“Where’s the discrimination?”
“Girls are treated the same as boys!”
“There is no threat to girls in India.”
“At least we are better than the Middle East!”
I am shocked to hear such misinformed statements whenever women issues are discussed. From trying to deny facts to turning a blind eye to the issue, we use some common tactics to avoid an uncomfortable truth. India is killing its girls!
Because of our deep-seated cultural notions of gender inequality, we are taking away their right to be born. India counts as one of the biggest contributors to gender inequality in the world! The trend for our girl child numbers over the past 40 years is alarming.
Child sex ratio (0-6 years) according to the census data:
According to the 1981 census, there were 962 females per thousand males .
According to the 1991 census, there were 945 females per thousand males
According to the 2001 census, there were 927 females per thousand males .
According to the 2011 census, there were 919 females per thousand males
What have we done?
This is disastrous for the future generations who will have to live with the consequences of a skewed sex ratio. Sex ratio is an important measure of equality between the sexes and how society distributes its resources. A declining child sex ratio over the years shows the disturbing trend of how our society treats its daughters. If you think that by never killing or harming a girl, you have done enough, think again! Actions towards the girl child stem from ingrained notions of inequality of the sexes.
This National Girl Child Day, let us indulge in some introspection and make a genuine attempt to understand the crisis our daughters are in. Let us realise the seriousness of the situation we have put our country in, by constantly neglecting and suppressing the girl child.
Some thoughts have become a natural extension of the way we think about males and females in India. These mindsets have been propagated for years resulting in the way we think about our children today. Thoughts about children of both sexes fall under these broad themes:
1. A son is the only legitimate heir – who performs the last rites, earns and looks after parents in old age.
2. A daughter is a liability – financial burden does not represent lineage and is a mere badge of honour for the family.
Our older generations have believed and distorted these notions to suppress the voice of our women since the time of independence! Whenever we discriminate against a woman, we perpetuate the same archaic notions. Our country will face the repercussions of believing in these harmful ideas for generations to come. It is time we pledge to protect every single girl child and for that to happen, we must become aware that every discriminatory thought we have contributes to this mindless violence.
What we are doing to our baby girls is shocking! Some of the reasons attributed to the low child sex ratio are:
1. Neglect of the girl child resulting in their higher mortality at younger ages.
2. High maternal mortality.
3. Sex-selective female abortions.
4. Female infanticide.
We need active involvement from everyone to make our society friendly for women. Governments too need to play their part by focusing on schemes prohibiting sex determination tests and supporting female child health. According to reports in January 2016, an RTI application filed by INLD MLA Naina Chautala revealed that around ₹11.79 Crore has been spent by the Centre and the state on government and private events related to the scheme Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.The Indian government is making efforts to implement schemes and initiatives to support the birth, health and education of the girl child. Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostics Technique Act makes sex-selective abortion illegal, making it punishable to advertise pre-natal determination of sex facilities.
While these steps are commendable, we should not ignore the situation at hand. Our daughters are fighting for their rights every day – in public transport for the right to go to work safely, in schools for the right to be educated, in offices and factories for their right to work respectfully and safely, and in homes for their right to be treated as equals. Gender equality is an important movement for this generation. The youth needs to overthrow archaic traditions that undermine the role of females in society. Our strong and powerful voices will determine how India treats its women in the centuries to come. Whatever we do, we must remember that we can’t ignore our girls anymore!