September 23, 2013
ANDRÉA LEDDING
PRAIRIE MESSENGER

In several nations, the birth of a baby girl is no cause for celebration. A cultural preference for male offspring means many baby girls are unwanted and in peril.

The words "It's A Girl" are "the three deadliest words in the world," according to a new documentary film on gendercide - the offence through which 200 million girls worldwide have been killed, aborted or sold because of their gender. That number is higher than the number of deaths in the First and Second World Wars combined.

About 60 people attended a recent screening of It's A Girl - The Three Deadliest Words in the World at Holy Family Cathedral in Saskatoon. The event was sponsored by Alliance for Life and the Saskatoon Diocesan Justice and Peace Office.

The film investigated particularly India and China in terms of pre-selective screening of their children which leads to discrimination against girls because of cultural views and societal norms such as dowries.

As well, governmental influence, such as China's one-child policy, leads to discrimination against girls. And in some countries, males are seen as the ones who will care for their parents in their old age, whereas daughters will marry out and live away.

The filmmakers interviewed mostly women; some who explained why they had aborted or killed daughters when they were born, and others who had fought to keep their daughters alive, sometimes facing great opposition from both their partners and the wider society.

LONGSTANDING ABUSE

Cultural quotes and sayings emphasizing the misfortune of having a daughter were interspersed, demonstrating the pervasive and longstanding discrimination, which has contributed to girls not surviving infancy and being devalued even if they are allowed to live.

However, not all parents devalue their daughters.

One story told of the abuse of an adult woman from the perspective of her parents, who loved her very much and sold much of what little they had to provide for her dowry.

They now fear for the safety of their infant grand-daughter, since their daughter was killed by her abusive husband.

While in some cases discrimination arises from poverty and the dowry system, in others, it is enforced by the government: many children in China are "hidden children" without documentation or access to education or health care, because their parents exceeded the limits imposed on family size.

"Today, China and India eliminate more girls than the number of girls born in America, every year," noted one speaker at the beginning of the film.

Another story was told of a daughter abducted in China. The family who took her hoped to raise her for their son to marry, given the shortage of females in the country. (She was eventually found and returned.)

In India, five million females are aborted every year, mortality is 75 per cent higher for girls than boys under five, and more than 100,000 women are killed in dowry-related violence every year.

TERROR IN CHINA

In China, there are 37 million more men than women, and every year one million more men than women are born.

This means sex trafficking and kidnapping of the remaining females for child brides, along with violence against women, forced abortions by the government "family planning police" for not having a birth permit, and women often undergoing forced sterilizations to enforce that country's one-child policy.

More information about the film can be found at the website www.itsagirlmovie.com.