CHILD Protection & Child Rights » Vulnerable Children » Children's Issues » Girl Child
"Diagnostic teams with ultrasound scanners which detect the sex of a child advertise with catchlines such as spend 600 rupees now and save 50,000 rupees later." - IndianChild.com
The girl child's discrimination begins before birth in the form of female foeticide. Sex selection has been argued as the consequence of technology. But simply because it is a consequence it does not excuse the fact that between the years 1981-1991 a whopping 11 million girls joined India's missing women a group of 35 and 40 million. According to Amartya Sen there are more than a hundred million women missing in the world of which India has 37 million missing women by 1986.
Another figure as recorded by UNICEF, said that in 1984 in Bombay out of the 8,000 abortions that took place, 7,999 of them were girls. Girl children are murdered shortly after being born when the family comes to know the sex of the child or killed slowly through neglect and abandonment. In 1993 in Tamil Nadu 196 girls died in suspicious circumstances. "Some were fed dry, un-hulled rice that punctured their windpipes, or were made to swallow poisonous powdered fertilizer. Others were smothered with a wet towel, strangled or allowed to starve to death". The larger consequence to both female foeticide and infanticide has been the sharply declining sex ratio. The adult sex ratio fell from 972 females for every 1000 males in 1901 to 927 in 1991. Only recently has the ratio increased to 933 in 2001, but the child sex ratio (ages 0-6) have dropped from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001.
According to the United Nations Cyberschoolbus paper on the girl child out of the 130 million children not in school, almost 60% of them are girls. By the age of 18 girl children have received on average 4.4 years less education than boys. In India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development showed the average enrolment rate of girls, ages 6-14 and 14-18, as 93.47% and 36.77%. But they also show the 61.5% of girls drop out of school before completely class XII.
According to a special report on the girl child and labour by International Labour Organisation (ILO) more than 100 million girl children between the ages of 5 and 17 are engaged in child labour, out of which over 50% of them are in hazardous industries, and 20% of those are below twelve years old. It is hard to get correct statistical information about girl child labour since the kind of the work girls undertake is more invisible than that of boys. For example agricultural work, domestic work and working in home based workshops. Many girls are engaged in active labour which is disguised as household chores. ILO shows that 10% of girls are engaged in "household chores" for more than 24 hours in a week which is twice as much as boys. One of the most gender specific forms of child labour is child prostitution. The Human Rights Watch says that prostitution ages have dropped from 14-16 yrs in the 1980's to 10-14 years in 1991.
According to United Nations Cyberschoolbus paper on the girl child at least one in three girls and women worldwide has been physically harmed or sexually abused in her lifetime. Female genital mutilation though not common in India affects millions of girls and women every year. Sakshi a Delhi based NGO conducted a survey of 357 school girl children: 63% have experienced serious sexual abuse or rape; 29% had forced oral sex, squeezing of breast, and genitals. In 30% of all cases, the person behind the act was a family member. There is also a rise of sexual abuse in schools, where teachers molest their students sometimes in the presence of other children.The issues surrounding a girl child have been discusses in national child policies and laws and addressed in a few programmes.
- The National Policy for Children, 1974
- The National Plan of Action for Children, 2005
- The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1986
- The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000
- Indian Penal code
- Balika Samriddhi Yojana
- Kishori Shakti Yojana.
Campaigns promoting the rights of the girl child are found both nationally and internationally. The Government of India has started a "save the girl child" campaign with the slogan "A happy girl is the future of our country". The UN has many initiatives that aim at the welfare of the girl child. The most significant one is the UN Girls' Education Initiative launched in April 2000, at the World Education Forum in Dakar, by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Plan U.K (n.d.) has launched a campaign called "Because I am a Girl". The two major objectives of their campaign is to create a forum in the UN for complaints against governments of countries and to ensure that the British governments aids for education to developing countries and given equally to boys and girls. Population First started a girl campaign called 'Laadli', which addresses the issue of the falling sex ratio in Mumbai. The aim of the campaign is to create a positive public image for girls in society and hence change the perceptions and values of families that opt for boy children. In 2004 the Nike Foundation was founded with the aim of addressing developmental issues of the adolescent girl. They released a series of videos and created a sub web page for their campaign: "The Girl Effect". The Nike Foundation works with other organisation such as CARE and the UN Foundation to create opportunities for adolescent girls.