I was in London this summer for the birth of Prince George. The city came alive with the news of Kate’s hospitalization. Smiling, I walked through the streets to my morning class; a birth is always an exciting event. I went with a friend from northern England to wait at Buckingham Palace for an hour, hoping to witness the arrival of the royal birth announcement. I called my mom from my room a few hours later to share the happy news. As The Daily Telegraph proclaimed in bold, scripted letters the next morning: “It’s a boy.” And so little George Alexander Louis emerged into the world. But, frankly, I don’t think it made a huge difference to Londoners or the rest of the kingdom either way. I think they would have welcomed a baby girl with just as much enthusiasm, possibly a little more as she would have been the first baby girl born directly into the line of succession regardless of any brothers born after her.
Before hearing Reggie Littlejohn speak at the Emerging Leaders Conference this weekend, I never would have imagined that the impact of the words “it’s a boy” and “it’s a girl” could be so monumentally different. But in India and China, “it’s a girl” has become a death sentence for millions. I knew son-preference existed in some cultures, but I would never have imagined that more than 200 million women are missing from the face of this planet today, simply because “it’s a girl.” Founded upon this preference for sons, sex-selective abortion prevails in India and China. Now add the further indignity of routine forced abortions for women who violate China’s One Child Policy.
With more than 200 million victims of sex-selective abortions and 1 in 5 women in the world today living in China (and thus under a repressive regime that subjects women wanting to have another child to forced abortions), female gendercide and forced abortions constitute, as Reggie Littlejohn noted, more violence against women and girls than any other official policy in history. Certainly, coercive abortions against women’s will exhibit a monumental violation of women’s rights, but so too does the incredible absence of women in India and China. As one Indian commentator argued in the documentary It’s a Girl, there should be no justification needed for the right of a woman to live. She does not need to demonstrate any utilitarian value; she has dignity as a human being and need not justify her right to exist. That some cultures and regimes suppress the right of women to draw breath should be an issue that resonates with us all. Neither gender should have to justify their existence. Let us fight against systems like China’s One Child Policy and corrupt Indian courts, which fail to protect women who do not want to abort their baby girls. Let us greet with equal joy the pronouncement “it’s a girl” and “it’s a boy.” And lest we grow complacent and relegate the issues of forced abortion and gendercide to traditional son-preference cultures, for the past two months London newspapers have contained a raging debate over the issue of sex-selective abortion, a sad irony for city that so warmly welcomed little Prince George.
By Ashley Wright, a WYA North America member and ELC participant