My sidebar contains photos from 50 Million Missing: the International Campaign for India's Women and Girls. I first wrote about the campaign in January, 2007.
Barbara Raisbeck recently interviewed Rita Banerji, the founder of this online campaign, for her blog The Daughters of India.
India is in my heart and I consider it my second home. but things happen to women and girls in India that sicken me. in a country where the female Divine and the male Divine are equal in Hinduism, women are still killed over the amount of a dowry (technically illegal but still asked for) and fetuses are aborted for the sole reason that they are female. a British ex-pat I know in India told me that he's heard people say that "bringing up a girl is like watering someone else's plant." I've read stories in the newspaper about people finding girl fetuses behind hospitals.
"...it is estimated about 50 million women have been systematically purged from India’s population, targeted only because they were female. This is perhaps what makes it one of the worst genocides in human history. And it is silent. And ongoing. The causes of this elimination are primarily female feticide, female infanticide and dowry murders.
Female infanticide has long, historical roots in India. It continues to be a rampant practice in many rural regions of India, largely because it is more affordable for the rural poor than the method more prevalent in towns and cities — that is sex-selected abortions. A mid-wife is paid only about Rs 100/- (U.S. $2.50) to kill a newborn girl. Babies are strangled, buried alive, drowned in buckets of milk, or fed poison. In some parts of India that job is relegated to the father or paternal grandmother who does it for free.
Female feticide has now become an unbridled phenomenon in India. Even though it is illegal for doctors to reveal the gender of the fetus during an ultrasound, still about a million female fetuses are selectively aborted in India each year. This rate is expected to rise to an alarming 2-5 million/year over the new few years."
Here are some excerpts from Barbara's interview with Rita:
"Barbara: What is the 50 Million Missing campaign?
Rita: The primary aim of the 50 Million Missing campaign...is to raise awareness both in India and internationally, about the millions of women that have been systematically eliminated from India’s population due to customs like female foeticide, infanticide and dowry murders.
...Most people (not just outside India but also within) are either not aware of the situation or are in denial that it exists. The first and most important challenge of this campaign is to break down the doubt and denial.
Barbara: Has the campaign gained interest from others? Are you working with other organizations on this issue?
Rita:...The reaction from people is mixed. Those that are aware of the issue are indignant, and very supportive. Many people, I think, are still in disbelief or in denial – they know it’s true but that’s not the public image they want for India. This is the land of Buddha and Gandhi and the whole non-violence philosophy. How could we have exterminated 50 Million of our own people – our own family members – daughters, wives, and daughters-in-law? The very thought is ghastly...
Barbara: What do you wish to accomplish with the campaign?
Rita: The first thing we wish to do is STOP the killings – the infanticides and dowry murders, and STOP female foeticide as well. The problem is so massive that the only way to do it is to have the government enforce existing laws. That is why we have an online petition that we’ve started circulating. We want the Indian government to be held accountable.
The second thing we’ll do is launch ground projects that will address the mindset, since it’s quite clear to us that this is what the cause is. It’s not poverty, or illiteracy. It is a cultural mindset that is fundamentally misogynist. So we want to start effecting long term change to people’s thinking through seminars, workshops, school curriculum, etc. The means and methods have yet to be worked out. But this is a long term project that will have to be carried out in a very systematic and measured manner.
Barbara: What can the general public do to become involved?
Rita: ...speak out! Talk about the issues involved. Don't be a mute spectator to the abuse of young women for dowry whether it's in your family or that of your neighbors. Speak up. Intervene. Talk about the compulsion you witness of parents willing to take loans to pay dowry. Of parents refusing to allow their daughters to return home even when they know she is being abused. Of families forcing their wives and daughter-in-laws to undergo multiple abortions.
Silence - when people see it and don’t talk about it - has been one of the biggest perpetrators of genocide the world over. And don’t use the excuses: "These things cannot be changed. Dowry is an old tradition. People want sons to support them in their old age and carry on the family’s name," for that is resignation. That is a mindset that allows this genocide to exist. Allow it no room to exist."
Please sign the petition that reads:
"TO: The Government of India, The OHCHR, The UNICEF, The UNIFEM, The UNFPA, CEDAW, The EU and The G8.
We the undersigned, strongly condemn the practices that have led to the elimination of millions of girls and women from India’s population, and hold the government of India accountable for failing to protect the lives of its female citizens.
We further contend, on grounds of human rights, that immediate and effective action be taken by the government, through the implementation of rapid action task forces, to halt this femicide. We also insist the government officially commit to a time-line within which the associated practices of female feticide, female infanticide and dowry murders will be effectively arrested through the rigorous enforcement of existing laws and a stringent accountability on the part of India’s hospitals, government offices, and law enforcement agencies.
We further urge international human rights bodies and other governments to join in this effort to persuade the government of India to acknowledge and honor the call of this petition."