‘It’s a girl’: world’s 3 deadliest words
Leacock Theatre screens documentary exposing the problem of gendercide
In the time it will take you to read this article, around 125 girls will be killed.
Female infanticide and ‘gendercide’ are a severe problem in India and China, affecting and ending the lives of 13 million girls every year.
The documentary It’s a Girl, which showed Nov. 4 in the Leacock Theatre, focuses on the reasons behind the issue and how prevalent it is in those societies.
The name stems from the sad notion that the deadliest words to be uttered at the birth of a child are, “It’s a girl.”
Leela Jacobs, organizer of the It’s a Girl screening in Calgary, got involved because the issue was very close to her family. Her mother, Lynnette Jacobs, grew up in India with seven sisters. If Leela’s grandfather had believed girls are not worth having, Lynnette would have been killed.
Lynnette’s father always said he was happy to have all girls, and he never neglected his daughters. Because her father was a Christian, Lynnette said, that helped matters, as the largest supporters of the dowry system are Hindu.
The dowry system has been a tradition in India for hundreds of years. It requires the family of a bride to give extravagant presents to the family of the groom. The bride becomes part of the groom’s family, and doesn’t remain close with her family.
Because of the expense of dowry, and the loss of a daughter to marriage, sayings such as “A thief is born” are common upon the birth of girls.
To avoid the expense of daughters, many families will kill a girl as soon as they are born and try again, hoping for a son. Many girls are also aborted, neglected or abandoned.
According to the film, only one in four girls born in India make it past puberty.
Jacobs said she was also lucky in her marriage. Even after marriage, life is not always easy for women in India. Abuse is common if a husband feels the dowry was not high enough, or if his wife is not giving birth to sons.
“Dowry deaths” are generally ignored by the law, but are responsible for around 100,000 deaths a year in India, even though dowries have been illegal since 1961.
This problem is also prevalent in China due to the one-child policy, established in 1978. If the first child of a family is a girl, she will often be killed or abandoned so the family can have a boy as their one child, because when a girl gets married she becomes part of the groom’s family.
Because of this, there is 37 million more men than women in China, and every year 1.1 million more boys than girls are born. These uneven numbers have led to the kidnapping of girls and young women for brides.
There are many who are trying to fight this problem. Mitu Khurana is an Indian woman who was forced to have a gender determination test while pregnant, and had to fight her husband’s family to keep them from aborting her twin girls.
Khurana is now a social activist, fighting the law and inspiring women to rise up and take a stand.
Lynnette Jacobs is doing her part too. When she goes back to visit India, she volunteers to help girls who were not as fortunate as she was at the Pandita Ramabhai Mukti Mission, an orphanage and shelter for women all ages, from abandoned girls to elderly women.
During her most recent visit in the spring of 2012, there were two abandoned babies brought in – one that was left on the highway and somehow survived, and one that was left in a field for animals to eat.
Lynnette Jacobs is very proud of her daughter for organizing the event, and said she believes we really need to make people aware of the situation.
“One screening won’t change the world, but everyone does their part in global change,” she said.
That is what this movie is about.
If you are interested in taking the next step, you can check out http://www.itsagirlmovie.com for more information on how to support organizations that are trying to stop gendercide.