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First, look in the mirror
How can we point the finger at female gendercide in India when we have the same problem in the US for both genders?
World Human Rights Day, on December 10, involved more than a little finger-pointing at India. Its people are far away geographically and seem very different from us Westerners in culture, look, and dress. It makes sense to Americans that “they” might still have issues with discrimination, especially gender discrimination. But, by pointing the finger, do we not often turn a blind eye to the serious human rights issues that exist right here on our own soil? In fact, might not the two countries’ problems be strikingly similar?
A UNICEF report released in 2006 reported that 7,000 fewer girls are born in India every day than the global average would suggest, largely because of the prevalence of female foeticide and female infanticide. Although certain Indian laws formally protect the rights of women before and after birth, these laws are not enforced effectively. Culturally, girl children are not valued and, in many Indian communities, familial and social pressures often dictate who is born and who survives.
The director of a forthcoming human rights documentary interviewed one female Indian doctor, Mitu Khurana. She is currently in a legal battle because her family conspired with medical professionals to attempt to force her to abort her twin daughters. She was coerced into an illegal sex determination test and then harassed as she refused to have the girls killed. Even after birth, the girls and their mother were both emotionally and physically abused. Despite what some may think, this is prevalent among wealthy families (like Mitu’s) who are able to financially care for children. Dr Manasi Mishra, head of research at India’s Centre for Social Research says:
Because this kind of abortion is based on intense gender discrimination, we Americans easily condemn the practice. It appears to be different from American abortion because it disproportionately targets female babies.
But wait! The exact same practice takes place at a rate of more than a million abortions each year in our own country, down our own streets, with our own young women and their unborn girls and boys. In India, unborn women are reduced to the status of disposable things. In America, unborn women and men are both reduced to the same status. How is it socially acceptable here for Americans to abort the unborn of both sexes, while we see it as a grave evil when done just to one sex in India? Martin Luther King Jr said in his autobiography,
His words remain relevant for us today.
Just as female foeticide in India is socially acceptable to many Indians, foeticide of both sexes has become acceptable here. The public must open its eyes to see how we have dehumanized our most vulnerable fellow human beings through abortion. It should not surprise any of us that injustice exists here. In any geographical location, to commit genocide, a people group must be dehumanized. As they are dehumanized, injustice becomes more and more acceptable, as is the case with abortion. In fact, the public has become so callous that we no longer notice it. In both the US and India, the problem is exactly the same – but it is done here to both genders instead of one. Perhaps we are not so different after all.
The Centre for Social Research in New Delhi recently presented signatures to the Health Minister calling for effective implementation of anti-discrimination laws. Let us take a lesson from those fighting against female abortion in India and mobilize to effectively defend the unborn here in America.
To do this, we must, as Ghandi said, “Make the injustice visible.” As long as we treat abortion only as a matter of private choice, the injustice in both America and India will continue. Let’s point the finger at human rights offenses everywhere, but let’s not forget the rights of unborn men and women, right here in America.
Joanna Wagner is a senior at Wheaton College, in Illinois, majoring in sociology.
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