The Disturbing Reason For The Reluctance to Call India’s Female Genocide By Name
When a group is considered so undesirable that its elimination becomes the function of a nation’s social machinery, and millions of this group are annihilated, it is without a question, a GENOCIDE.
In about 3 generations more than 50 million women have been eliminated from India’s population. They are eliminated in the millions before birth. They are drowned, strangled or poisoned within the first few months of birth. They are deliberately starved to death, such that the mortality rate of girls under 5 years is 40% higher than for boys the same age. And 1 woman is murdered for dowry every 20 minutes.
Females in India are being killed because they are regarded as undesirable and disposable objects. Like victims of any genocide. Then why is this systematic dehumanization of women and their massive annihilation not recognized as a ‘genocide’?
Some point out, that this is because the victimized group is female. If it were boys and men being so ruthlessly annihilated, surely India and the world would have responded very quickly!
But there is a more disturbing reason why.
What I have realized as I work with The 50 Million Missing campaign, is that what people are really uncomfortable with – is the killing factor here. Where it is generally assumed that genocide is committed by groups alien to each other, in India the killing factor is the family.
Girls and women are being killed by their own – parents, grandparents, husbands and in-laws. For India where family is a sacred altar, immaculate, and untouchable — perhaps the easiest way of dealing with this genocide is through denial and apathy. For the rest of the world – where family is still assumed to be the ultimate safe haven, India’s female genocide is incomprehensible.
It is this refusal to call it ‘genocide,’ that has resulted in all kinds of ridiculous attempts by government and NGOs to stem the killing. Attempts that have failed miserably! Attempts to plead for mercy – ‘Save the girl,’ ‘Please let girls live,’ or to provide incentive for why women should not be killed. Who will the men marry? Who will bear the children? Some have attempted to add “economic value” to the girl – through education or vocational training so their families could be tempted to keep them! This regardless of the fact that the gender ratio for girls gets worse as one goes up the education and economic ladder in India. Dowry violence and murder are also more prevalent with increased wealth! [click here for more] This is not surprising, because this genocide like any other, is also an exercise of power!
If the subject of this genocide was a religious or ethnic group – the above endeavors would be unthinkable. Even distasteful ! Statements like ‘Please let the Tutsis live,’? Or ‘Don’t kill the Jews because they good for our economy’ would be unthinkable.
Then why is it different for women as a group? Why do we have to justify why girls and women should be allowed to live?
The bottom line is – that every girl and woman in India has the fundamental human right to safety and to life. Even if she never marries. Never has children. If she is illiterate, uneducated, and poor. Once a girl is born, she has a right to life that nobody has the right to take from her – not even her family! Till such time India and the world contend with this, and accordingly deal with this genocide, there is no hope for change.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rita Banerji is an author and founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign. The research for her book Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies (Penguin 2009), provided the impetus for the founding of this campaign. Her website is www.ritabanerji.com