“It’s a Girl” Premieres at British and European Parliaments

It’s a Girl held its UK premiere at the British Parliament on October 30. The screening was co-hosted by Lord Alton of Liverpool and Baroness Howe of Idlicote with various MPs, leaders of NGOs and other invited guests in attendance. 
In his opening remarks at the screening, Lord Alton connected the gendercide in India and China with the recent shooting of a young girl in Pakistan:

The story of an amazing 14-year-old young woman, Malala Yousafzai, recovering in a Birmingham hospital after being gunned down by the Taliban in Pakistan, for campaigning for the right to schooling and education, illustrates the horrific nature of the intolerance to which many young women are subjected.

That discrimination begins even before birth, when the three most dangerous and deadly words which  can be uttered are the words “It’s a girl”.

An engaging panel discussion followed the screening, with director Evan Grae Davis, producer Andrew Brown, and Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers responding to a wide range of questions. Of particular note was the diverse audience, with representatives from both pro-choice and pro-life leaders present. There was a strong desire to find common ground and work together in opposition to end gendercide.
The team then traveled to Brussels for a premiere screening at the European Parliament, hosted by MEP Gay Mitchell in a packed auditorium.
During the Q&A following the screening, Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers applauded the European Parliament for recently passing  a resolution that  “strongly condemns . . . the practice of forced abortions and sterilizations globally, especially in the context of the one-child policy.”
The resolution further states that “the EU has provided, and still provides, funds for organizations involved in family planning policies in China,” and “urges the Commission to ensure that its funding of projects does not breach” the European Parliament’s commitment against coercive population control.
These two screenings at the British and European Parliament were significant opportunities to present the urgency for action against gendercide in front of global leaders, with members of the respective parliaments and other influential leaders in attendance at both screenings.
Join us in petitioning other world leaders to take action against gendercide:

What Can Islam Offer to Combat Gendercide?

51 FK picWhen I first became familiar with the It’s a Girl documentary, a few Qur’anic verses came to mind:

When the sun is wrapped up [in darkness]

And when the stars fall, dispersing

[] And when the seas are filled with flame

And when the souls are paired with their bodies

And when the female infant [who was] buried alive it is questioned

For what crime she was killed?

…Then every person will know what (deeds) he has brought (of good or evil).[1]

These haunting verses are a reminder that in Islam, God holds humanity accountable for their actions in this world, including the egregious crime of female infanticide.  Here, the Qur’an describes God on the Day of Judgment, championing the innocent, the most vulnerable in society, by enabling her to testify as to how she was unjustly robbed of life.  Where we were when this happened? While it continues to happen today?

On October 6, 2012, Mercy Mission Canada’s Being ME (Muslimah[2] Empowered) held its annual women’s conference, entitled “Divine Liberation,” in Toronto, Canada.[3]  The conference focused on encouraging Muslim women to seek their better selves and obstacles they faced in their journey towards empowerment. Gendercide and gender preference were addressed as the conference hosted a screening and panel discussion of the It’s a Girl documentary to a crowd of over two thousand women of diverse ethnicities, ages and backgrounds.  After the screening, the panelist moderator asked: Was this relevant to the Muslim community? What can Islam offer to combat gendercide?

Islam outlines a comprehensive approach to changing societal attitudes towards raising daughters.  Islam unequivocally condemns female infanticide (and by extension, female feticide as it exists today), completely eradicating the practice prevalent in 6th century Arabia at the time of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.)[4].  As discussed in It’s a Girl, economics is the driving force behind gendercide. God responds, “And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Surely, such a killing is a great sin.”[5]

Islamic doctrine further emphasizes the importance of raising daughters so they feel valued as individuals.  To illustrate, the Qur’an criticizes the attitudes of parents who are disappointed in having female children and raise them accordingly: “When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her in (sufferance) and contempt, or bury her in the dust?  Unquestionably, evil is what they decide![6]

Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), more than once, discussed the rewards of raising daughters to shift the fundamental social construct in ancient Arabia — words that remain relevant today: “Whosoever has a daughter and does not bury her alive, does not insult/scorn her, and does not favor his/her son over her, God will admit him/her [parent] into Paradise.”[7] In another narration, he stated, “Whomsoever God has given two daughters and is kind towards them will have them as a reason for him/her to be admitted into Paradise.”[8]  Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) also stressed the importance of educating and being affectionate towards children, female and male alike.

Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) did not merely preach kind treatment towards daughters, but lived his life as testament to his words.  Muhammad raised five daughters with love, compassion & respect. In stark contrast to an ancient Arab culture where chauvinistic perceptions of manliness translated to stoicism towards children and contempt for girls, Muhammad’s unquestionable love and adoration for his daughters exemplifies the excellence of his character and consistency of his words.  Whenever his youngest daughter, Fatima, would enter a room, Muhammad would stand up and seat her in his place and they would speak closely to each other in hushed tones.  He once said, “Fatima is a part of me, and whoever saddens her has harmed me.”  Muhammad lost both his sons in infancy, and while he grieved as any parent would, he never once suggested being the father of five girls was a burden or something to be ashamed of.

Condemnation of female infanticide and gender preference and the counter- emphasis on the value of daughters in Islam are themes found throughout the Qur’an and recorded statements and practices of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.).  However, the ideals of Islam do not always translate to reality, and many of the attitudes reflected in the It’s a Girl documentary remain relevant throughout the Muslim world today.

Being a part of humanity means Muslims should care about injustice, no matter where and to whom it happens.   Muhammad stated: “Whomsoever of you sees a evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then hate it in his heart – and that is the weakest of faith.”  This exaltation is not qualified by issue, geography, time, or religion and is only characterized as one thing – working against injustice however it may occur.

As a community, there is need for introspection among Muslims to confront the disparity of treatment between the genders. Muslims are not immune from generations of ingrained cultural norms rife with patriarchy and paternalism where sons receive preferential treatment over daughters, are afforded more opportunities, and daughters are relegated to archaic and stereotypical roles historically suited to females.  As conference organizers, there was across the board consensus that the issue was relevant and touched each of us individually although we all came from ethnic backgrounds spanning the continents. A scan of the conference audience illustrated many attendees had personal experience with gender preference in their own families. Throughout my life, I have witnessed and heard similar threads of the same stories emerge –family members, friends, and their relatives, living in North America and our mother countries, who experienced pressure to have sons, who themselves wished only to sons first, who perceived raising daughters as a drain on family resources, and marital gift inequities.

In Islam, there is no such thing as dowry; there is a mandatory gift (mahr) the husband must give as agreed upon between husband & wife to fulfill the marital contract. The mahr is a measure of good will and given to the wife alone (not her family). However, many South Asian Muslims attach a gift exchange requirement between the bride and groom’s families, and often with the expectation that the bride’s family offer the groom and his family exorbitant gifts. The more eligible, educated, wealthier, and overall the better the personal resume of the groom, the more expensive and the longer the list of demands become upon the bride’s family.  The gifts are to be given not only to the groom, but to his immediate family and extended aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. as well. To place limits or give less than expected are signs of ill will, the bride’s family labeled as miserly, poor, or lower class and family politics ensue. These practices have no place in Islam, and yet they exist and effectively create the same burdens and economic pressures discussed in the It’s a Girl documentary.

It must be said that the above-mentioned is not always the rule and cannot be generalized to apply to all Muslims or South Asians or both.  By the same token, it cannot be ignored that these experiences are recognized and shared by many in our community.

Closer to home, North American Muslims may recognize or experience the effects of gender bias in their own cities.  Not far from where the Being Me conference was held, several hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), all located in areas with high concentrations of Asians, refuse to permit sex determination ultrasounds.[9]  In a 2012 Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) editorial, studies revealed sex selection “at higher parities if previous children were girls among Asians — that is people from India, China, Korea, Vietnam and Philippines.”[10] In other words, Asian families who already had daughters were more likely to have sons as second or third children than was the normal ratio in Canada. Similar studies in the United States have yielded similar results. Concerns may be further exacerbated by the popularity of privately owned ultrasound businesses in Canada that permit individuals to ascertain the fetus’ sex earlier than could be determined from their doctors and more significantly, during the period of elective abortion permitted in Canada.[11]

None of these reports identify the religion of the ethnic groups participating in female feticide so it unclear to what extent, if any, Asian Muslims contribute to in this heinous practice in North America.  More significantly however, is recognizing attitudes in the Muslim community which foster unequal treatment between sons & daughters, however they manifest themselves, and working towards thwarting the elements contributing to gendercide and gender preference.

The Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s legacy of social change outlines a blueprint for just and compassionate treatment of daughters and more generally, women for Muslims worldwide. As Muslims, we must also hold ourselves accountable as a community to reflect the Islamic paradigm of social change as illustrated in the Qur’an and life of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). As members of the global community faced with gendercide, we can do no less than oppose in our hearts, speak out with our voices, and change with our hands.


[1] Qur’an, Chapter 81, Verses 1-2, 6-9, 14.

[2] “Muslimah” – means “female Muslim.” The noun “Muslim” encompasses both males & females.

[3] For more details, see: http://canada.being-me.org/

[4] In the Islamic tradition, the words “peace be upon him”, here abbreviated as “p.b.u.h.,” are to follow the name of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.).

[5] Qur’an, Chapter 17, Verse 31.

[6] Qur’an, Chapter 16, Verses 58-59.

[7] Abu Dawood

[8] Bukhari #1352, Muslim #2629

[9] Yang, Jennifer,“Six GTA hospitals won’t reveal fetal sex during ultrasound,” http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1162613–six-gta-hospitals-won-t-reveal-fetal-sex-during-ultrasound

[10] Kale, Rajendra, “It’s a girl – could be a death sentence.” http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2012/01/16/cmaj.120021

[11] Sawa, Timothy and Pieper, Annie Burns,“ Fetal gender testing offered at private clinics: Raises fears that gender selection is happening in Canada.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/06/12/ultrasound-gender-testing.html

51 FK picMs. Fasiha Khan was a member of the Being ME conference’s Program committee tasked with developing and implementing the lectures and workshops for the conference.  After learning about the It’s a Girl documentary, she introduced it to conference organizers, the launch pad from which the Being ME conference hosted its screening of the documentary at the conference.  The Being ME second annual women’s conference, entitled “Divine Liberation,” focused on Muslim women’s empowerment through the Islamic paradigm.  The conference was held on October 6, 2012 with over 3,000 attendees.

Fasiha Khan is an attorney with a family law background in divorce, custody and domestic violence. She grew up in Maryland, where she was an active member of the Muslim community, developing programs for Muslim youth, speaking on issues related to Muslim women’s rights and volunteering to advocate for domestic violence survivors. She is married to a fantastic man who is very supportive of her work.

The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.


Why ‘It’s a Girl’ is a Different Kind of Film

are women human rita.banerjiWhen I started The 50 Million Missing Campaign on India’s female genocide, in 2006, I had two goals. One, was to raise global awareness about this massive, human rights atrocity in India, for many didn’t and still don’t know.  The other goal was to build a grassroots, public momentum that will demand official accountability and action, of the kind that all genocides warrant.
Over the last few years I’ve given countless interviews.  As a writer, I am well aware of how critical the role of the media is in communicating with the public, and I am very indebted for their help in putting out the word both about our campaign and the issue of India’s female gendercide.
Yet, I also have to say, that sometimes there are ways in which the media has presented this issue that I find deeply despairing.  It’s almost like they end up further dehumanizing this human rights catastrophe!  I am always shaken up by questions that use phrases like“the dropping sex ratio,” or “the shortage of women in India”  “Shortage” is a word used when we discuss ‘things’ –‘resources’ — like food, land and water, things that we use! Not human beings!
Perhaps it is this view of women as use-based commodities by the media, which also makes it attempt to rationalize this genocide – as if there’s actually a legitimate explanation for it. Or they patronize this bizarre idea that economic incentives should be given to people to not kill girls and women!!
Would we try to rationalize any other human genocide? Would we think giving economic incentives to Europe or to Rawanda or Bosnia would have stopped the genocides there? Would we speak of the Jewish genocide as the “dropping Jewish ratio” or as a “shortage of Jews” in Europe?  So why do they does the media dehumanize the girls and women of India this way? 1.8 million girls born between 1985-2005 were battered to death before they turned 6 years old. 106,000 young women were burnt to death in just one year. 1 woman is killed every 5 minutes, as millions of women are abused and brutally forced through multiple, back-to-back abortions to rid girls! Click here for news reports of the kind of violence that women in India face every day!
Last year, I asked a documentary film maker from Europe, who was interviewing me, why reporters consistently chose to ignore my remarks that the annihilation of women increases as you go up the economic and education ladder in India.  Look at any other genocide: it is the powerful that have played the biggest roles! She said, because their audience (in Europe) wouldn’t like to hear it or understand it!!
The media sets the tone for how the public thinks, acts and reacts. If the media itself views women as ‘sexual’ or ‘reproductive’ resources for men to use, it makes the work of campaigns like mine that much more difficult.
Sometimes, when I give an interview, it feels like, they’ve already got the plot and vision of “a story” in their head and I’m just required to plug in the numbers.  And so I was pleasantly surprised when the ‘It’s a Girl’ team showed up at my door (on the dot of the appointed time, I should add, even though they were coming from the other end of the world), with a copy of my book ‘Sex and Power,’ pages and passages duly marked for further discussion, along with tons of questions.  I realized they had come to talk and understand!!  Even after they returned to the U.S., they continued to email me and communicate about the development of the presentation of their film.
I recently saw the full version of the film, and it finally put my mind to ease.  ‘It’s a Girl’ is not just another media story on India’s ‘falling sex ratio.’ It is an ideological challenge to a global humanity to open its eyes to a human rights atrocity on a historically unprecedented scale.  It is also a call for the world to finally recognize that women are human.
Amnesty International has officially nominated this film for their 2012 Reel Film Festival on films that deal with the critical human rights issues of our times.  The film has also been nominated for the 2012 International Human Rights Film festival in Vienna.
Finally! The women of India have a voice in the world to protest the wrong done to us, and most of all to remind the world that we are HUMAN and that members of the global community need to take a stand and speak up!
If you are reading this, please, where ever you are, stand up and be counted. Sign this petition and add your voice to the momentum telling the Leaders of the world to stop the female genocide in India.


Rita Banerji an author and gender activist, and the founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide. Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies,‘ is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide. Her website is www.ritabanerji.com She blogs at Rebellions in my Space and tweets at @Rita_Banerji


The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.

President Hu Jintao’s Chance To End The One Child Policy and Gendercide

The contrast with the American presidential election campaign could not

be greater but this week the Chinese Communist Party made its once in a decade transfer of power to a new Politburo of one-party State appointees. President Hu Jintao is expected to hand over the reins of power in March.

Before he leaves office there is one last question which President Hu should address – and which would earn him widespread respect and admiration: it is a brutal and discriminatory policy [the One-Child Policy] which for 32 years has tarnished the reputation of a great country and which has left a trail of misery.

Last month, the United Nations commemorated its International Day of the Girl: highlighting the 100 million girls who are the victims of domestic violence, compulsory veiling, the sex trade, trafficking, bonded labour, forced marriages, genital mutilation, and sexual abuse. In China – and elsewhere – that discrimination begins even before birth, when the three most dangerous and deadly words which can be uttered are the words “It’s a girl”.

Thirty two years ago, China passed a law which institutionalised the routine killing of little girls, merely because of their sex. It’s a policy which shamefully has been indirectly aided and abetted by British taxpayers money.

Centuries-old tradition, combined with government-enforced birth control policies, have had horrifying and devastating consequences.

But while China is by far the leader in this appalling trend, it’s by no means alone.  India, with its history of deadly discrimination against girls and women, is rapidly catching up. Today there are now markedly more males than females in India than there were in the early 1990s, and various regions are facing serious and growing gender imbalances.

One United Nations expert estimates that gendercide has cost the lives of around two hundred million women and girls worldwide over the past thirty years. It has also led to violence against citizens and sometimes to the murder of those who don’t comply with the policy.

Gendercide is also on the rise globally. As an international predilection for sex-selective abortion grows, so more and more women and girls are losing their lives or simply “missing”, the result of sterilization or other means. Western Asia, in particular, is a region of growing concern. And in February of this year undercover journalists discovered sex selection abortions taking place in the UK.
Many Chinese people have been urging Hu Jintao to abandon the one child policy and there are signs that the protests are having their effect.  One man in particular has done more than anyone to force open the debate about gendercide. In April of this year the blind self taught lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who spent four years in prison for opposing the policy, escaped house arrest, finding safe passage to the United States.

We can learn much from his example. Chen’s bravery and heroism has inspired many Chinese dissidents and campaigners around the world. He has seen what sighted people have failed to see; spoken out when those of us with free speech have failed to do so.

In a recent interview, Chen said he was confident reform will come to China, but stressed that if everyone made an effort to build a more just and civil society, then it would come faster. Here’s one thing each of us can do:

A brilliant new hour-long film, entitled “It’s A Girl” was recently premiered at Westminster at a meeting which I chaired. The film conveys a simple yet powerful message:  that the words “It’s a girl” – usually proclaimed with such joy and celebration – are deadly for large populations of the world.

It is available to be seen in parishes and in small groups in people’s homes or in colleges.  Anyone wishing to show the film should contact screenings@itsagirlmovie.com.


Excerpts used with the author’s permission. (Full text) 

Picture 1:  From the It’s a Girl screening at British Parliament  Lord Alton with Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, Andrew Brown and Evan Grae-Davis

Picture 2: Chinese President Hu Jintao © New York Times

davidDavid Alton was a Member of the House of Commons of the British Parliament for 18 years. Today he is Lord Alton of Liverpool, a Catholic member of the British House of Lords where he sits as an Independent. He is Professor of Citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University and author of eight books.


The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.