It’s no secret that women are less likely to receive the same treatment, respect and opportunities a man might receive. It’s also no secret that in many parts around the world, women are not even given the chance to prove themselves and live out their dreams. Unfortunately for some women, that chance is taken at birth through female infanticide. Female infanticide is the act of either aborting a fetus or murdering an already born baby because of its gender. This practice is also known as gendercide and while existing in many countries and cultures worldwide, its effects are especially prevalent in countries such as India and China.
Patriarchal societies have always favored male children over their female counterparts for cultural and economic reasons. For some rural families, a baby daughter is less useful because she is seen as being less productive than her brothers when it comes to farming or handiwork. Girls are also sometimes seen as the property of their future husband’s family, meaning that all the hard work and money put into raising the young girl is a waste since she will no longer be of any benefit to her own family when she gets married.
This does not include other traditions, like dowry, which make having a daughter an economic burden. According to India’s 2011 census, there are 914 girls born to every 1,000 boys. This figure does not specify all the reasons as to why there’s such a gap, but female infanticide is seen as a definite factor. China also has a female infanticide problem that has only been reinforced by the one child policy. Again, in rural cultures, it is viewed as more rewarding to bear male offspring, a notion that exits in China as well as many places around the world. The one child policy has made the heightened demand for male offspring, causing abortion of female fetuses, the murder of females at birth, and the abandonment of many girls, causing a “female deficit.”
Although we like to pride ourselves as being a progressive nation who fights for human rights and equality, our politicians have done very little to address female infanticide with two of America’s biggest trade partners. Trade relations between the U.S. and India were worth an estimated $66.9 billion in 2014 while trade with China was estimated to be around $592 billion.
My question is this: if it was so easy to punish Iran with economic sanctions for the possibility that they might be building a nuclear weapon, why are we not punishing countries that are obviously in the wrong when it comes to the same values we parade and claim to support? Why do we not make human rights issues, such the murder of female babies, a priority when dealing with our partners?
It is difficult for me to justify many of America’s alliances on the basis of moral alignment; that a country that teaches its children to pledge “with liberty and justice for all” does very little to prove its stance when it comes to trade partnerships. Female infanticide is a serious issue, one that is not being given the attention it needs.
As a woman who believes in the equality of the sexes, I would hope to see our government work towards creating the world a safer place for women worldwide, from the moment they are born till the moment they die.