs.

    Whereas feticide is a real problem in India it happens mainly for poverty, and mother's preference to boy child. If this needs to be addressed then these mothers should be punished instead of making then hero and featuring in videos and blogs.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading the post Parthasadhukan.

      The woman featured in this post is not being made a hero. She's not being lauded for the heinous crime she has committed, not at all. She is just a case in the point about gendercide.
      You have written in your comment - about poverty - and that precisely is why she killed her infant daughters. She is a part of the vicious circle. It's written in the post that she did not want history to repeat itself, did not want her 'daughters' to go through the drudgery of a poverty stricken harsh and hard life, and so she killed them. Plus there are other reasons too.

      I request you to read my post again, and please do listen to what Evan has say about gendercide in his video. It will help clear your clouded perception.

  4. congratulations Ragini for a well deserved win!

    1. Thanks so much Ilakshee. :) Sorry, saw your comment just now.

  5. Female Foeticide is sad but true.
    Detailed post indeed.
    Congrats for your win! :)

    1. Thank you Anita. :) Sorry, saw your comment just now.

  6. I don't think I've read a better post ever. you're gifted and I am glad you're a G.I.R.L.

    The videos sadly didnt load.. may be probies in my broswer.. i am not sure though..

    I am seriously glad that my Dad is happy because I am HIS GIRL <3
    the world needs more of loving dads because girls are awesome.. they stitch two families.. it takes a real heart of gold to do that

  7. You have never realized that Evan Grae Davis is actually spreading lies. If that woman has really killed her daughters then she should be behind the bars instead of Evan showing her for his promoting his film. Actually what Evan is doing is criminal offence and for that he needs to be arrested soon. He did not have courage until today to reply to my question why he has not complained against the woman to police? I know the answer....His story is completely FALSE..and bloggers like you are spreading his lie and helping him in his business..

    1. You are being pretty vicious, and what is it with accusatory tone? An axe to grind against the entire female populace, is it? Your comment is similar to the one you have made earlier, and it has been answered. But looks like you are quite fond of nit-picking, hunting down old posts and posting inflammatory comments.

  8. I am only protesting against the systematic lies being spread by certain people and bloggers being used to spread their lies. You think female foeticide is a BIG issue? Well, do you know NCW wanted abortion of fetous to be legal upto 24 months of age? Do you know % increase in female population from 2001 to 2011 is more than that of male population? Do you know men are being systematically being killed over their lifespan and that is why we see more female over 60 years of age? You have not given any answer to my earlier questions, as to why he is doing business and not reported this to police and sent the mother to jail? You have no answer, and you are also a party to his lies now. FYI...we will see that he is nabbed and jailed, but in your over enthusiasm don't create so much male hatred that your son starts hating you. IN a way you have not created awareness but spread lies.And yes I don't go by popular sentiments, I speak the truth, analyze data and then comment.

  9. I have always wanted a little sister. I would give anything for a daughter today, so I could raise her properly, teach her that she has rights, teach her to stand up for herself, especially when threatened. Children have a certain beauty that only they can provide, girls especially. They are precious and just as equal value to our future as any male could ever be. This is not something that should be taken lightly. Killing any Child, Harming any Child, is a Crime against Humanity itself. This is why they need educated as soon as possible. The earlier the better. Parents often give excuses to not get involved like.."it would never happen to my child." Yet all to often, they blame themselves and how they should have done more to educate and promote their Potential. I would like to see more Women unleash their Potential and it all starts at a young age. Children have the power to lead, they do it all the time without even really thinking about it. It's Human Nature to Desire Leadership and have the skills Naturally. Most just won't do it.