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The 'Missing' Girls Of India: A Woman's Fight To Find The Answers

The Activist Rita Banerji and Me

Call it mass murder. Call it female homicide.

In three generations, more than 50 million women have been routinely eliminated from India's population through horrendously annihilating gender-specific infliction of violence in various forms. Female feticide through forced abortions, female infanticides, "doodh-peeti" ( a customary practice of drowning new born girls in milk),dowry deaths, honor killings, hunting are some of the historically rooted crimes against women that have managed to sustain the female genocide in India.They have been targeted because they were born - girls.Still, this country refuses to acknowledge this crisis as a war on women and admit it to be a violation of their basic human right to life.

One woman who refused to capitulate was Rita Banerji.

Rita is a revolutionist, humanist, author, photographer and a World Pulse sister. She started the campaign '50 Million Missing' in December 2006 with the aim of raising public consciousness and moral accountability for the killings, nationally and globally, and for the International recognition of this gender-specific dehumanization of women as "genocide" under the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide Act. She confirms that the word 'missing' is actually euphemism for the term eliminated. In 1986, Nobel Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen used the word 'missing' to draw attention to India's vastly lopsided gender ratio and estimated that over 37 million women were missing in India - women who could not be accounted for. The word left her no peace since then. Today, '50 Million Missing' is the largest zero fund worldwide campaign to end female genocide with grassroots support of close to 600,000 people from 200 countries.

Rita was born and raised in 17 towns all over India. Since an early age she refused to conform to the traditional social constructs of Indian society and how they stipulate girls should be. She rejected the gender bias inherent in and outside her home and challenged the socialization process which treated boys and girls differently. Left with a conflicting choice of ensuing her family’s dreams of studying medical science or following her heart to become a conservation biologist, Rita ultimately did what her heart told her to do. She left for Massachusetts, USA, to study Ecology and Conservation Biology. She lived there for 11 years, winning several awards for her academic excellence and work as a conservationist including projects which always had a gender perspective. However at 30 she returned to India. She now wanted to contribute her own visions and beliefs of the world into the work she did. Through her writings and photography she started focusing on the issue of gender disparity in India. She worked with the landmark ‘Chipko’ grassroots movement, aimed at conservation and reclamation of forests throughout India and published several note-worthy articles in magazines and newspapers across the globe.

Her award winning book Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies was published in 2009. This book marked culmination of five years of rigorous in-depth analysis of gender constructs and sexuality in India. While doing research for the book, she realized how deep rooted misogynistic attitudes towards women as a group were, and how important it was to address this issue. The birth of the campaign stemmed from her outrage and compulsion to take action against the ongoing killing of females and the apathetic response of the society. In 2006, she first launched her campaign on Flickr-a photo sharing website and then moved on to various networking sites and information blogs.

According to Rita, the deliberate infliction of violence against women is a phenomena not restricted to India alone. In fact, she says that, "together, India and China, constitute 2/5 of the world's population and in 20 years will have annihilated 20% of women from their countries. It is estimated that this number is more than the people killed in all the genocides in the world in the last century." She dispels the myth that female genocide in India is about poverty and illiteracy. She reiterates that,” misogyny in India acquires more power with education and wealth, and is able to inflict worse violence.”

Through her campaign and blogs, Rita is pushing for a system of accountability from the government and asks for realistic implementation of laws to help stop the genocidal violence based on internalized cultural prejudices against women as a group. She adds: "Systemic violence escalates in an uncontrollable manner where there is no legal and judicial safeguard for human rights." Therefore one of her constant struggles remains is to reach out to International communities to acknowledge this femicide as a crime against humanity.

On November 26th, 2012, Rita represented the '50 Million Missing' at the U.N. Symposium on Femicide in Vienna which marked the International Day for the elimination of violence against women.

Her campaign has successfully contributed more and more over the last two years in spearheading women's rights in India. However, she says: "female genocide in India is not just a statement on India, but it is a statement on how the global community thinks of violence and women."

Her plans for the future include garnering increased public support as a mark of dissent against the massive malfunctioning of India's rule of law. She aims to launch grassroots projects that would challenge the public in taking action to break the cycle of social denial against these murders.

For Rita,violence against women is inexcusable in any context, and must be combated by whatever means women have at their disposal. She believes that only when girls realize and accept they have their own,separate identities that they can become truly independent of the patriarchal system.

As a passionate leader, her fight to make our women count marks the changing trend that finally acknowledges women’s rights as human rights.EVERYWHERE, WITH NO EXCEPTIONS.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Comments

Nakinti's picture

Bravo Rita Banerji!

Dear Mukut,
Well done on this well written piece about a well-appreciated activist - Rita Banerji.
She is doing a million things for girls in India.
I wish her long life and prosperity.
You nailed it again girl...you are a super star.
I, Nakinti, is proud of you and Rita.
Love you girls.

Nakinti B. Nofuru
2013 VOF Correspondent
Reporter for Global Press Institute
Bamenda - Cameroon
Email: nakinti@globalpressinstitute.org
nakintin@yahoo.com

Mukut's picture

Nakinti- You are my Shero !

Nakinti,

You are always very kind and compassionate with words. I have learnt so much from you and still learning.

Thank you for making my day with such lovely comments.

You are a ROCKSTAR too !

Love,

Mukut Ray

Debra Engle's picture

Excellent piece!

I'm so impressed with everything about this article: the breadth of information, the depth of the interview, the ways you bring Rita to life, and how clearly you explain the issue and the work she's doing. I first read your post with the "back story" about your interview—the connection between you and Rita certainly comes through in the article. Thank you for choosing such an important topic and having the courage, along with Rita, to speak out against these cultural norms.

Mukut's picture

Thank you Debra !

Thank you for appreciating my article. The '50 Million Missing' is an important endeavor which plans to nail the real issues behind female genocide in India. Many people believed (including me) that poverty, illiteracy were the main causes behind the murder of females in India. But after speaking with Rita and reading her many articles, I realized that it is the wealthiest and most literate families that commit these crimes. It is an unfortunate truth that people believe only poverty drives us to kill our daughters. But the truth is so much more.

I am glad I could connect with such a lady who inspired me tremendously.

Thank you again for your lovely feedback. Appreciate it.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Iryna's picture

Keep your voice strong!

This is a very strong story about a very strong woman. I appreciate you, Mukut, for appealing to solve these problems.
It's important to protect women's rights, because even if one women dies because of her gender then all the rest are also on risk.

Keep your voice strong, Mukut!

Warmest wishes from Ukraine,
Iryna

Mukut's picture

Thanks my dear

Iryna,

You are absolutely right when you say that if one woman dies because of her gender, then the rest are also at risk. This cycle of perpetuating the crime, carries on. It needs to stop and the campaign aims at doing exactly that.

Thank you so much for your comments. I always look forward to your articles as well. You have a strong voice.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Nadz's picture

Very well written

Mukut, I am so impressed, very well written, you wrote a really good story, you painted a beautiful picture.

Life is just for living

Mukut's picture

Thank you Nadz

You are so lovely. Thank you so much.

Lots of love and hugs,

Mukut Ray

Klaudia Mexico's picture

We do need more women like

We do need more women like Rita, we have been also sufering from missing women; but no body has had courage to stand for them. I hope Rita's work can be extended soon.
Great story!!!

Klaudia González

Mukut's picture

Yes, i hear you

Rita's campaign needs to be emulated in other countries as well. She is indeed a courageous lady fighting a tough battle.

Thank you for stopping by. I must say that i enjoy reading your articles a lot. You write beautifully and passionately.

Lovely to connect with amazing women like you on WP.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Mukut!
The profile is Excellent from beginning to end.
You have captured a very important story and a very inspiring woman leader.

It's totally power packed with background information and rich quotes from Rita.
Very well written.

Salaam
Aminah

Mukut's picture

Thank you Aminah !

Thank you so much. Such lovely comments from a person who I consider truly inspiring and a rich writer herself. Am so glad you liked it. To reiterate, I absolutely love all your articles as well.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Ayunnie's picture

Female Genocide in India

Hi Mukut,
Congratulations for bringing to the limelight the story of Rita and how she is working on the issue of female genocide in India. This is a serious violation of right to life for the innocent souls of the girls that must be denounced in all possible ways. in-solidarity!

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Mukut's picture

Well appreciated !

Female genocide is not a violation of women's rights alone. It is a violation of their basic human rights as well.

Thank you for stopping by. You are doing so much yourself for girls and your community. Applaud your efforts dear.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Nechesa's picture

I DO hear you roar in this piece

I couldn't wait:)

I love your article. You have a clear, strong well-constructed story of this amazing woman. I very much enjoyed reading this.

Kudos!

Nechesa

Mukut's picture

Nechesa - Love you!

Thank you ! You are a powerful and passionate voice yourself. I admire you and your free spirited personality.

P.S. I have little clue about twitter but recently i 'followed' you. Maybe you can guide me more.

Thank you for being my friend.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Nechesa's picture

Welcome to the Twitterverse!

Yes, you should definitely be on there. You have a great voice to share and you will easily find an audience there. They need to know about it. I'll follow you back right now!

Now that we follow each other you can send me private message on there any time. It's called a "DM" Direct Message. DM me any time for any reason at all. I'll DM you now....

Sangita Thapa's picture

Kudos to Rita!

Women like Rita are the need of today's world to wage peace, hope and love for humanity. Its really appalling to hear about those 50 million missing girls of India, but it is a good news that women like her are struggling to stop the murder and macabre, representing the whole race of women fighting for their human rights and the violence against them.

I feel deep respect and appreciation for this amazing woman. Excellent write-up Mukut! All the very best to both Rita and Mukut in your endeavours. I join with you against the fight for misogyny and female genocides.

Mukut's picture

You are a sweetheart !

Sangita, what should i say other than THANK YOU. You are gifted ,talented and full of warmth always.

Lots of love for my very dear friend.

Hugs,

Mukut Ray

JaniceW's picture

Informative piece

Mukut, you tackled a difficult interview well given the complexity of Rita's life, experiences and work. You provided valuable information about her work and what drove her to change career direction.

The only thing I would add is that I would have liked to have seen more that revealed her personality. There is a warmth displayed in the photo of the two of you together but I do not get this from the interview. What was your sense of her after you interviewed her –– did you walk away thinking she was courageous, inspiring, friendly, determined?

I don't want to detract from the great job you did and only say this as I feel that it is a little heavy on fact and might be softened by adding anecdotal information that speak to her character.

I look forward to reading your next assignments.

Mukut's picture

Thank you Janice !

Thank you so much for your feedback. Before the interview, i felt a little overwhelmed, anxious maybe as this was my first interview and meeting with Rita was a big deal for me. But she came across as extremely warm and compassionate. She is a fierce lady with very strong ideals about women of India. We discussed a variety of issues including child brides and dowry deaths in India.

I found her to be friendly yet determined in her battle against the female genocide in India.

Constructive criticism always helps to better our work. Thank you for pointing them out to me. I shall definitely keep your feedback in mind, next time I interview a personality.

Thank you for teaching me.

Lots of love,

Mukut Ray

JaniceW's picture

You are welcome

Being the first assignment, one always wants to do their best. I think you tried to ensure that you followed the assignment as closely as possible and in doing so, some of "Mukut" was lost. What I mean by this is that your previous writings shone because your personal style came through in the pieces.

For example, in "The Girl who decided to break free" you had some beautiful phrases that really captured the reader's emotion. They tugged at our hearts and we could not help but feel how compelling and urgent this issue was. This was evident by the large number of comments you received on the piece. Phrases such as:

The strength needed to break free is in all of us. It lies somewhere inside us, in our hearts. In today's society, we need more girls like her who accentuate the determination and courage of an ever changing role of a woman. We need more girls and women, who refuse to be meek and who settle for nothing but the best.

So do follow the assignment BUT also keep your natural writing style. You have a strong and distinctive way of bringing a story to life that takes us into the room with you so that we experience just what you were experiencing. I can't wait to read your next assignment as I know that with each one, your writing will only become stronger.

Much love,
Janice

Mukut's picture

That means a lot Janice !

Janice, thank you ! that is so sweet of you. I shall definitely pay heed to your advice. Will try and bring more of "me" in my articles. Thank you. Your encouragement means a lot to me.

Love and hugs,

Mukut Ray

Greengirl's picture

Dear Sister

Rita is doing a great work and I must comment you for beaming light on all that she stands for. I heard you and can barely wait to read your next submission.

Keep roaring!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Greengirl

Mukut's picture

My sweetest GreenGirl !

I love you and your voice ! Thank you for supporting me always.

I have found a true friend in you. I am lucky indeed.

Lots of love,

Mukut Ray

Greengirl's picture

I feel more blessed!

I feel more blessed by the day to know I have a dependable friend in YOU!

Loads of hugs,
Greengirl

TinaN's picture

wow

wow!!!Nice piece Mukut.I totally agree with Rita female genocide is really a global issue.
Rita is a star

Mukut's picture

Thank you Tina !

So lovely of you to stop by and comment. Thank you so much. As Rita points out, many times women's issue in India remains just a number issue (like how many women, how many murders). People fail to look beyond the numbers and acknowledge it as a human rights issue. So many girls killed before AND after birth, with absolutely no fault of theirs.

We need a change of mindset and laws to stop the gender crimes here. A long way to go, but the journey has started.

Thank you again for reading and appreciating my article.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

Magnificent, Mukut!

Dear Mukut,

Your piece about Rita is arresting and so, so important. You've of course presented it with complete professionalism, but also managed to grab the reader and keep a level of astonishing information coming throughout.

I knew about the murder of female babies in China, but did not know about India and the appalling numbers. It is so hard to fathom -- all the more so, presumably, for those of us in the West, e.g. America -- that this barbaric practice continues in 2013.

The Indian women I have met -- and I had the privilege of spending some time with Stella, last year, when she came to the US with World Pulse -- are such impressive, highly educated, lovely souls -- it makes these grotesque injustices all the more unbelievable.

I kneel before Rita, and I thank you for the photo of her which makes her all the more real.

And I kneel before you and your journalistic skill!

With Respect,

- Sarah

Mukut's picture

Magnificent YOU !

Such lovely words Sarah ! Your encouragement means so much to me and to all of us here. We are extremely fortunate to have your guidance with us.

Thank you so much ! I am friends with Stella and Nisan on Facebook. It is lovely to see how these great ladies from Wp are soaring high and breaking barriers each day. Mentors like you help us in achieving that so hats off to all the mentors- YOU are the wind beneath our wings :)

Love and hugs,

Mukut Ray

Y's picture

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your Roar, your insights, and your wonderful ability to put power into words.

I often wonder how much misogyny is actually fear and jealousy. It seems that the same societies that send our boys and men off to kill and be killed are those that torture and kill our girls and women.

Human rights must start with human dignity and responsibility.

Blessing s to you.
Yvette

Y

Mukut's picture

Thank you Y

Thank you so much for appreciating my article.

Misogyny is often rooted in fear and jealousy. My interviewee Rita told me that she has seen several cases where women were found to be "mothering" violence at some or the other level. I feel that can be attributed to many factors such as fear, jealousy and the refusal to acknowledge/admit that they are doing something wrong.

The day women are counted as humans, is the day women's issue will become human rights issue. In India, we forget that women are humans hence the high number of killings and violence against them. As you mentioned, it starts with dignity, responsibility and respect toward each other.

Again, thanks a million for reading my article and commenting. Appreciate it.

Lots of love,

Mukut Ray

Usha RS's picture

Compelling and important

Dear Mukut,
Thank you for shining a light on an important issue, human rights for women in India and around the world. I admire and respect Rita for all she has done and is doing. Your writing is compelling.
Many blessings,
Usha x

Let your light shine!

Mukut's picture

Thank you Usha

Thank you Usha! As you know, India takes one step forward, and two step backwards. We may be well on our way to becoming the next superpower, but as long as our women are not respected and killed in the name of honor, we will never achieve that status of a just nation. Rita and many other women are helping to make our country and its citizens accountable for its women.

I am with them, in their endeavor to make our women count!

Thank you for reading my article and for the lovely feedback.

Hugs,

Mukut Ray

LatiNegra's picture

Mukut, This is superb. I

Mukut,
This is superb. I absolutely love the power you convey that Rita has. I am inspired just reading her story and so glad that she is shedding light on this tragic subject. Great job!

Ynanna Djehuty
Certified Birth Doula and Writer
Email: ynanna@thesewatersrundeep.com
Website: thesewatersrundeep.com

Mukut's picture

Thank you dear !

Super ! Thank you so much for the lovely, kind words my darling !

Yes, Rita's fight is important- for our women and their dignity.

Lots of love to you.

Mukut Ray

delphine criscenzo's picture

I want to read her book!

Mukut, you did an amazing job with this article. I love the way you introduced the issue in your first paragraph to establish some strong context for what came next. I also like the way you went back an forth between some Rita's accomplishments and some details about her life, her past and future ambitions.
Have you read her book? I am curious!
Job well done!

Delphine Criscenzo
Outreach and Training Associate
World Pulse
www.worldpulse.com

Mukut's picture

Hello Delphine !

Your appreciation means a LOT to me. So thank you so much Dearest D !

No, I have not yet read her book, though I did suggest her to write more books as she always presents a different perspective to any topic. I look forward to reading it myself. Would be very interesting !

Again, thank you for the lovely words !

Hugs,

Mukut Ray

Precious M's picture

Rita!

Mukut, this is awesome! What a profile!

My pen speaks

Mukut's picture

My precious M

Hello Precious,

I must say I love your name- Precious ! Beautiful and perfectly suits you.

Thank you for reading my post and appreciating it. Lots of love to you.

P.S.- you have been pretty quiet on our FB page created for VOF 2013. Would love to hear more from you dear (though I know you are extremely busy)!

Love and hugs,

Mukut Ray

libudsuroy's picture

Thank you for writing about Rita

Hi, Mukut, thank you for introducing Rita to us your readers. She is a pioneer in harnessing digital media for women's rights advocacy. You have encouraged me to know more about her, her writings and her projects. You are a brave citizen journalist for having decided to write about someone like her.

Blessings,
libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Mukut's picture

Thank you

Your comments mean so much to me. Thank you so much.

Lots of love,

Mukut Ray

Neelia Seyer's picture

Kudos!

Congratulations for a job well done! You have a way with words and please continue writing inspiring journals . Impressive! More power, Mukut!

Mukut's picture

Thank you Neelia

I am extremely glad that you liked it. Thank you so much. I am so fortunate to learn from people like you.

Your appreciation only motivates me to work harder. So thank you.

Love,

Mukut Ray

lynnemhealy's picture

Fantastic, Mukut!

The energy leapt out at me from the first sentence and compelled me to read to the end - you have brought a very powerful woman to life for a whole new audience. I'm loving our WP journey together. I'm learning so much from you :-).

I'm very excited to read your next assignment!!

Lynne Healy
www.lynnehealy.co.uk

Mukut's picture

You are my inspiration Lynne

You know this would not have been possible without you. You are my rockstar, my support, my inspiration! I am blessed to have Katya and you as my mentors so thank you so much.

Love and hugs,

Mukut Ray

Maura Bogue's picture

Great Work!

Great lead! I appreciate you trying to think outside of the box and experiment with different types of leads. Good work!

Next time, try and focus on one big accomplishment or defining moment of your subject’s life, instead of telling the reader his or her life story. This will show why they are newsworthy.

Keep up the great work!

Best,
Maura

Mukut's picture

I am honored

I am honored beyond words to get feedback from you. I take this as a learning experience to do so much more for women around the world. Thank you for appreciating my work and your feedback. Shall definitely keep in mind.

Lots of love to you.

Mukut Ray

Stella Paul's picture

You are on track

Dear Mukut

I was just going through the list of commentators, as well as the comments and I am very pleased with what I saw/read. There are some cool tips, besides a few nice, objective comments. These should all be very helpful to you. I will write to you soon again. But for now, just wanted to say that you are on right track. VoF isn't just another course that gives you a certificate at the end, but a journey where you find your true strength. And I think that you are pretty much on track. Love and best!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Mukut's picture

YOU are the best

Receiving your comment is reward for me. Thank you so much for taking time out and reading my work. Yes, for me VOF is much more than a certificate course. It is a life altering experience and am so glad that I am on right track.

Thank you for your support and care ! You shall always remain the BEST for me !

Love,

Mukut Ray

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