WOW’s Profiles in Poverty and Oppression:

A Review of Christianity Today Essentials The War on Women by Marian Liautaud

One of my most cherished memories as a mother was the moment that the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!” and I had my first glimpse of my newborn daughter. A flood of emotions peaked at that moment – from nine months of anticipation and excitement, to anxiety about how the labor and delivery would unfold and finally, the most incredible love at first sight one can possibly imagine. On top of all that, there were raging hormones to boot! My heart is undone by the fact that our story could have had a completely different outcome if only I had become pregnant on the other side of the world. My daughter could have been aborted or killed right after birth simply because she was a Grace and not a Grayson. In “The War on Women” by Marian Liautaud, she unpacks the issue of female gendercide: what it is, why it’s happening, and what effect it’s having on the world. Incredible examples also are given of organizations and movements that have mobilized to help end this horror one girl at a time.

Gendercide is defined as “the deliberate extermination of persons of a particular sex.” Who are the victims of gendercide? The answer is girls – those who pastor Rick Warren calls “the single most vulnerable people on the planet.” Where are they at the highest risk of being eliminated? Countries that have long favored males over females, such as China, India, and Eastern Europe, are the largest proponents of gendercide. Gendercide occurs beyond sex-selective abortions; statistics show that “baby girls are twice as likely to die in their first year of life as boys in China. The risk of death is three times higher for second girls than for first girls.” Between infancy and age five, girls are most at risk for death from malnutrition, neglect, or failure to receive necessary medical care. These essentials are given to their brothers instead.

This is not just happening on other continents. One Ontario study found that Canadian women who had been born in India gave birth to more sons than daughters at a ratio of 136 to 100. Thus, a deadly discrimination mindset is being imported into North America as well. Why hasn’t this issue been the focus of political agendas? Unfortunately, in the United States it’s too politically charged for any meaningful dialogue to occur. “Gendercide is neither a pro-life nor a pro-choice issue – it’s a human rights issue,” states Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers.

In order to understand the numbers involved in this problem, Christophe Guilmoto compares two facts: 163 million Asian girls are missing because of sex-selective abortion, while AIDS, which has claimed a serious yet far lower number of 25 million people worldwide captured a quarter of global health spending in 2008. Yet, the ramifications of gendercide have a worldwide impact. Research has shown that countries with significant gender imbalances share three characteristics. The first is a rapid decline in fertility, either from women limiting the family size by choice or force of government policy. Secondly, with fewer children, many women want to ensure that the few they have will be boys. In India, exorbitant bride dowries, as well as Hinduism’s teaching that a daughter cannot carry out her deceased parents’ last rites of cremation, have caused families to desire the birth of sons more than daughters. In Asia, “parents want to ensure they have boys so they will be worshipped in the afterlife.”

The third and primary characteristic of countries with gender imbalances is their use of ultrasound imaging technology, which allows people to opt to keep or abort a baby depending on its gender. Ultrasounds were initially brought to China to monitor the placement of women’s IUDs; a government strategy to prevent pregnancies. “An Ultrasound costs about US $12 in China, or up to US $150 in bribes for a black-market baby scan, which is only one-tenth the fine they would have to pay for having a child without a birth permit, and far less than it would cost them to raise an unwanted daughter.” However, China’s suicide rate of 500 per day among women ages 15 to 34 is a telling indicator of the toll gendercide is taking. If the suicide and gendercide rates were to continue at the current pace, the entire population of China could be in trouble. The 163 million missing women in Asia is the equivalent of the entire female population of the United States!

What effect will gendercide have on the world? Experts predict that in the next decade, China will have 40 million more men than women under age 20. Research shows that more men will result in an increase in crime, murder and delinquency rates. According to supply and demand, you would expect women’s value to rise in response to the male surplus. Instead, women have become commodities – bought, sold and traded on the open world market. “With so many boys and not nearly enough girls to sustain the population, there is now an epidemic of human trafficking, especially in Asia, for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labor, and forced marriage...The severe sex ratio imbalance has spurred the market for North Korean trafficked brides.”

While the outlook may seem bleak, many Christian organizations are stepping up to raise awareness of the issue, create laws and policies to protect women against gendercide, and start at a grassroots level to educate on the Biblical principle of Imago Dei, that all human beings are created in the image of God. Chai Ling’s Baby Shower Gift Program through All Girls Allowed (AGA) provides a yearlong, monthly stipend to rural, poor, pregnant women who commit to keeping a baby girl. This sends mothers the powerful message that their daughters are valued and worth keeping, and amounts to as little as $20 USD/month. In 2011, AGA had rescued 1,000 unborn babies from abortion that year alone. “In one single year, we can fully balance out the at-birth gender ratio in small villages where fewer than 50 babies are born each year.” American churches can sponsor these baby shower gifts. AGA starts within the Chinese church to fulfill their mission of “In Jesus’ name, simply love her” by creating a new culture that embraces all human life, regardless of gender, birth order, or government orders.

In India, Salt Initiatives has begun a Let Her Live campaign, which uses training programs, community events, art, and awareness workshops to transform the cultural mindset on girls by teaching on the inherent value and dignity of all human beings. Art for Change has identified Indian art and film as an excellent mode to begin to transform peoples’ worldviews. They sponsor an annual workshop where artists spend a week reflecting on, discussing, and praying about a controversial societal issue. One year, the topic was female feticide. Through the art and corresponding documentary, “It’s a Girl,” these tools work to accomplish Salt Initiatives’ mission: to capture hearts around the world and compel us all to rise up and fuel a movement to end gender-based violence and killings and restore worth and dignity to the girls and women of India, China, and of the world.

“And then Jesus said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.’” (Luke 9:48)

Now that’s a cause worth fighting for.

-- Heather Weisel © July 2017