Where Have All The Daughters Gone?

Where have all the daughters gone
Long time missing
Where have all the daughters gone
Long time ago
Where have all the daughters gone
People killed them one by one
Oh when will they ever learn
Oh when will they ever learn


In Hunan Province an elderly woman placed the following ad:

Wanted: Kind-hearted daughter under 40 to take care of me in my old age, if satisfactory will inherit my fortune.
What exquisite poetic justice! China introduced the one-child policy about 30 years ago. It was a population control measure and it worked so well that China now has a nightmarish gender imbalance. That is because girl infanticide was a long established custom in China for centuries. Killing baby girls or allowing them to starve to death was commonplace. Drowning was another favorite method. Girls were expendable. Girls were more expensive to raise than boys and eventually left the family. It is hard to imagine such callousness but it was universally accepted.

In 2003 the one child policy was relaxed and families were allowed to apply for the right to have 2 children if one of the parents was an only child. It is too early to tell how effective this will prove to be.
In many early civilizations the same male bias existed. In Greece of 2000 BC the murder of female infants was so common that no more than 1% of families had two daughters. In India the custom of getting rid of girls is also embedded in the culture, especially in poor families who cannot afford dowries and lavish weddings. Sons on the other hand, are insurance. I read that in Karachi, Pakistan, nine out of ten newborns thrown on the dump are girls. Aborting female fetuses occurs regularly in India.

A few years ago I saw a film by Deepa Mehta called Water. It tells the story of young Indian widows rejected by both the husband’s families and their own who live in an ashram in Benares are made to shave their hair and are forced into prostitution to provide money for the temple. One of the widows was seven years old.

I have read that we should not force our own moral values on other cultures. I think this is called cultural relativism. I believe this is wrong. Some concepts are universal and if some societies have cruel traditions that cause suffering and death this should not be excused on the grounds that we should show tolerance toward cultures that are different from ours.

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  1. Words fail me…almost. As far as excusing this behavior because of cultural differences, I say “baloney.”

    You are strong to write about parts of life that make people uncomfortable. Thank you for not living your life with your head in the sand

  2. I loved this article, it gave me chills and reminded me as I sipped my coffee to be grateful for every little breath. Thank you for writing Simone.

  3. Thank you Simone!
    Our lives have witnessed very slow progress toward a more humane world.
    In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt’s proposed four freedoms that people everywhere in the world should enjoy:
    1. Freedom of speech
    2. Freedom of worship
    3. Freedom from want
    4. Freedom from fear
    The list is not half complete without freedom from cruelty, servitude, injustice, and murder!

    “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
    The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.
    The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.
    The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.
    The fourth is freedom from fear – which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical agression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.
    That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.”
    – Franklin D. Roosevelt, excerpted from the State of the Union Address to the Congress, January 6, 1941

  4. According to Professor Kenneth Hammond of New Mexico State University, who teaches Chinese History for The Great Courses Company, the status of women has gone backward in modern, post-Mao China. With the great economic activity of the last quarter of the twentieth century, women, who had approached equal status with men from the Marriage Law of 1950, have lost ground and are now the first to be laid off in factories; they are expected to stay home and do the domestic work, which is unpaid; and traditions such as kidnapping for marriage, bride price, and dowries, have once again come into practice. China’s great progress into a capitalist economy seems to have left women behind.

  5. Admin received this comment:

    How I liked the rendering of “Where are all the flowers gone”. Such a nice way to start!

    Lucky to have been born in Korea in the first half of the 20th century, as a fifth child with four older brothers. I thought I was very special only because I was a girl.

    Even now I don’t feel that strong urgency to have a woman president. If I go for Hillary, it’s not because she is a woman, but because of what she stands for.

  6. Scary stuff…thats always been my problem with the, “well, in that time and place…” arguments people make to excuse evil behavior. And this is nothing except pure evil, to murder your own children. It also makes self fulfilling prophecy that those places will never achieve equal rights or “grow up” as cultures.

    I remember reading once about how the economy in the South was suffering badly under slavery, because so much effort went into preserving slavery. There was no reason to improve farming methods or invest in new technology as long as the labor could be had for “free.” The economy exploded after the civil war and some part of that is attributed to simply not having to spend so much resources on keeping an entire population in check and people actually needing to invest and compete.

    Lovely poem as well!

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