Cultural Norms and Its Damage to Females

Cultural Norms Damage to Females

In India, China, Africa, and some parts of the Middle East, cultural practices often physiologically and psychologically harm females. The practices are culturally specific to the region. In India and China, it is more common and socially acceptable to perform female infanticide and in Africa and Western parts of the Middle East, female genital mutilation is considered appropriate and necessary. Both are highly considered to benefit the families positively both economically and socially. 

A culture that values males over females will often engage in practices that physically or mentally harm females. The devalue of females can lead to death or families can physically alter their bodies scientifically to insure that they will not birth a female. Female infanticide is defined as killing a female child under the age of one by the mother, parents, or other guardians (Kolloor, 1990).  According to Anita M. Daryanani and Shalini Purohit (2016), methods of infanticide range from burying the female infant alive or sex selective abandonment, giving up a female for adoption. Although not as common today as it was in ancient times, the rise of discarding females has become more prevalent since the twentieth century. Different medical journals reported that in India, almost 10 million infant females have aborted in the last 20 years (Daryanani & Purohit, 2016). This rise in aborting female infants or potential female zygotes is due to the popular belief that males are the superiorities in that particular culture. 

In India, dowry is a major concern, especially for low income household. Aside from raising the child and providing an education, the final expense is the dowry whenever the girl is married off to a man. The family of the daughter pays the potential husband’s family. The most common and traditional method of infanticide in India is poisoning, letting her choke, or crushing her under a charpoy, a traditional woven bed (Daryanani & Purohit, 2016). With the advancement in medical science, more ways of ridding the female infant as left the home and entered its way into a hospital setting. Ultrasounds allow expecting parents to determine the sex of their newborn child. Whenever the fetus is identified as a female, the mother would have an abortion. A more popular method is sperm separation. This method, also known as Ericsson’s technique, a man’s sperm is tested and the sperm containing XX and XY are separated and the XY sperms are used to artificially impregnate the wife (Daryanani & Purohit, 2016). A lot of these customs are not solely based on economic issues. 

Problems concerning societal norms and expectations also encourage parents to perform female infanticide. Societies that have heavily male populated villages compared to females, the rates on prostitution, polyandry, and sex trafficking of women were more prevalent (Daryanani & Purohit, 2016). Contrary to this evidence, societies that heavily practice female infanticide believe that more females would escalate these problems. Because of these beliefs and economic issues, more cultures that engage in female infanticide have seventy-two percent of female deaths are caused by infanticide or feticide (Daryanani & Purohit, 2016). These beliefs and customs are commonly held in rural regions of India.

Some villages in India have outlawed female infanticide. The villages and cities that banned female infanticide also banned dowries to discourage families. Free education to women, allowing equal share in property and job reservation are also put forth next to the banning of infanticide (Daryanani & Purohit, 2016). Research was conducted measuring the acceptance of female infanticide between both educated and non-educated males and females. Samples were randomly selected with ages ranging from 20-30 with the only control variable being education. A four-point “Attitude Scale towards Female Infanticide” was given to each subject (Daryanani & Purohit, 2016). The results were that illiterate males had more positive views to female infanticide and overall, both illiterate male and females scored more positively for it. On the contrary, both literate males and females had a more negative attitude towards female infanticide (Daryanani & Purohit, 2016). Education is vital to weaken the tradition of female infanticide and to weaken the belief that men are superior to women. 

Another harmful tradition that is aimed towards females is the act of female genital mutilation. Tahereh Pashai, Koen Ponnet, Maryam Moeeni, Maryam Khazaee-pool, and Fereshteh Majlessi (2016) define FGM (female genital mutilation) through The World Health Organization as cutting or harming female genitalia with no medical incentive. Short term physical effects of having FGM done is severe pain, hemorrhage and the long term physical effects include infections, keloids, pain during sexual intercourse, infertility and problems in menstruation. Mental effects also include depression, eating disorders and impaired cognition (Pashai, Ponnet, Moeeni, et al. 2016). This procedure is performed on girls that are 15 years old or younger. The reasons for this procedure are solely cultural and traditional. 

In Africa and the Middle East, social and traditional norms heavily influence FGM. Because the norms devalue female sexuality, religion, and belief that it is more aesthetically, FGM is pressured (Pashai, Ponnet, Moeeni, et al. 2016). Laws and legislations do not help stop FGM as the procedure happens at home. Community education has been shown to be more effective than passing laws. The particular study of Pashai, Ponnet, and et al. (2016) involve women in Ravansar, a county in Kermanshah Province in Iran. FGM is carried out and wildly encouraged 58% of the region and 96% of the FGM is done by midwives or the older women in the community. The procedure is done only at the mother’s request. Using the theory of planned behavior (TPB), Pshai, Ponnet, and et al. (2016) measure the likelihood of FGM continuing by how expected and approved it is by records through the health center with consenting mothers of seven years or younger daughters. Fifty-four percent of the women in Ravansar have undergone FGM before the age of seven.

The way society treats girls and women who have not had FGM done is a main reason 32.2% of mothers intended to allow the procedure (Pashai, Ponnet, Moeeni, et al. 2016). A female who has not had this done have derogatory terms calling them rude, immodest, impure, or unattractive. Luckily, Iranian health care workers educate and help mothers who may want their daughters to have this procedure or women who have had this done. The main and most common influencer to have FGM done are that of the mothers, grandmothers, or other and older female relatives (Pashai, Ponnet, Moeeni, et al. 2016). In more urban areas of Iran, the attitude towards FGM is more negative than in rural areas. This could very much be because of the education urban areas have compared to rural. More education of FGM could help make this practice scarce. 

Both traditions concerning females contribute to the mortality rate and health problems in China and parts of Iran. Both create unsafe environments that either take the life or mentally and physically scare a female. These traditions and social norms are common because both believe a woman’s worth is lesser than the males and/or fear her sexuality. Both traditions could weaken if education was prevalent in these societies 


Works Cited

Daryanani, A. M., & Purohit, S. (2016). Attitude towards female infanticide: An impact of literacy level in relation to gender of post adolescents. Indian Journal Of Community Psychology12(1), 116-121.

Pashaei, T., Ponnet, K., Moeeni, M., Khazaee-pool, M., & Majlessi, F. (2016). Daughters at risk of female genital mutilation: Examining the determinants of mothers’ intentions to allow their daughters to undergo female genital mutilation. Plos ONE11(3).