Chinese writer Xinran Xue describes her 'absolute horror'' at seeing a
newborn's tiny foot sticking out of the bucket in a peasant home in Shandong
province. It's clear she's just witnessed the murder of a baby girl.
Xinran’s story is detailed in last week’s
Economist magazine, in a feature on ''Gendercide'' and the world's
missing 100 million baby girls.
We've long known about the Chinese preference for sons over daughters and
the cruel determination born of a one-child policy. And we've suspected all
manner of crimes are committed to abort female foetuses and ensure baby
girls don't survive.
Ending up in the ''slops pail'', with her little foot sticking out, is
probably one of the kinder cruelties. At least it's quick. Other baby girls
are slowly starved, or simply abandoned. But now the warped thinking that
prizes baby boys above girls is set to cause a massive shortage of brides in
Within 10 years there will be up to 40 million more young Chinese men
Yet China is certainly not alone in its blatant ''son preference''. As
the Economist reports, India's sex
ratios are also highly skewed in favour of males, along with South Korea,
Taiwan and even Singapore. And it's not just Asian nations.
Former Soviet States such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have all
exploded with boys outnumbering girls.
So how many ''slops pails'' with tiny toes sticking out are there?
What is it about girls that make them so utterly undesirable? And what is
it about women that make them so utterly dispensable?
While the so called crime of ''gendercide'' appears predominately an
Asian problem, don't for a minute think that Australia isn't also complicit
in the continued negating of females – as if they don't matter.
In our own backyard - the Pacific region - it's not baby girls who are
dying unnecessarily every day - it's mothers. A New Zealand report launched
in Canberra last week by the Australian Parliamentary Group on Population
and Development provides alarming reading.
Some of the rates of maternal death among our closest neighbours are
among the worst in the world. The death of pregnant women in Papua New
Guinea is only surpassed by Afghanistan – where a woman dies from
reproductive complications every 29 minutes.
And yet this scandal of female neglect rates little mention here. If
Australian women were dying in the numbers our Pacific sisters are, there
would be a public outcry.
Mention Fiji, Vanuatu, or the Solomon Islands and most Australians
immediately think of aqua blue seas, beaches and holiday resorts. What we
never choose to see is the extremely high rate of violence against women,
the appalling lack of maternal care, the continuous daily deaths of pregnant
women, the skyrocketing rates of teenage pregnancy and the outrageous legal
sanctioning of discrimination against women.
A scathing United Nations Asia-Pacific Human Development report issued
earlier this month points out that more than 60 per cent of Pacific nations
have no laws against domestic violence. This is probably why a recent report
by the Solomon Islands Ministry of Women, written in partnership with AusAid,
found that 73 per cent of women thought it was OK for a husband to beat his
wife - if he has a reason.
Those reasons included ''disobeying'' a husband, or nagging him about his
In the foreword to that report the Minister of Health and Medical
Services, Johnson Koli, lamented that violence against women was both denied
and suppressed, yet was ''inherent in gender-based inequalities'' in the
The research found that, while two out of every three women in the
Solomons are subjected to physical and/ or sexual abuse by their partner,
the majority believed they had no right to leave their husband, if he had
paid a ''bride price'' to her family.
Culture-based discrimination against women sweeps the Pacific. Recently
Vanuatu's traditional chiefs challenged a 2008 law passed to protect women
form domestic violence, saying it contradicted Vanuatu's custom.
Traditional, cultural practices that assert male authority will always
disadvantage women. So why do we continue to kowtow to them? Why are
Australians so ready to adopt a lazy, cultural-relativist position when it
comes to blatant and dangerous discrimination against women living in our
The UN report pulled no punches when it said, ''Too often, customs or
religious beliefs have become a rationale for laws and legal systems to
ignore . . . the multiple forms of violence that target women''.
When I asked New Zealand's head of Family Planning, Jackie Edmond, a
chief advocate for improving maternal health in the Pacific, why it is that
so many women are dying unnecessarily in our region, she was blunt. ''Women
are just not seen as important,'' she said.
And yes, it's that simple.
Virginia Haussegger is a columnist with The Canberra Times, where this article first appeared. www.virginiahaussegger.com.au
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
While western society it outraged at how the
Islamic and Chinese worlds devalue the female gender, they complete forget
that men in the west by accident of birth are devalued and without legal
rights. Children in Western countries generally have no legal rights to a
relationship post separation to both parents. In Canada, men who seek to
assert their children's rights, suffer extreme financial penalties from a
judiciary plagued with a low life underbelly hell bent on promoting feminist
myths that men have no value other than as cperm donours and payors of