First, look in the mirror

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:

"Though there is denial at the field level that sex-selection
abortions are taking place in their community/society/area, the declining sex
ratio clearly speaks the truth. Now the time has come when we have to accept
the truth and stop this crime from taking place."

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,

“Man is not made for
the state; the state is made for man. To deprive man of freedom is to relegate
him to the status of a thing, rather than elevate him to the status of a

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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