Half-million petitions decry ‘gendercide’ in China, India
The phrase “it’s a girl” is usually cause for celebration here in the United States, signaling news of a newborn baby or a child in the womb visible via ultrasound technology. Yet in some parts of the world those three words are not associated with life and joy. Instead, they are often linked to death and coercion.
That sobering message emanated this week from a Capitol Hill press conference and film screening that shed light on the dark practice of “gendercide”—sex-selection abortions of girl babies—in China and India.
On Wednesday, members of the Coalition Against Gendercide convened on the Capitol grounds to announce the collection of more than a half-million petitions calling on the two Asian nations to end gendercide. Following the press conference, a delegation led by Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, the human rights group that organized the petition drive, delivered the 200,000 petitions addressed to China to the Chinese Embassy. More than 70 nations were represented on the petitions.
“The words ‘it’s a girl’ are the deadliest words on earth,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said during the press conference, adding that “according to one U.N. estimate, up to 200 million women are missing in the world today due to ‘gendercide,’ sex-selection abortion, abandonment or deadly neglect of baby girls just because they are female.”
One day earlier, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Reps. Smith and Jim McDermott (D-WA) joined the Coalition Against Gendercide to host a screening of the film It’s a Girl: The Three Deadliest Words in the World. The film raises the specter of the ongoing atrocities of aborting babies based on gender in China and India, which comprise roughly one-third of the world’s population.
According to a 2010 China census, more than 118 males were born that year in China for every 100 females, a much higher ratio than the natural rate of 105 males for every 100 females born. The boy-to-girl birth ratio in India has been estimated at 112 males for every 100 females.
A major driver of the gendercide in China is that nation’s coercive One Child Policy. For more than three decades, the Chinese government has strictly monitored who among its citizenry can have children and under what circumstances. Urban-residing couples generally are restricted to one child under the 1980 policy. Couples living in rural areas, as well as the disabled, are often permitted two children.
A central figure credited with exposing China’s dark policies of forced abortion and sterilization is Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng. A self-trained lawyer who has been blind since childhood, Chen set out years ago to lift the veil on the Chinese government’s coercive actions to enforce its barbaric one-child policy. In 2005, Chen released his findings, catalogued in part in a report by Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, a group committed “to oppos[ing] forced abortion and human trafficking in China.”
What he documented is unnerving: 130,000 forced abortions and sterilizations in one city alone, Linyi in China’s Shandong Province. As part of his detailed investigation, he personally recorded the names and addresses of thousands of victims in his small region, according to LifeNews.com.
His whistleblowing landed him in prison in 2006 for more than four years, followed by house arrest, where he, along with his wife and two children, endured strict monitoring and physical abuse. One year ago, he began a heroic journey for freedom, escaping his captors and later finding refuge in the U.S.
Now Chen’s family is enduring reprisal at the hands of the Chinese government. According to recent reports, Chen’s brother Chen Guangfu and his wife Ren Zongjur have been subjected to death threats and retaliation.
The atrocious practices of gendercide that Chen and others are confronting head-on come with a myriad of consequences.
“The gender imbalance that is a consequence of this gender crime has increased the prevalence of human trafficking and sexual slavery in China, India and several surrounding countries,” said Rep. Smith at the press conference.
And many suggest these practices also correlate with a spike in suicide rates. According to the U.S. State Department’s China 2012 Human Rights Report released April 19, China experienced approximately 590 female suicides each day last year—three times higher than the rate for Chinese men. That gives China the dubious distinction of highest female suicide rate in the world. Notably, the report cites “the traditional preference for male children” and “birth-limitation policies” as two possible factors that “contributed to the high female suicide rate.”
“This is a war against girls and women,” said Rep. Smith while highlighting the report. Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, described widespread forced abortion in likewise stark terms: “It is the biggest crime against women in the world today.”
Sadly, this “war on women” continues without end in sight.