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I watched a very disturbing documentary over the weekend. I heard about it awhile ago and then forgot all about it, but was instantly reminded when I scrolled through Netflix on Saturday night. I decided to give it a go, and while I instantly wished I hadn’t, I could not stop watching. It’s A Girl is about gendercide; mostly in poor and rural areas of India and China, though it happens all over the world. This ranges from feticide to dowry killings and affects millions and millions of females every year. Males are valued so much more than females in these cultures, that women talk about killing their newborn girls with as much emotion as you’d have about tossing out last week’s newspaper. They aren’t regretful, it is just the way things are.

In India, many can’t afford to have a daughter because they can’t afford a dowry. In both India and China, grown up daughters move on to take care of their husband’s family, abandoning their own. Having a daughter means you are left penniless and abandoned in your old age. It is a matter of survival to have a son. Ultrasounds to determine gender are illegal, but not hard to come by. Many couples decide to abort females, especially in China where they are only able to have one child. Even in cases where women want to keep their baby regardless of gender, their husbands may refuse; demanding an abortion in the case of a female fetus. If a woman tries to refuse an abortion, a man solves the problem himself by beating and starving his wife causing miscarriage. Often times, his wife will die as well. These crimes are ignored by the public and authorities. After being beaten and fleeing to save herself and twin daughters, one Indian woman is trying to bring her husband and the doctor who performed the illegal ultrasound to justice. The doctor has threatened her with rape. Rape. Let that sink in… shut up or you will be raped.

In China if couples violate the one child policy they face kidnapping and forced abortion or sterilization by government officials. These policies have now created a huge discrepancy in the male to female ratio, which poses a new threat to those girls allowed to remain alive; kidnapping. The gender gap has widened to 122 males for every 100 females, which means parents of sons are desperate to secure wives for their boys. They have resorted to having little girls and young women kidnapped to do so. Eventually, those girls grow up and are married off to men who view them as property, and the cycle starts all over. It just seems like such a hopeless situation! Even if laws are put into place, they have to be enforced. Even if they are enforced, what can you do to punish a huge population who believes that women are worthless? How do you change beliefs that have been in place for centuries?

Gender discrimination is alive and well all over the world. If you think it doesn’t happen here, take a look around. Americans may not be committing infanticide or kidnapping girls to save for our sons, but on a daily basis our little girls are affected by other societal influences. They are taught that their bodies should be displayed for male attention, yet hidden while performing natural, biological functions like breastfeeding. Women are continually ridiculed and shamed for making any number of decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. *Girls are bought, sold, traded and exploited constantly by sex traffickers. One out of every six women in the U.S. has been sexually assaulted in her lifetime. *There is no guaranteed paid maternity leave in the United States, which leaves new mothers to choose between their physical and mental well being or their family’s financial well being. *Wages are still unequal between males and females, regardless of education, experience or whether the female has children or not. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

While I certainly think girls and women need to be encouraged to take a stand, fight for their rights and demand equal treatment; that is only half of the battle. The other half must be fought by men. Men need to be taught and raised to view women as equals, treat women as equals and respect women at home and in society. Are there differences between men and women? Sure. Just as there are differences amongst men and differences amongst women. It does not mean any group is entitled to a broader range of rights than another. We are all human. I’ve been going around and around in my head for days about all of the separate issues this topic encompasses. I feel like this little blurb is so tiny and inadequate in it’s ability to express all of my thoughts and feelings, but if I wrote everything out, this would no longer be a blog post but a disorganized, highly emotional novel. I’ll just say, my heart is heavy with thoughts of the World’s women and what the future holds for us…

If you care to learn more, visit http://www.itsagirlmovie.com/ and watch the documentary. It is available on Netflix, DVD and ITunes.

* http://www.rccmsc.org/

* http://www.aauw.org/resource/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

* http://www.umdrightnow.umd.edu/news/longer-maternity-leave-lowers-risk-postpartum-depression