Gendercide is the practice of killing a child, or letting a child die by not taking care of him or her, because of his or her gender. Sex-selective abortion, or feticide, refers to a particular method of gendercide in which a fetus is aborted after determining, usually through an ultrasound or amniocentesis procedure, that the fetus is of an undesired or unwanted gender. Gendercide, in any form or manner, is denounced by researchers as “morally deplorable,” “uncivilized,” and a grim example of violence against children.
The prevalence of sex-selective feticide and infanticide, directed mainly at females, is not necessarily based on an individual’s or particular family’s decision. Instead, it is a social phenomenon rationalized through traditions and sociocultural values. Historical evidence of these practices, including selective neglect of female children, has been found in cultures around the globe. Many patriarchal societies have historically tended to recognize that raising daughters is less financially beneficial than raising sons. These societies have assumed that sons will provide their parents a sense of security and continuation of the family lineage. Through this lens, daughters are viewed more as liabilities than assets.
Anthropologists refer to many examples of female infanticide in the pre-Christian Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, African, and Asian cultures. Countries like China, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal have continued this traditional practice. The governments in these countries have declared these practices illegal. However, the enforcement of abortion laws based on fetus determination has generally been poor in all these countries. For example, media reports from all parts of India claim that female feticide cases have totaled millions during the past several years and are on the rise even among the educated middle-class people due to an increasing awareness of overpopulation and a high cost of raising children.
There are numerous official as well as unofficial reports in China and India stating that the female infanticide practices have caused a decline in the ratio of females to males. That demographic imbalance is likely to affect marriage and family relations in years to come.
Studies indicate denial among populations of the realities of violence against women. Studies are not available that identify short-range as well as long-range consequences of female feticide and infanticide.
- Freed, R. S. (1989). Beliefs and practices resulting in female deaths and fewer females than males in India. Population and Environment, 10, 144–161.
- Jones, A. (Ed.). (2004). Genocide and gendercide. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
- Warren, M. A. (1985). Gendercide: The implications of sex selection. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld.
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