Mt 1:1-16, 18-23
Today’s Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because it celebrates the birth of a baby girl, reminded me that in many parts of the world the birth of a baby girl is nothing to celebrate.
UNICEF estimates that more than 60 million women are demographically “missing” from the world as a result of sex-selective abortions and female infanticide in China, South Asia and North Africa.
Infanticide has been practiced throughout human history in societies where boy children are valued, economically and socially, above girls. Advances in technology permit the modern horror of selectively aborting female fetuses. Medical testing for sex selection, although officially outlawed, has become a booming business in China, India and the Republic of Korea.
In India, census data from 2001 show that among children younger than 6, there are just 927 girls per 1,000 boys. UNICEF calculates that “7,000 fewer girls are now born in India each day than nature would dictate, and 10 million have been killed during pregnancy or just after in the past 20 years.”
This practice of sex-selective abortion and female infanticide is coming home to roost in a way that people should have anticipated; causing social problems that will last for generations. In China, for example, twenty-five million men currently can’t find brides because there is a shortage of women.
In India, some families are dealing with the shortage of women by turning to trafficking. Young girls from countries like Bangladesh and from poorer areas of India are being bought and sold as child brides. Even more horrifying is that some of these girls are made to bear children for one man and then sold to another to bear more.
The problem is not confined to Asia. Here in the global north, we are beginning to see technology being used in ways reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Would-be moms and dads with plenty of money can not only determine the gender of their child, but can pick whether their baby has blue or brown eyes or black or blond hair.
Pope Benedict, who grew up in Nazi Germany and witnessed the evil of eugenics first hand, spoke about this issue on February 21, 2009. This feast day that celebrates the birth of a girl is a good day to consider his words.
“The disapproval of eugenics used with violence by a regime, as the fruit of the hatred of a race or group, is so rooted in consciences that it found a formal expression in the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ Despite this, there are appearing in our days troubling manifestations of this hateful practice, which present themselves with different traits… a new mentality is insinuating itself that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity based on individual desire and individual rights. There is thus a tendency to privilege the capacities for work, efficiency, perfection and physical beauty to the detriment of other dimensions of existence that are not held to be valuable. In this way the respect that is due to every human being — even in the presence of a defect in his development or a genetic illness that could manifest itself in the course of his life — is weakened, and those children whose life is judged unworthy of being lived are punished from the moment of conception.”
- Sr. Mary Ann Strain, C.P.