In many countries today, the worst words you can hear as a mother are “it’s a girl.”  Due to gendercide, as many as 200 million girls have been killed, aborted or abandoned.  Evan Grae Davis explores the many forms of gendercide common in China and India today due to cultural preferences and China’s one child policy.

The movie speaks to many women who have been forced to undergo sex-selective abortions or abandon their female babies out of financial necessity.  These women insist they have nothing against girls, but the dowry system common in India and rural China means girls put a strain on the family income.

Boys will grow up to receive a wife with a dowry and take care of his parents, while a girl will leave the family to marry, taking much of the family’s wealth with them.

Though India has outlawed the dowry, it is hard to eliminate a cultural custom.  In the film, a woman explains that the court system has ignored her case of abuse based on an unfit dowry.  Another women said she has tried for years to prosecute her husband who left her because she had daughters but no sons.  Though laws are put in place to prevent female infanticide, there is little evidence those laws are enforced.

In China, Davis explored the impact of the one child policy.  If a family’s first child is a girl, they may try again for a boy. Families must apply for a birth permit, and if a woman is seen pregnant with a second child other villagers are encouraged to report her.  Women who are pregnant with their second child must show proof the child is a boy.

Many women who are pregnant with a second girl are forced to get an abortion or else they must pay a fine up to 10 percent of the family’s income for 14 years.  The second child will not have citizenship rights or attend school.  There is no future in China for a second female child.

The film explores the implications of a male preference system. Child trafficking has gone up dramatically since the implementation of the one child policy.  The shortage in girls, leads many parents with sons to steal female children.  This ensures their child will have a wife in the competitive marriage market.  China has the highest female suicide rate of any country.  Human rights experts believe this is because they are left to question their worth and morality after they are forced to kill their baby girls.

Davis says the solution is much more complex than ending the one child policy or enforcing anti-dowry laws. If girls are to receive the same opportunities and rights as boys, the culture of male preference must be changed.

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: It’s a Girl, IMDB
Photo: OHM