Preema, a young woman from a rural village in southern India, is the 12th daughter born to her parents. Yet, she has no older sisters. Each time Preema’s mother became pregnant and gave birth to a girl, she and her husband killed the newborn—disappointed it hadn’t been a boy.
After 12 births, Preema (not her real name), was the only girl they allowed to live.
The young woman’s story was part of testimony offered Tuesday afternoon by Jill McElya, co-founder of the Invisible Girl Project, to a U.S. House subcommittee hearing on “India’s Missing Girls.” The gruesome practice of sex selection by abortion and infanticide is rampant in India, driven by a strong cultural preference for boys. The problem has only gotten worse in recent years.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., an architect of U.S. anti-trafficking law and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, presided over Tuesday’s hearing. “By shining a light on what is happening in India with its missing girls, we hope to move forward towards a world where every woman is valued and deeply respected because of her intrinsic dignity, and where every child is welcome regardless of his or her sex,” he said in an opening statement. By the time the hearing concluded, it was clear that although the participants agreed “gendercide” in Asia is a major human rights problem, they couldn’t agree on how the United States should address it.