Term Paper: China: Female Infanticide

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[. . .] Eventually, as explained by Gillis (1995), it is expected that this trend will reverse itself as a consequence of the manner in which cultural values influence biology. According to Gillis, the absence of females within the Chinese population will lead over time to an increased preference for females over males. Thus, the trend will reverse itself, with the females eventually outnumbering males.

Roman Catholicism and Social Justice

The social teachings of Roman Catholicism have a long history and have continued to evolve and develop over time in the emergence of a social justice agenda.

Whether in relation to matters of economic or social issues, a basic premise underlying social justice based on Catholicism is that all decisions and institutions must be "judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person" (U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, p. 411). This premise is largely based upon and tied to the Catholic adherence to a "consistent life ethic" (Perl & McClinktock, 2001). On the basis of this premise, anything that represents a threat to human life and/or the dignity associated with human life represents moral and political issues of concern. A consistent life ethic emerges from each individual's connection with God and the human dignity accorded to the individual because of this connection. Thus, the manner in which people think about and react to justice issues in social life and the boundaries which are drawn in terms of what represents the 'moral community' within which all matters of justice are confronted is determined by examination of the degree to which such issues are representative of a "consistent life ethic" (Cohen, 1991).

Therefore, when considering the degree to which female infanticide represents a matter of social injustice, on the basis of the Catholic perspective of social justice, acts of murder and the killing of babies clearly fail conform to a consistent life ethic. In fact, the taking of human life, for whatever purposes, represents a clear violation of this ethic. However, as noted by Perl and McClintock (2001), one of the problems associated with the effectiveness or scope of the Catholic social justice perspective is that it also is formalized within the context of moral community and moral exclusion. There are individuals or groups are perceived to be outside the boundary in which moral values, rules, and considerations of fairness apply. Those who are excluded are perceived as "nonentities," "expendable," or "undeserving," and harming them becomes viewed as "acceptable," "appropriate," and "just" (Opotow, 1990). Therefore, Chinese female infants, in spite of their connectedness to God via human life, fail to fall within the protection of the moral community and are, at some level, justified for moral exclusion. While the Catholic perspective may be used to speak out against the social injustices committed against those who fall outside of the moral community, the boundary condition or scope of justice largely impacts and limits the degree to which justice efforts are initiated directed towards the alleviation of injustice. Thus, as is evident when reviewing the current literature, voices based in the Catholic perspective of social justice are largely absent in efforts to call attention to the injustice associated with female infanticide in China.

Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism: Perspectives on Social Justice

Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism represent major religious influences over the past several centuries in Chinese thought. In reviewing how each of these religious influences have impacted matters of relevance to social justice, Chittister (1986 explained by while Buddhism was focused on discovering the way to the fullness of life which was open to both men and women, the interpretation of the myth of the Demon Mara, however, was used eventually to justify the suppression of women. According to Chittister, the daughters of the Demon Mara -Desire, Pleasure and Passion - were arrayed against Buddha to test his Desirelessness. While Buddha prevailed, women became perceived as an obstacle to the achievement by men of a full spiritual life and can be abandoned at any time to enable men to pursue enlightenment. Women are seen as having bad karma. Women are made dependent for life on the control and direction of men. Hinduism, which sees women as responsible for the creation of matter and its dangers, is now overlaid with Buddhism which sees women as responsible for spiritual entrapment and in need of structures that oppress. The stage is set, then, for systems that claim to be equal, look equal, and profess equality but which cling to patterns that justify the oppression of women in the name of salvation. As further explained by Chittister, on the basis of Buddhism, a woman's salvation still depends on docile subservience to a husband; women may still be abandoned for the sake of the man's spiritual enlightenment; women still have inferior religious status; daughters are still bad karma; and the life of a woman still depends on the gratuitous kindness of a man.

According to Chittister (1986), Confucianism in China, Buddhist principles were codified to bring harmony to society through filial piety, goodness, and social propriety, with an ongoing acceptance of female inferiority and corruption. However, as noted by the author, on the basis of Confucianism, efforts were made to institutionalize female inferiority, with females presented as having undisciplined natures that polluted attempts to contact the divine and who would be punished after death (as tradition maintained) for having produced this pollution. Consequently, as noted by Chittister, female infanticide, concubinage, girl sales, and footbinding became the natural outcome of a society based on doctrines of female inferiority. Thus, social justice based on Confucianism failed to even consider such events as representing any form of social injustice and a provided a moral basis for the commission of acts of violence and harm against females within Chinese society.

According to Chittister (1986), Taoism (604 BCE) softened the situation somewhat and suggested that the practice of Tao was symbolized by water, valley, infant, and female. Females were recognized as indispensable for the balance and wholeness of nature; thus, there was to be no female infanticide in Tao. However, as explained by Chittister, as wars and social upheaval continued within China, authoritarianism prevailed and with it the creation myth of domination rather than equality. Authoritarianism and order were perceived as critical in assuring power to the powerful and to equate those with force with the force of God. Thus, men were to remain all powerful while women remained under their control. Taoism, as with Buddhism and Confucianism, further removed female infanticide and other forms of violence directed at females as matters of social injustice and allowed for the perpetuation of such crimes.

Feminism and Social Justice

On the basis of a feminist perspective of social justice, there is a clear recognition of and adherence to the examination of economic and social institutions as well as rules and norms for the purposes of determining their basis in sex inequality. From a feminist perspective, the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993) provides clear documentation as to why female infanticide represents a social injustice by defining violence against women as:

any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women" (p. 2). While this definition is broad, acts of violence against women are clearly based on sex inequality, representing matters of social injustice regardless of geographical or cultural context.

Personal Perspective and Social Justice

My personal perspective of social justice is one that is largely based in both a feminist as well as a religious perspective. I strongly believe that humans, regardless of gender, age, social status, sexual orientation, and culture/race/ethnicity, deserve respect and are worthy of protection from acts of harm - regardless of how different the individual may be from the larger society. On the basis of my perspective, regardless of the degree of utility that is associated with an individual and his/her perceived potential contribution to the larger society, acts intended to harm the individual represent matters of social injustice. When one is harmed and/or murdered because he/she is believed to have little utility to the larger society, a social injustice has occurred. My philosophy is based in a strong belief that all persons, regardless of issues of diversity, deserve respect and should be recognized as having something to offer to the larger good. The well-being of the individual thus should be protected and advocated for at all costs.

On the basis of my perspective, I believe that the principle of equality between men and women, as well as other forms of equality based on the ultimate respect for the individual, should be more widely promoted through any and all channels available. More specifically, in relation to female infanticide, I can aid in this process by joining an advocacy group at the local level that may or may not have an agenda of relevance to the eradication of female infanticide. If this group does have a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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