On My Birth There Was No Singing: Gendercide in India

In a recent Associated Press article, Despite Economic Growth, India Lets Its Girls Die, Muneeza Naqvi tells the story of how Indian society allows baby girls to die from neglect and starvation.

Despite laws against such things as sex-selective abortions and growing economic power, India continues its war against women and female children. Children under six are 914 girls for every 1000 boys, a decrease from the 2001 ratio of 924 girls for every 1000 boys notwithstanding India’s remarkable economic growth in the same decade.

That’s the national average. As reported by 2001 Government of India Census, some regions are even worse.

The ratio in Haryana state is 861 women to every 1000 men. The Union Territory (UT) of Daman & Diu near the northwest coast has 710 women for every 1000 men. The lowest ratio in the country is the district of Daman in Daman & Diu: 591 women to every 1000 men. More than 40% of the females in this district have been murdered.

Indeed, tens of millions of women in India are missing because they have been murdered.

Anna Sebba writes that 10,000,000 female babies were aborted in the last 20 years alone. That’s half a million baby girls killed before they are born every year. Female infanticide has killed millions more at birth, and millions more die of neglect before they reach six years of age. More are murdered as young girls and adults by a society sick with a condition that can only be described as a revulsion of female.

The New York Times reports that the total number of “missing” women in India is in excess of 50,000,000. When the Nazis murdered six million Jews in Europe during World War II, the world called it the Holocaust. What do we call the murder of 50 million females in India? Nothing! The world seems to neither notice nor care!

New laws and a better economy may help to slow the gendercide (although the current trend is not encouraging) but it will not stop it. Ingrained practices die hard. While the unspeakable Hindu practice of Sati – widow burning – was outlawed in 1829, it still happens, almost two centuries later, in rural areas of India. In 1996, India outlawed the use of ultrasound technology for the purpose of sex determination in unborn babies. Yet fifteen years later half a million female babies are still being aborted every year.

While politicians have outlawed sex selection abortions and some Indian states have provided economic incentives to raise baby girls, nothing has been able to stop this modern holocaust. At the announcement of India’s recent census results, Home Secretary G.K. Pallai admitted,“Whatever measures that have been put in over the last 40 years have not had any impact.”

To understand why this practice is so recalcitrant, we must recognize that the root of the problem is not economic or political. Rather, it is an idea: male is superior to female. This idea is embedded, to a greater or lesser extent, in a majority of cultures of the world. And the cultural story is often stronger than laws and economics.

Culture is at the heart of the behavior and life of any nation. Culture is derived from cult – the religion or belief system a people. Hindu cultural practices flow from from the Hindu cult, the belief system of reincarnation. In this system of thought, a man who sins greatly in this life is punished by returning as a woman in the next reincarnation. If the woman has any hope to come back in the next life as a male, she must suffer in this life. Such a belief system necessarily forms a culture that demeans and abuses women.

A Hindu couple hoping to conceive will often recite the verse from the Ardaveda Veda I.2.3: “Let a female child be born somewhere else; here let a male child be born.” When a female child is born the community mourns the birth. The poem, Like Mother, Like Daughter?, recited at the birth of a daughter expresses the lament:

On my birth there was no singing
But sadness filled the air;
No people came to visit
To bless, or give child-care.
“Kill her, kill her, kill her,”
Was what my father said:
A world-wide declaration
Because I was a girl.

You are a girl, a misery;
You’ll eat me out, you’re drudgery!

My mother wept in silence
As only mothers do;
Pitying my misfortune
That she had suffered too.

India needs a new narrative. She needs a new cult (worship system) to shape a new culture. Only the worship of the Creator God, who made women (as well as men) imago Dei, can transform such thinking and practice. God’s image gives all women intrinsic worth as human beings. As such they are to be accorded equal justice before the laws of a country. Their uniqueness as female, as distinct from male, is to be equally valued and joyously celebrated.

From this belief system, the culture is re-formed to honor the dignity of women at every stage of life from conception to natural death. Godly culture celebrates the birth of each daughter and enjoys her uniqueness and beauty as she contributes to the life of her community and nation.

– Darrow Miller

[See Darrow’s book, Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity and Divine Role of Women in Building Healthy Cultures, for more on this subject.]

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5 Responses to On My Birth There Was No Singing: Gendercide in India

  1. Miguel says:

    What can we do in practical terms besides praying?
    I have always criticized Hitler’s generation for not doing what the could have done. I don’t want to do the same. I don’t just want to feel bad for what I read. What can I do?

  2. Abraham G. says:

    Thank you for shining the spotlight on this truly egregious and heinous practice in India. Isn’t it such an irony that while India is on the path to becoming an economic powerhouse, vast segments of her population continue to practice these kinds of primitive and reprehensible crimes – and the world seems to turn a blind eye! Clearly, money speaks, female infants and fetuses don’t! One thing that must and can be done is for the church in India to become an audible voice against this crime. Thank you for talking about it, Darrow.

  3. Miguel

    Thank you for your response to the blog on Gendercide in India. May more people desire to respond in some kind of fashion. Here are a few ideas. First, one of the finest organizations that I know of that is fighting injustices against women is the International Justice Mission. Their website is http://www.ijm.org/. They have a tab Take Action that will show you ways you can engage with them. They are also beginning a work to engage churches to fight for justice in their own communities. Perhaps churches that you are affiliated with could become educated and engaged where they are located.

    Second, I have a dear friend Dr. Catalina de Diaz in Colombia that is working in this area. Dr. Diaz is the Director of the Amalos Foundation, the Programa Hablemos de Sexualidad con los Niños y las Niñas Fundadora in Bogotá, Colombia. She is beginning to engage in the Spanish speaking world. She has produced some excellent materials, in Spanish to help churches engage in dealing with this diabolical behavior as it manifests itself in the Latin world. She may be contacted through catalina.moscoso@fundacionamalos.org. The third is that I am seeking to raise up a generation of Esthers and Mordeichis who will speak on behalf of women around the world. We are having the first Nurturing the Nations Gathering for a small group of people who have read and are using Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women to Rebuild Healthy Cultures http://crm.disciplenations.org/cart/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=52. If this is successful this will be a way to help people engage in the future. Please pray for this gathering.

    Darrow

  4. catalina moscoso de diaz says:

    We had heard about the holocaust like the most violent and perverse thing made to the human being. But this, wins the first place. the question is ¿How to help?, not only in India, here in Colombia and in most countries of Latin America we have the machismo culture. this is another form to kill the women. “on my birth there was no singing” crushes my heart. I was praying especially for the children, but now, I will be praying about the women and girls around the world. thanks Darrow for your heart, and for make me more sensible.

    Catalina de Diaz
    Fundacion ámalos
    Colombia

  5. Alice Brewster says:

    It’s a bit simplistic but worldview needs to be taught and practiced in the Indian cultures around the world such as where I live here in Penang, Malaysia. The ladies in my small Bible study who come from mixed ethnic backgrounds get a heavy dose of this each week as it is “peppered” through our study of the Word. Because of an article I read this week in “Mission Frontiers” about the Methodist Movement we will be applying to our study the idea of which John Wesley put forth–
    “Do no harm”. This certainly applies to female infanticide. Are the new converts in India and China taught this idea? Is this part of the discipleship of new believers? I think it should be.

    Alice Brewster
    Penang Malaysia

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