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NATIONAL GIRL CHILD DAY: JANUARY 24
THE MISSING GENDER
Dr. Parveen Kumar1/23/2021 11:14:08 PM
A girl child is the sweetest blessing and most beautiful creation of God. But starting from female infanticide to gender inequality to sexual abuse, there is no dearth of issues for a girl child. Despite several policies and programmes, lower health outcomes for girl children and women still persist in India in one or the other form. Certain forms of discrimination especially the son preference reinforced by the techno-economic forces are eliminating the girl child (even from the womb). The increasing population in India was not accompanied by an increase in child sex ratio. The child sex ratio calculated as number of girls per 1000 boys in the 0-6 age group does not presents a favourable picture of the girl child. In the census 2001 the child sex ratio of India was 927 which declined to 919 in the census 2011. As per the census 2011, Arunachal Pradesh has the highest child sex ratio among the Indian states i.e. 972 while Haryana has the lowest child sex ratio i.e.834 per thousand males. There are also states such as Puducherry and Kerala where the number of women is more than the number of men. Kerala houses a number of 1084 females to that of 1000 males. Among the Union Territories of India Andaman and Nicobar Islands has the highest child sex ratio i.e. 968 per thousand males. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir too, the child sex ratio was shockingly down from 941 in census 2001 to 862 in census 2011. A stage may soon come where it would become extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make up for the 'missing girls'. Even today, in the country many villages are having fewer or no small daughters. This ultimately has the potential to destroy the social fabric of the country.
Many reasons are attributed to this downfall in child sex ratio. Preference of the society for the male child instead of a girl, only son can look after old age parents, girls have to be married with exorbitant dowry, only son can perform last rites and men are bread earners are some of the irrelevant justifications commonly attributed to this. There still exists a regressive mindset. There is considerable son preference in all states, except possibly in Kerala and Chhattisgarh. The misuse of cheaper technology like ultrasound which helps in sex selection is also on the rise. The Prenatal Conception and Prenatal Determination Act (PC-PNDT), 1994 which punishes healthcare professionals for telling expectant parents the sex of a child with imprisonment and hefty fines, has failed to control the sex selection. There are major gaps in the training of personnel implementing PC-PNDT. Poor training meant that they were unable to prepare strong cases against violators to secure convictions. Illiterate women in the reproductive age group of 15-49 years have higher fertility than literate women. The continuous decline in numbers of girls in the age group 0-6 years compared with boys in several states has shocked demographers in India and has made policy makers sit up and take notice. Recently, C. Rangarajan former Chairman, Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council argued that there is an urgent need to reach young people both for reproductive health education and services as well as to cultivate gender equity norms.
To address all these and to highlight the inequalities faced by girls, National Girl Child is celebrated every year on January 24. The day is an initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development and has been celebrated since 2008. This day aims to provide support and opportunities to the girls of India. It also aims towards promoting awareness about gender based discrimination, the rights of the girl child, an increased focus on the importance of girl education, health and nutrition and to bring change in the attitude towards girls. The Indian government has also taken several steps over the years to change this and improve the conditions of girls. Several campaigns and programs such as 'Save the Girl Child', 'Beti Bachao Beti Padao', free or subsidized education for the girl children, reservations for women in colleges and universities have been initiated to reduce this discrimination. Beti Bachao Beti Padao (BBBP) Scheme was launched in 2015 from Panipat in Haryana to address the issue of decline in child sex ratio and related issues of empowerment of girls and women over a life cycle continuum. The BBBP is a triministerial effort of the ministries of Women and Child Development, Health & Family Welfare and Education. Since five years of its implementation, the BBBP has shown improvement in child sex ratio.
Mira Shiva, Director of women's health at the Voluntary Health Association of India, a leading health Non Governmental Organization, blames the epidemic of killing female fetuses in the womb on the widespread availability and affordability of ultrasound machines, which are used for sex determination of the fetus. Mothers then proceed to have a termination if the fetus is found to be female. Despite legislation, sex determination tests have continued and have spread rapidly even to remote areas. The 'missing girls' essentially means that millions of medical consultations and abortions have taken place and it is not possible without the involvement of some medical professionals who for the sake of some money bring disregard for the whole medical fraternity.
No doubt celebrating this important day is a novel concept, but alone this will not serve our purpose. With this the government should also focus on increasing female education.
Increasing female education will lead to their economic prosperity which will help to improve the ratio. The government should also roll out campaigns on sensitization towards women and children, making women safety cells, ensuring the safety of women on public transport systems, making cyber-crime cells and a host of other girl child friendly initiatives.
On the occasion of this important day of the Girl Child, let us recognize the rights of girls and also the problems they face around the globe to give them a better life, a better future. It also reminds us that it is our responsibility to give them the importance they deserve and work together for their happier lives. It is the right time to honor their back and make it a happy day of the Girls Child. The world will be a better place to live the day the girl child is as happy as the other gender. All of us should commit ourselves to work in synergy to make this dream come true.
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