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Review: Gendercide What Happened To 100 Million Baby Girls

Gendercide: What happened to 100 million baby girls?” The Economist, 6-12Mar10, p.13.

Jeff Jacoby, “100 million ‘missing’ girls,” The Boston Globe, 14Mar10, C9.

Adam Brookes in Beijing, “China’s Unwanted Girls,” BBC News, 23August01.


Researchers say, in China alone, somewhere around a million girl fetuses are aborted-and tens of thousands are abandoned every year. Chinese family planning policy limits urban couples to one child; some rural parents are allowed two. Cultural and financial factors make boys a prize; girl babies a disappointment. The pressures are tremendous-socially among the rich; financially and culturally among the poor.

BBC’s Adam Brookes tells this story from Beijing.

Chen Rong makes her living from scavenging garbage, and over the years she has found five little girls [in the trash]. She brought them all home to her one-room brick shack and she and her husband try to give them a chance. 

One baby died before we even got her home” says Mrs. Chen. “Another garbage scavenger had taken her clothes and then left her to die. I was the only one who would pick her up. I couldn’t bear to see her die…. Parents shouldn’t throw away their children. This shouldn’t be happening.”

Zhai Zhenwu is a professor at Beijing’s People’s University. About the imbalance between girls and boys in today’s China (100 registered girl births to 118 boy births), the Professor says:   

. Some [girls] are abandoned, but many are aborted when the parents find out the fetus is a girl. This is a huge problem for China. We already have about 20 million boys who will never marry because there aren’t enough women [Such young men are called guanggun or “bare branches”].  

That number rises by 1/5 million every year. It will bring crime and prostitution. It will destabilize China.

Jhiu Hongying is 19 and pregnant (Brook’s reports). The pressure on her to produce a boy is huge. Family and community demand it. A boy will bring status. He will continue the family line. ‘Boys are best (she says) because they can work.”

The cover story in The Economist as noted above, asks us to put ourselves in the place of parents in such situations.

Imagine you are one half of a young couple expecting your first child in a fast-growing poor country. You are part of a new middle class; your income is rising; you want a small family. But traditional mores hold sway around you, most important is the preference of sons over daughters. Perhaps hard labor is still needed for the family to make its living. Perhaps only sons may inherit land. Perhaps a daughter is deemed to join another family on marriage and you want someone to care for you when you are old. Perhaps she needs a dowry.

Now imagine you have had an ultrasound scan; it costs $12, but you can afford that. The scan says the unborn child is a girl. You yourself would prefer a boy; the rest of your family clamors for one. You would never dream of killing a baby daughter, as they do out in the villages. But an abortion seems different. What do you do?

For those who oppose abortion, this is mass murder. For those such as this newspaper [The Economist], who think abortion
should be “safe, legal and rare” (to use Bill Clinton’s phrase), a lot depends on the circumstances, but the cumulative consequence for society of such individual actions is catastrophic.
China alone stands to have as many unmarried young men… as the entire population of young men in America.

It is no exaggeration to call this gendercide. Women are missing in their millions-aborted, killed, neglected to death. In 1990 an Indian economist, Amartya Sen, put the number at 100 million.

Sex-selection tests and abortions are illegal in India. But that is not to say they aren’t still practiced. Some doctors discretely give parents pink or blue candles to signal the results of such tests. Some are even more brazen, advertising, “Spend 500 rupees now and save 50,000 rupees later,” [according to Jeff Jacoby, above].

These articles report, “The war against baby girls has spread to South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, to the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and even to Asian-American communities in the United States.” Of these, according to The
, “South Korea has shown the worst can be avoided.”

In India, according to a 2007 article of the Times of London, cited by Jacoby:

It is not the country’s poorest but it’s richest who are eliminating baby girls as the highest rate, regardless of religion or caste. Delhi’s leafiest suburbs have among the lowest rate of girls to boys in India, while the two states with the absolute lowest ration are those with the highest per-capita income: Punjab and Haryana.

Both articles tell a story from Chinese writer Xinran Xue’s Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother:

She is visiting a peasant family in Shandong while the mother is giving birth. The father, upon seeing that a girl has been delivered,
mutters, “Useless thing!” To Xinran’s horror, the useless thing is thrown into a pail of slops to be drowned.

That’s a living child,” I said in a shaking voice, pointing to the slops pail. 

“It’s not a child,” [the midwife] corrected me. “It’s a girl baby, and we can’t keep it. Around these parts, you can’t get by without a son. Girl babies don’t count.”

Jacoby concludes:

On its cover, The Economist asks: “What happened to 100 million baby girls?” The answer is simple-and
sickening: They didn’t count.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. What is your initial response to the review of these articles?
2. How serious do you see this issue to 
the nations mentioned, and to the world globally?
3. What do you see as the issue; how would y
ou state it succinctly?
4. How do you see the difference between 
abortion and infanticide?
5. With what moral or ethical guideline 
should we approach this issue? What is the source of justice and moral decisions?
6. Would you suggest a discussion of this 
matter in school classrooms and youth groups-as well as around a family dinner and among friends?


1. How a society treats its most vulnerable children is an indication of where it is headed and its chances for healthy success.
2. When life in general, and gender 
specifically, lose their dignity, societies move toward subhuman levels.
3. Aspects of culture described above will scar most girls for the rest of their lives. Female suicide rates in these countries have risen dramatically.
4. Boys without a chance of marriage in 
these societies, are (as the Economist put it) “outlaws” with diminished status, often destined for a life of crime, gangs and smuggling.
5. This issue is not unrelated to the 
problem of human trafficking.
6. South Korea has shown that norms and 
mores can be changed, and there is some emerging evidence that China and India are taking more interest in re-education on this matter.

Dean Borgman
© 2018 CYS

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