Why Is the Annihilation of Indian #Women A #Genocide?
by Rita Banerji
Someone left a message on my flickr site, on my posting on the female genocide in India. He said, “The word ‘genocide’ doesn’t apply here; it only cheapens the word.”
I asked him to explain. He said, “This situation does not fit the legal definition of genocide [as in] the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG).”
The U.N. Article defines genocide as:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
I counter argued. “Actually this a genocide based on that very legal definition of genocide.” Females are being killed in India at every stage of life, before and after birth, only because they are female. This is not happening to boys and men! This is a MASS and TARGETED elimination of a specific group.
More than 50 million women have been killed in India in 3 generations. More thana million female fetuses are selectively aborted every year. Medical companies in the west are racing to provide newer technologies to this female-hating market. Thousands of new born girls are strangled, drowned or buried. Girls under 5 years of age have a 75% higher mortality rate than boys that age, due to deliberate starvation and neglect and also due to various forms of inflicted violence. More than 100,000 young women are gang-lynched by their husbands and in-laws in dowry related murders every year. Thousands more, who don’t succumb to the attempts to burn, hang or poison them, live with physical and emotional trauma. Every 5 minutes, 1 pregnant woman dies, often because women are forced by their husbands and in-laws to undergo repeated abortions to rid potential daughters.
Females genocide in India is the result of an extremely virulent misogyny just as the Jewish genocide was the result of an extremely virulent anti-Semitism. Then why should this dehumanization and mass extermination of women not be recognized as a ‘genocide’?
My flickr visitor had a very simple answer. He said because the U.N. definition applies only to the case of “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” But in the legal definition there is no mention of gender!
I pointed out to him the obvious. This law was written in 1948. The men (certainly there were no women in that group) who sat around a table in 1948 and wrote up the U.N. Genocide article, were thinking in a time zone when women were not even considered a social human group. Countries in Europe, like Switzerland, at that time, did not even give women voting rights. The U.S., which had a history of black slavery, gave the right to vote to black men before women in general got the right to vote.
However, about a decade later, in 1959, Peter Drost (The Crime of State, Volume 2, Leiden, 1959, p. 125) said, “Genocide is the deliberate destruction of physical life of individual human beings by reason of their membership of any human collectivity as such.”
And in 1994, Israel Charny affirmed, “Genocide in the generic sense means the mass killing of substantial numbers of human beings, under conditions of the essential defencelessness of the victim.” (Genocide: Conceptual and Historical Dimensions ed. George Andreopoulos, 1997)”
So I told my flickr visitor, “Genocide is the mass killing of a group of humans. It does not matter what group of humans!” And just to state the obvious — women are a human group!
Sometimes a conversation like this gets surreal. Here I am an Indian woman, arguing that the elimination of millions of Indian women (women like me) should be recognized as genocide when this man offered a sage piece of advice, “Your cause is good and the situation of killing or aborting girls on the basis of gender is horrible. I am just saying that you are tending towards hyperbole and inaccurate terminology, and that is off-putting to people who want to deal with this disturbing problem in a precise and serious manner.”
He further recommended that we just use the word “Gendercide [because] it specifies the nature of the problem better than ‘genocide’, and it doesn’t diminish the problem one bit.”
Why this resistance to calling the mass extermination of women a genocide? We did not think that the mass extermination of Jews was Semiticide or that of Tutsis was Tutsicide. Regicide does not have to mean the mass and targetted killing of kings. It can even be the killing of one king. The same for matricide, patricide, infanticide. Gendercide is the killing of a person because they belong to a specific gender.
Femicide is the term that Diana Russell first used in 1976 to refer to misogynist killings; the killing of a person only because they are female. Female infanticide, honor killings, sati, dowry murders, witch huntings, are all examples of femicides in India. Even a single incident of female infanticide or dowry murder is a femicide. But what term do you use when MILLIONS who belong to a group are eliminated ONLY becaue they belong to that group?
Indeed, women form one of the two largest human groups! In fact, genetically, physiologically, biologically, and culturally, men and women as separate identifiable groups, are far more distinctly defined than human groups based on any other category such race, religion or ethnicity.
The recognition of the mass and targeted elimination of millions of women from India as ‘female genocide’ is a necessary strategy to drum up the kind of international human rights accountability and action required, across the board, from governments, to courts, to police and medical establishments — all agencies that are complicit in India’s female genocide.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Rita Banerji is an author and gender activist, and the founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide. Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies,‘ is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide. Her website is www.ritabanerji.com She blogs at Revolutions in my Space and tweets at @Rita_Banerji
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Abro is an eminent artist and global human rights activist. The poster in this post has been displayed at the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C. He is also a supporting member of The 50 Million Missing Campaign’s Photographers’ Group which is supported by more than 2400 photographers and artists from around the world. To see more of his works click here