Over fifty students crowded into a classroom in Harper last Thursday night to watch a screening of “It’s a Girl,” a documentary exploring the drastic gender imbalance facing several Asian countries right now. The UN estimates that “as many as 200 million girls have gone ‘missing’, and the suffering countries are a far cry from an easy fix. Battling against ingrained cultural practices that reinforce son-preference, both India and China struggle against persisting rates of female feticide, infanticide, and neglect as daughters are perceived as a financial loss due to the dowry system and their inability to carry on the family name.
The film inspired much conversation, and Sital Kalantry from the University of Chicago Law School was kind enough to facilitate our thoughts, comments, and questions from the screening. Kalantry founded the International Human Rights clinic at the law school and has experience in women’s rights and economic, social, and cultural rights. While at first the discussion hinted at mere infantilization of Eastern cultures and questioned their understandings of women’s worth, it quickly became more probing of international gender value discrepancies and how to promote deep-seated change towards equality (of treatment and opportunity).
The audience was a mixture of undergraduates and community members, as well as a few visiting high school students. While there were significantly more women than men, the room consented that this issue is a societal issue, a global issue, and not an isolated problem for an individual country to solve on its own. Although India continues to practice a dowry system, they already have a requirement for at least 1/3 of their Parliament seats be reserved for women, while the US only has 17 women out of 100 senators. Clearly we have a long way to go as well, and while this documentary opened many people’s eyes to the horrors in another country, the post-film discussion helped us understand that the solution begins here at home.