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The Holocaust Happening Right Under Our Noses

The Holocaust Happening Right Under Our Noses


Oct 26 2012
In some countries, hearing "It's a girl" is no cause for celebration—it's a death sentence. A new film captures global gendercide.

A burial mound in Tamil Nadu, India, holds the bodies of eight infant girls. Each of them was strangled at birth by their mother, who desperately wanted a son—so much so that she was willing to kill until she finally got one.

"Why keep girls when keeping them would be difficult?" the mother asks plainly.

Like a punch in the face, this is the opening scene of It's a Girl, a new documentary about a modern-day holocaust happening right under our noses. Shot on location in India and China by Shadowline Films, the hour-long film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters' lives, and even of mothers who would kill for a son.

The United Nations estimates that as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of "gendercide," the deliberate extermination of girls in favor of boys. It's a Girl, released last month, examines why girls are being annihilated at a rate that has skewed the sex ratio to biologically unsustainable levels in many parts of the world. Using a blend of hand-drawn animations and first-person interviews with mothers and fathers, doctors and demographers, activists and advocates for human rights, It's a Girl provides an excellent primer on the range and scope of gender injustice against girls.

Gendercide occurs most commonly through sex-selective abortion. Ultrasound technology has made it easy and cheap to determine the gender of an unborn child, thus ramping up the number of girls systematically exterminated before birth. Although India has laws against using ultrasound to discover the baby's sex, these laws do little to sway the deeply ingrained cultural bias for boys. Added to the centuries-old tradition of son preference are government mandates, like China's one-child policy, which has accelerated the elimination of girls.

Mark Shan, an analyst with Women's Rights Without Borders, describes in the film how the Chinese government boasts that the one-child policy has prevented more than 400 million births since it was instituted 32 years ago. That's 35,000 abortions a day—1,500 per hour—and many of these are forced abortions up to the ninth month, according to Reggie Littlejohn, president of the group Women's Rights Without Borders.

Evan Grae Davis didn't set out to make a film about gendercide. Originally the director and his production company were exploring the underlying roots of social injustices like gender inequality and the exploitation of the innocent. After researching human rights abuses across five continents, the team arrived in India, where they encountered a shocking reality.

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