Female babies are more likely to be aborted in some cultures, according to film It’s a Girl! CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

Gender still a strong factor in abortions, says film

By  Lianne Milan Bernardo, Youth Speak News
  • April 12, 2013

It’s a girl! But for some parents, this is bad news.

A new documentary film touring Canada, titled It’s a Girl!, investigates the prevalence of gendercide of girls through sex-selective abortion, infanticide and abandonment because of their sex.

Throughout March and April the film has been screened at 13 university campuses across the country as part of the Defend- Girls campaign. It made a stop in Toronto April 3 at York University. The DefendGirls initiative aims to raise awareness of sex-selective abortion and gendercide. It also aims to build public support for Motion-408, a motion initiated by MP Mark Warawa — and recently deemed unvotable in Parliament — calling for the Canadian government to condemn the discrimination against females through sex-selective pregnancy termination.

It’s a Girl! focuses on the impact of sex-selective abortions in India and China, the world’s two most populous nations, both with high rates of infanticide among baby girls.

Director Evan Grae Davis and his crew from Shadowline Films filmed in both countries, interviewing women and couples who have experienced gender inequality, violence and sex-selective abortion, often under pressure from husbands, families and communities. Academics, NGO workers and analysts also tell how these practices persist in these societies.

Davis identifies the centuries-old traditions of both countries as one of the reasons behind sex-selective abortions. Sons are preferred over daughters in both cultures because sons inherit the family name and ensure that property remains within the family, whereas daughters are married off and enter other families.

In India, daughters who marry are accompanied by dowries, a practice that persists. Infanticide and abortion are especially prominent among poorer families who cannot afford dowries for daughters.

In the case of China, the one-child policy creates additional stress for families and expectant mothers. The policy is strictly enforced with paid informants tipping off the family planning police if there are couples in the community carrying illegal pregnancies. Since men outnumber women by more than 37 million, there is a strain on the marriage market, giving rise to child kidnappings, where daughters are kidnapped to ensure that a family’s sons will have a wife to marry later on.

The need for the respect of life and the dignity of all people are prominent throughout the film. The stories told by the families and women are sad, affecting and graphic, reinforcing how social norms and government policies are determining whether a baby girl should live. Women are coerced by their families and husbands to have sex determination tests and abortions even if the woman wishes to keep the baby girl.

The film also focuses on the need to protect women’s rights. Women in these countries are treated like second-class citizens and have no input over pregnancies. And the violence they endure in the name of duty, family and the law reduces them to property.

While the documentary looks at the political, social and economic causes and implications of sex-selective abortion in India and China, its coverage of what is being done to end the practice was too brief.

The film overall showed some of the efforts that have been made to counter gendercide, such as India’s Dr. Mitu Khurana’s campaign against illegal sex determination tests and a call for the protection of girls. A clip is also shown from Hilary Clinton’s 1995 speech to the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing condemning gendercide.

(Bernardo, 26, is a practical nursing student at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto, Ont.)

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