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If We Really Care About Girls, We Must Start To Care About Gendercide

Today, on the International Day of the Girl Child, there is something missing.

It’s 200 million girls.

These millions of girls are missing from the global population largely as a result of sex-selective abortion. Sex-selective abortion is a well-known problem in China and India, where son-preference cultures have resulted in extremely skewed sex ratios. In China, men outnumber women by a staggering 33 million.

But it’s not just China and India. Selecting boys over girls is becoming a trend in more and more countries, with 21 countries currently having a distorted sex ratio favouring boys.

There is also evidence that sex-selective abortion is occurring in some Western countries whose immigrant populations have son-preference cultures, such as Australia, the UK, Canada and the US.

In Australia, an investigation by SBS based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found a higher number of boys than girls being born in some ethnic communities.

In the UK, Rani Bilkhu of ‘Stop Gendercide’ says she has been supporting women dealing with sex-selective abortion from son-preference communities for almost a decade.

In Canada, two related studies found a higher-than-expected ratio of boys to girls born to immigrants from India over the past two decades as a result of sex-selective abortions.

And according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, “empirical data shows the existence of sex-selective practices among foreign born Chinese, Indians and Koreans in the US.”

Yes, we must fight for girls’ empowerment, equality, education and health. We must fight to end child marriage, trafficking and gender-based violence. But surely, we must first and foremost fight for girls’ right to be born?

Also missing in addition to the 200 million girls, is any real outcry when it comes to this issue.

Sex-selective abortion is one of the most insidious and devastating forms of violence against girls, not to mention their mothers who are often coerced into aborting their daughters, and whose own lives are often similarly unwelcome and unvalued.

The United Nations Population Fund has said that “the rise in sex selection is alarming as it reflects the persistent low status of women and girls”. The damaging effect of millions of missing girls includes increased aggression, sexual violence, sex trafficking, bride-buying and forced prostitution.

The practice of sex-selective abortion is patently anti-girl and anti-woman and is harming our society, yet many self-proclaimed feminists refuse to condemn it because they believe that doing so could threaten their “reproductive rights”.

But what kind of rights rely on ignoring or oppressing the rights of others? And what kind of sisterhood ignores the plight of its most voiceless and vulnerable members?

It is for this same reason that some feminist groups, even the ones that purport to concern themselves with domestic violence, turn a blind eye to those women who are coerced into terminating their pregnancies. They know that this inconvenient truth about abortion - that it is used as a form of violence against women – runs contrary to the myth that it liberates them.

On this Day of the Girl Child, which celebrates the inherent worth of every girl, we need to start to seriously address the elimination of millions of girls from our society through the gendercide that is sex-selective abortion. If we are to truly champion girls’ rights and empowerment, we need to fiercely protect and celebrate them from the very beginning.


Rachael Wong
Rachael Wong is the Director of Research, Policy and Advocacy at Women’s Forum Australia.

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