As we gear up for a major grass roots screening and action campaign for It’s a Girl, our greatest hope is to catalyze a movement that ultimately brings about change in India and China on a cultural level– specifically a shift from patriarchal, son preference culture to one that equally values girls and empowers women to determine their own destiny. The first question that is often asked by anyone hoping to contribute to this kind of change is, how does one bring about cultural change on such a major scale? The second question might be, do I even have the right?
Many in our world today would say there are no moral absolutes. There is no ethical code that is superior to another. The tribes living in the jungles of the Amazon who bury infants alive when they are born with a disability are defended by tribal advocacy groups who say that it is their right to practice such customs rooted in centuries-old tradition. Others who believe that the infants being killed have a right to life are told they have no place intervening. Ancient tribal customs must be protected, and who are we to say they are wrong?
But based on the moral code by which I live, a society that empowers women to own land, vote, earn what a man does, and access all the same opportunities to succeed that men enjoy is a morally superior culture to one that does not. According to my beliefs, it is morally unacceptable to practice female genital mutilation because women will be more faithful to their husbands if they are denied the ability to enjoy sex. It is morally unacceptable for girls to be trapped into sex slavery for the financial gain of others. It is morally unacceptable for one religious group to commit genocide against another. It is morally unacceptable for our planet to be ravaged so that a corporation can realize a greater profit. It is morally unacceptable for animals to be cruelly treated so humans can enjoy a culinary delicacy.
It is acceptable, however, and in many cases critical, that we make a judgement call about social norms and traditions that victimize innocent members of our society, or cause harm to the environment, or unreasonable exploitation of animals. But if there are no moral absolutes, by what standard do we judge? I believe in God and that he put into place a moral code, written on the fabric of our being, according to which we either choose to live, and replicate love, or choose not to live and replicate destruction. If you don’t believe in God, that is fine. But we all have something established deep inside that knows right from wrong; there is something wired within each of us that inherently knows that killing, stealing and lying are wrong.
Or is it simply none of my business that women are so devalued in India, China and other places in the world that hundreds of millions have been killed? Should I subscribe to a “might makes right” mentality? survival of the fittest? the strong dominate the weak and that is how it has always been and always will be?
No, it is necessary to make moral judgements and act on behalf of the innocent and defenseless. We are not only entitled to do so, but it is demanded of us as humans and as moral agents. A parent must do so on behalf of their dependent children. A government must do so on behalf of its citizens. A rancher must do so when raising cattle, chickens or pigs. And when that rancher neglects his animals, regulating agencies step in. When a parent abuses or neglects their child, Child Protective Services intervenes. But what happens when a government is complicit in policies that violate the rights of its citizens? What happens when a society allows segments of its population to be marginalized, neglected, or even targeted for violence and does nothing to intervene?
As members of a world community, we are obligated to act; to know is not enough. That is what we believe at Shadowline Films, and that is why we do what we do. I hope you will join us as a fellow champion of justice and help bring an end to the destruction brought by gendercide. Please feel free to challenge anything I wrote with which you do not agree (or add your two cents even if you do) in the comments below.