The Gist of Kurukshetra: March - 2016

The Gist of Kurukshetra: March 2016

Girl Child Issues: Need to Ensure Stringent Policies

India is growing dynamically in every field. Today, the boom in economy, innovative technologies and improved infrastructure has become nation’s pride. The country has witnessed advancements in all fields but bias against girl child is a serious matter to be looked into urgently. Girl Child is the pride and dignity of our nation. The right and prompt opportunity to be born, chance to grow in a safe and secure environment, opportunity to develop own full potential are some of the major issues concerning the girl children in India. There are many problems that a girl child undergo in her life which subsequently hinder her empowerment. There are several institutions (Government and nongovernment) that are attempting to bring in changes in practices related with discrimination against the Girl Child in India. Discrimination against a girl child begins in the mother’s womb, when she is deprived of her right to live. Census data suggests that the necessity for a male child, a deep rooted cultural need, has not only lived through the years but has also increased by many points. Simple techniques allow easy determination of sex of the foetus. The practice of female foeticide is widespread despite it being an illegal activity. Modernisation, growth and education were expected to create a safe and healthy environment for the girl child, but the country is witnessing the opposite. Actions have been taken in the form of laws, schemes and awareness campaigns by both the government and the independent bodies. However, one needs to look into effectiveness of all such initiatives and parameters that could be used to measure the same.

Female foeticide is an act of destruction that causes death of a foetus. This is not a natural act but a deliberate one. This is called as sex- selective abortion, as the sex of an unborn baby is determined through medical techniques and the same is aborted if the sex turns out to be a female one. Killing of a girl child after birth is called female infanticide. It is feared that close to 8 million foetuses have been killed in India since the census in 2001. (India’s unwanted girls, 2011). Eminent economist, Amartya Sen in 1990 supposed that about 100 million girl children have been either aborted before birth, killed after birth or neglected to death (Gendercide, 2010). The census of 2011 has recorded the lowest ever sex ratio of 914 in the age group 0-6 years with 3 million missing girls. The decline in the juvenile sex ratio up to 1981 could be attributed to female infanticide and higher mortality rate among girl child due to neglect and discrimination. But the sharp decline in the juvenile sex ratio in 1991, 2001 and 2011 census is definitely the outcome of the practice of female foeticide as prenatal diagnostic techniques became popular in India during 80s and continuing still now with advancement in the technology. The practise of female foeticide and infanticide spans centuries in the rural India. However, the practise over the decades has spread to the educated urban India as well. Despite rising income, education and standard of living, preference for male child exists. Sex determination techniques have made it possible for families to fulfil their deep-rooted traditional desire for a male child.

Child trafficking, according to UNICEF is defined as “any person under 18 who is recruited, transported, transferred, harboured or received for the purpose of exploitation, either within or outside a country”. There have been many cases where children just disappear overnight, as many as one every eight minutes, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Children are taken from their homes to be bought and sold in the market. In India, there is a large number of children trafficked for various reasons such as labour, begging, and sexual exploitation. In most of the cases it is the girl child that became serious victim of trafficking. Girl Child is being widely selected for trafficking over male child for various grave reasons. Children are traded off as sex workers, domestic servants, construction workers, labourers in shops, on farms etc. During the trafficking process, traffickers violate an extensive array of human rights. They are subjected to physical, psychological and sexual violence, their movement is restricted. There is just no safe and healthy working environment, their wages are confiscated and they are generally subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, forced labour, slavery-like practices or slavery.

Apart from various reasons for girl child being trafficked, Child Labour has got serious implication and it is one of the prime reasons of trafficking. Trafficking children for domestic slavery is a relatively new development that pose grave threat for empowerment of girl child. Focus with regards to abuse has generally been more in the public domain such as child labour, prostitution, marriage and illegal activities.

Child marriage not only violates the human rights of the girl children but it also leads to several harmful consequences for them such as lack of opportunity to education, sexual exploitation, violence and early pregnancy. It deprives the girl children of their childhood and poses serious health risks for them. Teenage pregnancy, a consequence of child marriage, is quite common in India. The early marriage of girls normally results in the early pregnancy of the adolescent girls leading to the birth of undernourished children. About 16 per cent girls within the age group of 15-19 years had begun childbearing. It also affects the health of the mother as her tender body is not adequately strong for child bearing. This situation enhances the risk of maternal deaths. When a girl marries as a child, the health of her children suffers too.

Thence, empowering girl child is not just empowering one family but the whole nation. Many initiatives have been taken by the governments, non-governmental organisations to ensure free and safe living of girl child in India. But still some of the above said problems exist in some places of India affecting the whole concept of girl child empowerment. For that no single organisation can be pointed out as the reason instead it should be a team effort to see our girl child live safe and securely in mother India. India has enacted a series of legislations such as the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929; Immoral Traffic (prevention) Act, 1956; the Child Labour (prohibition and Regulations Act), 1986; Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 1992' the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000; PC & PNDT Act, 2003; the Prohibition of the Child Marriage Act, 2006; the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009; the Right to Education Act, 2010; etc. Governments also introduced and implemented various schemes and policies to empower girl child, such as Integrated Child Development Scheme, Udisha for training ICDS workers, Balika Samriddhi Yojana (BSY), Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY),Nutrition Programme for Adolescent Girls (NPAG), Early Childhood Education for 3-6 Age Group Children” Under the Programme of Universalization of Elementary Education, Scheme for welfare of Working Children in need of Care and Protection, Integrated Programme for Street Children, Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), Programme for Juvenile Justice, General Grant-in-Aid Scheme and Pilot Project to Combat Trafficking of Women and Children for Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Destination Areas etc. are some of the major policies to combat problems of girl child and there has to be strict vigilance to ensure clear execution of all such schemes and legislations to save the girl child.

Beti Bachao- Beti Padhao

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (save daughter, educate daughter) is a novel and flagship programme of the Government lead by Honourable Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi, started on 22nd January, 2015 in Panipat, Haryana. It’s a new ray of hope for the girl child to live safely and securely in the society. This scheme tries to eliminate all such problems narrated above and is differently approaching to empower girl child. It was started with an initial funding of Rs. 100 Cr. The scheme mainly aims to curtail female foeticide and infanticide. This major inter-ministerial initiative of the Government of India bringing together Ministries, institutions and civil societies, resulting in a drastic change and yielding positive results on the scheme. The scheme will have focussed intervention and multi-section action in 100 districts with low Child Sex Ratio (CSR).

The immediate issues to be tackled now are:

  • 7 Education for women
  • Medical aid and health issues
  • 7 Safety in public transport system
  • Women safety cells
  • Campaigns on sensitization towards women and children
  • Cybercrime cells
  • Crisis Management centres
  • Awards for role models, parents and other categories

These initiatives will provide a pathway to the young generation. As our Prime Minister said ‘Beta Beti Ek Sarnan’; this should be everyone’s mantra. And everyone has to follow this to empower the girl child in turn empowering the nation.

Girl Children are the most vulnerable section of society. They are physically, mentally and socially immature and depend on others for survival. The vulnerability and dependency has been a matter of universal concern. Their development is threatened by several dangers including exploitation, abuse, ignorance, material want and social and political intrigue. In order to protect girl children from these the government’ and the civil society have been playing a vital role. It seeks to protect children everywhere against exploitation, neglect and abuse. Fundamental rights and Directive Principles of state policies are related with children, they state that everyone entitled to all the rights and freedom set forth therein without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, birth or other status. Further, it states that girl child needs special care and legal protection before and after birth. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Respect of rights of all individuals in the society is the foundation of liberty, justice, development and peace in the world. The success of programs and policies for empowering girl child such as BBBP Yojana depend upon a large number of stakeholders including civil society. Empowering Girl Child needs to be incorporated as one of the important agenda in political dialogue and policy discussion. Real Empowerment of girl child and women can only happen if we redefine the status and role of women in the country and that can make a big difference.

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