What is female infanticide?
Imagine walking along the road and you see what appears to be a small pile of blankets lying in a ditch a couple feet away. Curious why someone would leave blankets behind, you walk over to investigate. A closer look, however, reveals that it is not a pile of blankets–it is the body of a baby girl.
Most of us think of female infanticide only as a practice from ancient times. Especially considering the growing fight for gender equality, it is easy to not even realize that this horror still happens today. While occurring worldwide, female infanticide is most prevalent in Asian countries such as China, India, and Pakistan.
Sadly, hundreds of female infants are being thrown into rivers, dumped into trash bins, tossed along the side of the road, or even suffocated by their family each year. “The babies are victims of what one relief agency calls Pakistan’s worst unfolding tragedy: the killing and dumping of newborns,” CNN reports.
“Sometimes they hang them, and sometimes they kill by the knife, and sometimes we find bodies which have been burned,” said Anwar Kazmi, a manager at Edhi Foundation, Pakistan’s largest privately run social service and relief agency.
According to an estimate from the United Nations in 2007, two hundred million women are missing today because of female infanticide. The number is probably larger, however, as the deaths of many baby girls go unreported and undiscovered.
But why are so many precious baby girls being killed?
These killings occur most often in societies with cultural preferences to have a son. Countries such as China, India, and Pakistan view women as homemakers while men are seen as the workers and providers. Families then value male children more than female children since the male children will ensure the family’s social and economic stability. This preference for a male child has proved difficult to change as these societies heavily base their attitudes and actions on their culture’s tradition and such a mindset shift is not easy.
For example, China introduced their One-Child policy in 1979, which caused many families to kill or feel pressured to kill their female children. CNN states, “When couples are restricted to one child, women often become the focus of intense pressure by their husband and in-laws to give birth to a boy.” Even after relaxing the policy in 2015, there were still about 113.5 boys to every 100 girls born in China. With a population of 1.371 billion in 2015, this meant that there were approximately 185,085,000 more men than women in China. Decades of being forced to have abortions or being punished for a second child has made it difficult for China to break free of that mindset.
Another possible cause of female infanticide is the burden of a daughter’s dowry on the family. When giving birth to a daughter, families can feel extreme financial pressure as they would be unable to pay a future dowry. These families often resort to killing their baby girls in order to avoid the “financial burden” of a daughter. This has been a cause of India’s birth ratio being similar to China’s–100 girls for every 112 boys born in 2014, which in their population of 1.294 billion is a difference of 155,280,000 more men than women.
While the issue of female infanticide is not widely known, it has thankfully not been forgotten. Baby hatches have formed around the world as safe havens for women to drop off their unwanted babies, saving the life of the child. A baby hatch could be a crib or a room attached to a hospital, welfare center, orphanage, or other such organization that enables a woman to leave her child in the care of another person. Some baby hatches even have spaces for women to anonymously give birth. From 1992 through 2012, 2,400 girls and 390 boys were saved because of baby hatches in select districts in India.
Organizations and campaigns such as CRY, Let Girls Be Born, Edhi Foundation, and Women’s Rights Without Frontiers have also worked to save the lives of hundreds of baby girls. They have fought for the rights of these babies, taught families the worth of their daughters, and assisted families in providing for their baby girls. By joining their fight, we can keep the lives of millions of baby girls from being forgotten and hopefully help save the lives of future baby girls.
About the Author
Galaxy tights, brightly patterned socks, and a steaming cup of tea in her T. Rex mug often accompany Megan Shupp when she sits down to write. After graduating from Thomas Edison State University with her Bachelor in English and earning a Graduate Certificate in Editing from UC Berkeley, she is excited to use her passion for writing and stories to join Dressember in their fight against slavery.