Crime:  being female.  Punishment: death

In the United States 1,600 women were murdered by men in 2013.  There is no reason to think that statistic has changed, because our entire culture believes, deep down, that women are intrinsically worth less than men.

Buttressed by bible statements ripped out of context and horrifying rhetoric from those we elect to high office, many Americans – both male and female – feel that it is right to privilege men over women, and to overlook violence inflicted upon women’s bodies, minds, and spirits.  As a theologian, this breaks my heart. As an American, I feel terribly, terribly ashamed.

Listen to this young woman’s story, if you can bear to. Also note her punishment for daring to speak out against her abuser:


To me, the failure of her friends to support her and of her school to protect her, was almost as horrifying as her abuse.  Women who break the silence to tell their stories, face this reality every day.

Some have called the systemic evils that afflict women and girls a “War on Women,” but there is a key difference between war and what is happening to women now:

War is between two armed parties.  You don’t get to call it war, if one of the sides is totally unarmed.  In that case, it’s called genocide.

Sometimes the violence begins even earlier. The intentional abortion of a female fetus in order to ‘try for a boy,’ is widespread in China due to a strong cultural preference for boys.  Coupled with China’s “one child” policy, this attitude is fatal to one out of 6 females.  Girls are routinely aborted, abandoned at birth, or simply killed.  1.1 million female lives are lost in this way every year.

It’s not only China.  In India, one girl is aborted every minute, simply because she is a girl.  This, in spite of laws that make sex-selective abortion illegal.  But laws mean little unless they are enforced, and an estimated 50 million girls and women are missing from India’s population due to gendercide.

Call it war or gendercide, it must stop.  And it CAN be stopped.  Really.

In 1990, South Korea’s record of gendercide was almost as dismal as China’s.  However, by 2007 their male-to-female ratios at birth had normalized. South Korea remains the only country in modern history to achieve this – and they did it in less than 20 years!

This incredible change was driven by strictly enforced laws against sex-selective abortions and infanticide.  The government also eliminated its one-child policy, focusing instead on better family planning, maternal and child health care, and a public awareness campaign anticipating the shortage of brides.

These reforms were not undertaken for noble purposes; women there are still heavily devalued relative to men. But the reforms were a nod to the reality that faces everyone:  women are needed.  When women die, we all die.

Reforms are possible. With the results of the last election boding ill for respect and dignity for women and girls, it is now more important than ever to work for change in America.

So please, speak out against domestic violence.  Legislate for change.  (Oh yes, you can).  Work at this as though all humanity depends upon it.

Because it does.


6 thoughts on “Gendercide

  1. Kathy
    This is a very important topic that is so often overlooked or discussed behind closed doors. Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront as so many women are still ashamed to discuss this subject openly. Good article and thanks again for highlighting such a vital issue for women and all victims of domestic violence.


  2. Kathy, Thank you for this sad but important post. This has been a week of mourning for women everywhere, even though many do not realize that, as evidenced by the fact that more white women voted for DT than HRC. I have come to realize in the last few days just how thoroughly so many people – men and women – are socialized to believe “that women are intrinsically worth less than men,” as you say. I was touched by this essay a niece of mine shared on Facebook: It’s called “A Letter to My Wife The Day After The Election,” and in it Soren Bowie writes: “We would rather have an unqualified man who grabs, rapes, violates, bullies, and dehumanizes women as our leader than a uniquely qualified woman. What that says about a woman’s worth, about your worth, makes me so sad and frustrated …” I knew we were messed up, but I never realized just how messed up.


  3. You grabbed me when you spoke about China. As a mother of an 8 year old girl that I adopted from China I am well aware of the horrible bias there is in that culture against girls. It’s to the detriment of the country. I saw a documentary once of a village in China where the school had one girl for every 10 boys. It is anticipated that the society itself will become more violent since there will not be enough women for every man creating a move violent society of men.
    I am always heartbroken when I look into the face of my beautiful daughter and think of how many others never made it to her age…how many others were never given a chance. Thank you for your post.


  4. You taught me so much here. Some of it broke my heart further, and some of it – like your comments about South Korea – gave me hope. I particularly appreciate the way you ended it, with the “oh yes you can” nudge that sounded equal parts encouraging/empowering and pushy/get-off-your-butt-there’s-no-excuse. Yes. Sometimes it takes a simple phrase to remind me to be a little better, a little stronger, a little more capable. And it helps to feel less alone.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s