Female infanticide & child abandonment

by zeph

“It feels as if you’ve been turned inside out. You’ve just given birth and finally you feel emptied. You’re exhausted. Your breasts are painfully full of milk. And then you look at your baby. And you see that she’s a little girl. And you know that you have to kill her.” Vaira Mani drops her head in sadness as she recounts the death of a neighbour’s newborn baby. It is as if the child had been hers, for she speaks with a conviction that seems to come from personal experience….

Usilampatti is a place of great beauty. It is surrounded by paddy fields, dotted with tall, elegant palm trees and framed by distant blue mountains. Only the earth, rich and blood coloured, suggests the deadly annual harvest. For it is here that the children are buried….

Holding my arm tight and with tears in her eyes, Vaira told me of the different ways in which girl children are murdered in the village. Some babies are buried alive or interred in pots where it takes up to two hours for them to suffocate. Others have their mouths stuffed with wet cloths or are slammed against walls. Or an infant may be fed the poisonous sap of a local plant which destroys the internal organs, causing convulsions and internal haemorrhaging. But perhaps the most horrific method is “dry drowning”, whereby the open mouth of a baby girl, searching for her mother’s nipple, receives instead a handful of grain which chokes the child to death.”

quote from here.

Infanticide and child abandonment are not confined to India but span the length and breadth of the world. Until a hundred or so years ago (as shown below), both were common in Europe and the UK. The question I want to ask is why? Contraception and abortifacient herbs have always been available, until the complete victory of patriarchy world wide, women were expert in their use. In addition the natural contraceptive of breast feeding plus constant body contact, has been purposefully interfered with. Women have been encouraged not to breast feed and to put their children down at every opportunity, instead of picking them up. While a female is breast feeding, her body is not easily available to males for the purpose of reproduction. Deep antipathy of males toward nursing mothers and by extension the infants themselves, is not confined to our species.

Cutting, bandaging and corseting of breasts are just some of the practices used to damage the bonding mechanism between mother and child, remove the woman’s body away from the baby, and back into reproductive availability for men. Overpopulation, and conditions where babies are left to starve or killed at birth are not some tragic accident but a contrived set of circumstances. They are the result of mens attempt to take over from women and control reproductive outcomes. The silent suffering of women who must birth over and over again, only to watch their babies starve around them, and the plight of mothers who must murder their girls under male supremacist edicts, go unrecorded. There are no memorials to their deaths, everyday is anti-remembrance day, the blood of mothers and babies flows, like the mythological River Lethe, beyond memory. Women and girls are victims of an unseen but purposeful holocaust.

Workhouse orphans, UK 1800s

Urban exposure. Urban exposure of infants was common throughout Europe until the nineteenth century. In medieval Europe, infants were left in the streets, on trash heaps, and at church steps. European urban exposure became most frequent during the eighteenth century, when numerous poor women abandoned infants in streets or foundling homes and Parisian garbage collectors picked up abandoned infants on their rounds. However, urban exposure was not confined to Europe. During the seventeenth century, Jesuit missionaries to China found that babies were thrown into the streets and collected with the trash (Boswell 1988; Langer 1974).

Foundling homes. Public outrage over urban exposure of infants led to the establishment of foundling homes in Europe. The mortality rates of infants in these homes was as high as 90 percent. Wet nurses employed in foundling homes neglected infants and sometimes killed them so frequently that they were called “killer nurses” or “angel makers.” In effect, consigning infants to these homes amounted to institutionalized urban exposure. Foundling homes allowed parents to abandon unwanted infants without fear of prosecution. As this practice became openly acceptable in the eighteenth century, attitudes toward outright infanticide became more lenient (Boswell 1988; Breiner 1990; Langer 1974). Foundling homes proved to be so ineffectual that, in the late nineteenth century, France and Britain passed laws requiring them to be licensed. Government support for unwed mothers began to replace foundling homes and orphanages in a number of countries (Langer 1974).”

from here.

One of the earliest documents explicitly referring to birth control methods is the Kuhn gynaecological papyrus from about 1850 BC. It describes various contraceptive pessaries, including acacia gum, which recent research has confirmed to have spermatocidal qualities and is still used in contraceptive jellies. Other birth control methods mentioned in the papyrus include the application of gummy substances to cover the “mouth of the womb”, a mixture of honey and sodium carbonate applied to the inside of the vagina, and a pessary made from crocodile dung. Lactation of up to three years was also used for birth control purposes in ancient Egypt.


39 Comments to “Female infanticide & child abandonment”

  1. Just reading how those baby girls in India are killed makes me realize how much women are hated.

  2. It does doesn’t it, kurukurushoujo. It also makes me feel so, so ashamed of human men.

  3. Many women go through entire pregnancies on the off-chance that they will give birth to a boy child, thus delivering their family some good luck. Thus many women are left continually having to murder their female children. The humanitarian crisis against women and girls should be priority # 1 but is it even really talked about outside of blogs like this in any seriousness? FEMALE CHILDREN ARE MURDERED FOR BEING FEMALE CONSTANTLY. Where is the outrage?

  4. Kurukurushoujo, women are indeed hated. They have one use within a patriarchial society and that is for sex. The consequences of the sex is of no import to men. Why should it be? Men don’t get pregnant. Men hate us because we have those babies and we get old.


    Thanks nuclearnight, It is essential that we address this female holocaust— forced reproduction and then the destruction of girl babies. This human rights disaster is a direct precursor of war. For war, you need an excess and expendable population of males. Because we can get milk supplies from animals, babies can quickly be removed from the breast returning women’s bodies to a receptive state, far to soon. We are forced into reproductive overdrive, in the UK many women of the last centuries birthed every year, until they died at a prematurely young age. Four of my great-grandmothers were second wives to middle aged men, three of them died young, and their husbands took on more teenage brides to replace them. Not till after the reforms wrought by feminism and the reintroduction of legal access to contraception, did things begin to improve.

    Twelve and thirteen year old girls, in that era became pregnant more often than they do today, usually by their fathers or grandfathers. If they had girls, it was not unknown for the men in the family to torture the babies to death in front of their young mothers. I knew a woman who had had this happen to her at fifteen, she was, in later life, seen as a respectable spinster but deep inside she never recovered from her abuse or her daughters deaths.

  6. This is why I consider it a female-hating act to raise or nurture a male child. The male “human being” is toxic to the female. Lethal. They don’t need us for sex – only to re-breed themselves.

  7. Exactly Mary, they are quite happy to have sex with each other.

    Once you have got landed with a male baby, (I don’t agree with the choosey choice idea, many women are forced and/or tricked into bearing children, as the post demonstrates). It is best to raise him with as much love as you can. Remember that child abuse is the third pillar of patriarchy and plays right into their hands, a neglected tormented boy will grow into a vengeful woman hating man. The only force that can root a male to his humanity, where women are concerned; after puberty makes him hate us all and love his own image, is mother power.
    I agree it is best to avoid having sons if you can, there are ways to divide male sperm from female sperm, every farm uses these methods. But once he has arrived, raising him well, will make him the least of our tormentors.

  8. Zeph,

    That assumes that males enact murderous sex-specific hatred against females, all over the planet, because their mothers didn’t love them enough??!!

    Ahhh, here comes Tinkerbell with that magic sparkle fairy dust.

    Let’s try that again, eh?

  9. Mary, I agree there is a risk that it could be interpreted that way, but that is not what I said. Most men are our tormentors and raising them to be lesser or greater in the torment stakes, seems a thankless sort of task. Outcomes are also largely dependant on wider societal influences and the abuse, sexual and otherwise he receives from the men in his family and the vicinity. No fairy dust, just the lessening of evils.

    A mothers influence within a matriarchy might be enough. Though men should remain with their mothers and not be allowed to live alone with the women they spend their nights with.

    Personally I would prefer a completely separatist world, but that cannot be brought about quickly for the majority of women, at least not without some of that sparkly stuff!

  10. What makes you think that your preferred fantasy could be brought about more quickly than a predominantly female-separatist world could?

  11. My preferred fantasy is a predominately female separatist world. In the end women have to decide to work together to bring change about, this is hard enough to achieve without asking them to despatch their sons. Nine months pregnancy followed by risky labour, is a huge personal investment.

    We need to unite, and we have been trained not to know how to do that. But it remains possible, it has been done before, communication is now worldwide it is a huge opportunity for women. I want to focus on improving our alliances so that we have a political and social power base. We need to value each others time and work, not treat women’s effort and pain as some lesser thing. Not to place another unbearable demand on them.

  12. I have a different take on it – I think raising a male child with love just supplies him with more energy which he can (and will) turn against females whenever he wants, in more subtle and dangerous ways than if he was less loved or unloved.
    The key to the liberation of women is absolutely to provide girls with enough time, attention and love that no matter what terrible thing a male wants to do to her, he will not be able to because she will be too powerful and forceful. Because in the end women will have to fight men for their rights, status and place in the world, so I want to make sure women have as much energy as possible for the battle and men have as little as possible.
    Anyway, as we can clearly see, women have been raising male children with love since forever, and things are just getting worse – it has never worked to either effect a good outcome or to lessen the evils in the slightest. When are women going to learn?

  13. Anyway, I wouldn’t ask that any women dispatch their sons unless they honestly choose to do so. I wouldn’t ask any women to do what may cause them personal pain and resentment, as that will just do more harm than good. But at the same time I don’t want to have to pretend that I think raising sons has value for women’s liberation when I don’t just to keep the peace with those women.

  14. “Remember that child abuse is the third pillar of patriarchy and plays right into their hands, a neglected tormented boy will grow into a vengeful woman hating man.”

    Well that’s what the patriarchs would like us to believe, anyhow. Mothers must heap lots of time and love on sons or else!. But as Lundy Bancroft pointed out in “Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men,” there’s no evidence to support this claim. Abused and neglected boys, he said, grow up to abuse other males, not women. After counseling abusive men for more than 15 years what he found is that boys learn their sexist views, misogyny and how to act towards women from other males in the family. It’s often passed down from father to son.

    If you haven’t read this book, Helzeph, it’s a must-read. Bancroft betrays the brotherhood, sides with women, and exposes the lies. He explains why men really do the things that they do. Not because they were abused, but because of a sense of entitlement, which they learn from other males in their family and society at large.

    That said, your post reminded me of a friend my daughter brought home for dinner. They were about 8 yrs old at the time. The girl was from China. Over dinner, she explained that she had been a twin. But because of China’s one child rule, her twin sister had to be put to death. She felt fortunate that she had been chosen. What struck me was her detachment. She spoke about it matter-of-factly – as if it were no different than running to the store and buying a carton of eggs. It was just life and the way things were done in China. And yet, I could detect a hint of sadness underneath it all. I also picked up on something else. I got the impression her parents had come to America because her mother was pregnant again. And this time around, her parents intended to keep it!

  15. Male children are broken by the system in the same way as female children are, patriarchy destroys the mother-child-bond because it knows it is the only thing strong enough to break it. I agree, put energy into girls and value female time, so why put them through labour? Why not concentrate on free choice for sperm selection, so female efforts are rewarded by choice, since men’s bodies don’t carry children they should not be involved in such choices. But the reality is they are, they have reproductive control because their alliances are better than ours and because they are prepared to use endless violence against us. Just as they prescribe that female children die in painful ways partly because they are sadists and partly because watching their children suffer, demoralises women in a profound way. The final act of the abuser is to force the abused person to commit damage against those she loves, in this last act he forces her into complicity and breaks her resolve. Slaves always have to be broken and complicity is an essential part of the process.

    Women will be broken, in the same way by what you suggest, this is the essential problem with the idea, men interfere and in some societies mothers are made to obey their sons by the time they are five. We need to reinforce the mother-child-bond not damage it further.

  16. Then you are saying that if *some* women choose to prioritize the well being of males (their sons) over the well being of females, we’ll *all* just have to work with them?

    It’s going to be a matter of which women will work with which other women.

    Do not treat the time and work, the effort and pain, of Lesbian Separatist mothers, and Lesbian Separatist daughters as some lesser thing; do not place another unbearable demand on us.

    All women will not move together. Most will cling to toxicity, including the toxicity of male-proritizing females.

    There is a shear line. ( http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/539273/shear-line )

    Female energy moves powerfully on one side of it, toxicity (maleness) falls away listlessly on the other.

    Therein lies the survival of the Female.

  17. But a degree of peace between women, so that they can work effectively together, is important, it is our only way out of this system. At this time in herstory we do not seem very good at united action.

  18. Ahh, that abstract thing called patriarchy that just fell out of the sky. That weird, wacky *something*, that made males into what they are. I’ll swoop down on it with my butterfly net and catch it. There it is! Got it! … *looks closely at it*. … OMG !!!!! It’s a lack of mothering!!!!.

    And my sisters say to me: it’s not men.
    Not men.
    Not men.

    And I say to my sisters: But it is.

  19. We need united action amongst separatists. Other women will continue to swirl in chaos. That is their choice.

  20. I have read Lundy Bancroft, he talks about individual men, but he is right, it is the abuse of fathers that is paramount, and men do feel entitled to abuse, did I say different?
    But child abuse damages all children, damages the circuits of the brain, a degree of mental illness is required to be “well adjusted” to this system.

    “It was just life and the way things were done in China. And yet, I could detect a hint of sadness underneath it all. I also picked up on something else. I got the impression her parents had come to America because her mother was pregnant again. And this time around, her parents intended to keep it!”

    Yes, I know what you mean by that matter of fact sadness.
    Why did they require the cruelty of the one child system? Because they had forced women into over production in the first place.

  21. “Then you are saying that if *some* women choose to prioritize the well being of males (their sons) over the well being of females, we’ll *all* just have to work with them?”

    Right now some women prioritise their boyfriends over the well being of females, let their alone babies.

    “Do not treat the time and work, the effort and pain, of Lesbian Separatist mothers, and Lesbian Separatist daughters as some lesser thing; do not place another unbearable demand on us.”

    I dont.

    If women move in significant numbers men will just round them up, a few can slip away, that is wonderful, but I was looking for broader solutions. How women can become powerful enough to stop the infanticide of girls.

  22. You are putting words into my mouth tonight, Mary. It is men.

  23. I once met a man from China at a conference. He and his wife had one daughter. He spent a lot of time helping her as a child prepare for a good paying job in a science/tech field and trying to teach her flawless English. Because most of the teachers of English had accents, as did he himself, he was recording English speakers at the conference so she could learn without an accent. I often thought about how the one-child rule in that case worked in her favor. If there was a one-child rule and no killing of girl children or aborting them, there would be real incentive to treat your only child well. Not to be abusive, either, since you only get one child, even if that child died. I think population control in China was also done because they had such a huge problem. But yes, women worked for state capitalism and that was part of it as well.

    That said, I have always dreamed of a country of all women. I still do.

    When I first read this post, I just could not find anything to say because it is so horrifying. If I were raising a daughter today, knowing what I know now, I’d be teaching her martial arts from a very young age, in depth teaching her this. I would want her to have the ability to defend herself and to protect other girls and women. I’d also like to see group martial arts, so girls and women could have power. I would also keep all misogynist material out of the house. I’d teach her the truth about marriage and about the culture that we are a part of. I’d try to find other women and daughters who were like minded so she’d have a peer group, a different culture, really. It might have to be in a small isolated community. I’d also see that she learned math and science from really good women teachers in an all-girl environment. I’d make sure she could express herself in writing and speaking. I’m not sure this is possible, but it is what I’d do. But the martial arts would be taught from the youngest age possible. Groups of powerful girls and women who cannot be messed with is what I’d go for first.

  24. “That said, I have always dreamed of a country of all women. I still do.”

    I have had the same dream, Katie, all my life.

  25. Right now some women prioritise their boyfriends over the well being of females, let their alone babies.

    So what? Prioritizing boyfriends is no worse than prioritizing male babies.

  26. Babies carry your genetic legacy. Boyfriends usually carry dangerous diseases.

  27. “But this was not enough to change the attitudes of village women, who said they would rather kill a female child than create an orphan with no caste and identity, who they feared could one day dishonour the family or return to seek vengeance.” quote from the first article.
    The mothers probably know the girl children are destined for a lifetime of sexual torture in prostitution if abandoned. Or the daughter would return only to be murdered by her father for being a whore. Killing them almost seems better.

    My mother once told me that she wished she had had a son instead, because the boy child watching a man humiliate his mother doesn’t feel that pain secondhand, in empathy, like a daughter.

    Also, I’m not sure I buy that a vast majority of infants in foundling homes were dying because their nurses “neglected” or killed them. So much more likely that they were the unhappy victims of infectious illness, cared for by the same sort of doctors whom we know were infecting women during and after the birthing process.

  28. Zeph –

    I’m with you on this one, for obvious reasons, but I do understand Mary Sunshine and Thursday’s Child’s point of view. All too well.

    One of the greatest and most complicated regrets of my life has become giving birth to and choosing to raise a male child.

    But I can no more walk away than I could rip my own heart out and eat it.

    If the revolution happened tomorrow and all males were eliminated, I would congratulate my separatist sisters, thank them, and perish at his side.

    Women deserve a better world.

  29. “Women deserve a better world.”

    They do indeed.

  30. T, The foundling homes were supposed to lose the children. It looked better in public than the previous methods of leaving them around the streets. Early foundling homes were really state sanctioned infanticide houses. No doubt, disease played a part, along with smothering and starvation. Our history is not very glorious when you dig beneath the surface, I think it can help to get our own time into perspective, the feminist and social reform movements achieved a lot. Some people are letting these hard won rights slip, they have forgotten how things were and how they will be again if we let our political vigilance waver.

  31. I’ve only just now been able to bring myself to read this post.. and I only managed to scan it before the tears started welling up.
    Not only that it happens, but as nuclearnight said, where is the outrage? It just makes you feel limp inside and despondent.

    What about all that lost talent, that lost beauty, that lost energy, that lost love,,, of all these female girls who weren’t allowed to live?

    And instead talentless, loveless, beauty-less men were allowed to thrive in their place.

    It makes me want to die

  32. I understand how you feel, Cherry, but the hope for change comes from our being able to know. We have to comprehend it, then we can contend with it. Just by reading and becoming aware of the issues you have done something to help those mothers and babies. We have fought for change here and we can support those women in fighting for change too. The more publicity we can get about these infanticides the more we can shame the Indian government into giving women access to proper family planning choices. Then there will not be so many children that men can demand they be thrown away.

    Women must have free access to local herbal knowledge, every area has its contraceptive herbs, I believe neem oil is a fearsome spermicide. I wonder how much the women have lost this knowledge. We lost all ours during the burnings and afterwards when women were punished for using herbs. We had to wait for the political campaigning of the first and second wave feminists, to return us access to contraception. Hugs to you, Cherry.

  33. It is harsh on ourselves to read about this tormented abusive girl and womon hating stuff but we must read it, we must know for if not who will act as witness to such atrocities against womonkind, if not ourselves.
    We cannot collude with the fascist male monsters who demand such crimes be perpetuate against womonkind.

    Hurt one of us and they hurt us all……..solidarity as womon is the most important weapon we have….but our time will come….

  34. “Hurt one of us and they hurt us all……..solidarity as womon is the most important weapon we have”

    On the nail, ybawife.

  35. Doctors turn baby girls into baby boys for those who want sons.


  36. Thanks for this link Mary. It is deeply awful what humans can do to their own children, all this in the name of male superiority!
    While they have wasted medical time and money on perfecting gruesome surgical techniques, little has been done to provide real healing since the invention of antibiotics, and TB and other bacterial diseases are making a comeback. The drive toward ever more complex surgical procedures is as expensive as it is sadistic.

  37. I was so glad when my two children were born girls! I think many mothers confuse loving their sons with giving them entitlement. There are countless times where I have been/needs have been cast aside as a woman for the “need” of a 13 year old boy child. The mothers choosing not to explain to their young sons about considering another person (but then as I am female I’m not really a person who counts). Since becoming a mother of girls I have witnessed this “parenting” in the playground with regard to mothers allowing their young sons to ‘mistreat’ my girls. From chanting “BOYS SHOOT GIRLS” to literally bowling them over. No apology, no alerting their sons to their actions, in fact, the mothers join in! They show their sons about entitlement by [the mothers, that is] taking a girl’s sandpit bucket without asking, smirking when their sons mistreat someone; or simply, not bothering to even be around at all..I could go on. I would think raising a boy to be so difficult, he would require much more of my time, the constant need to explain stuff so as to avoid an entitled little PITA!

  38. Yes, Lilith, women who have little status for themselves in life, do sometimes feel they can gain some through their sons. It is understandable in a way but counterproductive for women as a whole, which includes them, whether they like it or not.

  39. Yes, reading this stuff also reminds me (again) of how much womyn are hated…and it is so hard to confront, even though it must be confronted.

    As for raising sons, at the moment I’m dealing with this very issue. I have 6 kids, 3 boys, 3 girls. 5 are now grown, only 1 left–my youngest son. My 2 elder sons (now 22 and 28) have both recently charged me with the crime of being a feminist while they grew up–both are so angry with me. Neither claims that I treated them any differently than I did my daughters or ever gave the impression that because they were boys I loved them less. If anything, because I never worked away from home full time (usually part time), they got plenty of my time and attention and learned to have high expectation of that from me. No matter that I tried to raise them in as non-sexist a way as possible and to treat them as individuals with rights and voices that mattered; no matter that my daughters, while confident strong womyn now, have no particular sense of entitlement themselves. My sons do indeed have a strong sense of entitlement, which they learned not from me but from the men in my life and society at large. And they feel I wronged them terribly, just by being a feminist: “it was so hard growing up to be a man in your house, because of your feminism–we had to hear you talk with your friends about patriarchy and the ways men oppress and abuse womyn….”

    It is extremely painful! And yet after the grief subsides, I have to detach without guilt, and in a strong sense of self-preservation that is terrible to feel but absolutely necessary for my mental health. I understand what they do not–that it was (and is) the fathers involved who did the damage they now lay at my feet. Not that I’m a perfect parent or anyone is. Only that, as I told them–no womyn can possibly teach a boy about being a man, only other men can do this. And their fathers (I married/divorced 3 times before learning the difference between optimism and mere delusion!) on the one hand were present enough to give them only poor examples of manhood and on the other hand were mainly so absent that they imposed a sense of abandonment on their sons. I know what these sons do not–that the very reason they can express their pain to me is because I am and always have been there for them, I love them unconditionally and they are safe with me….which also means that their fathers are too absent and so cowardly/needy that these sons know full well they cannot speak of this to them. Of course, part of it is that I am a womyn, and they are now men–it is my JOB to take their crap and try to make it better for them! As if by my owning this garbage and feeling guilty for the sins of their fathers, they will actually be helped in any way whatsoever.

    An interesting feature of this is that the eldest, who has a different father than the younger one, is able to see that they younger one’s issues are WAY MORE about the dad than about me. And he knows that man, who was his stepfather for some years, also hurt him terribly…but still, he is certain that his biggest problems are caused by me. Because I’m a feminist and raised him to know about it. It just couldn’t be because sexism exists, and hurt us all so much when they were young.

    Well, I love my sons and mostly enjoyed raising them–no real regrets there. But I know I need to keep my distance from them now. I won’t subject myself to their anger and disrespect and general blindness to me as a person that is founded in misogyny. And I won’t give them the space to exercise their misogyny upon me, because one does not help an abuser by letting them abuse. I went into mothering with a real desire for that work–and I believed it was possible to help change the world by raising kids in a non-sexist way. I see now that girls do indeed benefit from this. As for boys–well, I haven’t seen enough evidence yet but it’s not looking so good right now…I’ll give it a few years and see if my sons are able to save themselves from partriarchy as they mature. Male privilege may run too deep for any mere mother to make a difference in how her sons turn out. My relationship with my last son is still good, but then again he’s only 13…oy.

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