AIR spotlight summary on “National Girl Child Day”.
24th January is celebrated as National day for Girl Child. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that exceptional achievements of girls have made the country proud. Women and girl child face discrimination which should be checked.
Structural constraints in development of girl child
- In the last few years particularly after setting targets for Millennium Development Goals, steps have been taken to improve the conditions of the girl child. There are important structural constraints which still remain.
- First the girl child has to be allowed to be born. The government is working on the issue of female foeticide but it is still a major problem. It is a very big problem because apart from the law or machinery which has to punish those indulging in these acts, it is the question of social attitude at the level of the family where enough is not being done. We concentrate only on government policies and measures rather than trying to bring reforms within society. Both things should go hand in hand. Until these attitudes change, people will find illegal ways of getting rid of the girl child.
Concerns / Challenges
- There are women sportspersons winning medals in Olympics and in many other fields. The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao has made a change, people are proud of their girl child, but still the society is not yet ready to give them their due.
- The sex ratio is declining, from 927 females per thousand males it has gone to 918 females per thousand males in 2011. Even in educated household the preference for male child is still present. So it is not an economic phenomenon. In some of the backward areas of the country, among the tribal population, Muslim population the ratio is better.
- We have large number of women working in urban and semi urban areas. The consequence is that they have to look after their household work, their children and in addition to their office work. Attitudes have not changed that women who work will get support at home. So modernisation has not brought a relief to the women or a better life for her. Attitude change is not automatic and does not come because of education; it depends on what is the content in that education. There is a need for reforms in mental attitudes in society and women’s movements which work for a positive mindset.
- We have some negative phenomenon in certain parts of the country like khaps who are laying down laws for how young men and women should conduct themselves and honour killings. These are happening in fairly prosperous areas and not among the poorest section of the society. We see them in middle and upper middle class rural society.
- We have made lot of progress in terms of government policies whereas it is lack of implementation.
- Dropout rates are higher in case of girl child because if there is a crisis at home she has to stay back and support the family and same is the case with employment opportunity. Even parents who are very liberal think twice before sending their girl child to other places for education or employment. Though the trend is changing fast, but still there is some kind of societal hesitation. It is a security concern for girl child. Therefore the security aspect has to be tackled first for the empowerment of women as a whole.
Role of women in discriminating girl child
- At times women are seen as setting the patriarchal norms. In case of dowry deaths many times the mother-in-laws are equally in party for it. While raising their children women also discriminate between their sons and daughters. Discrimination in the society could not happen unless women were participating in it. After their birth girls are neglected and are not given the same treatment in terms of food, care and medical attention.
Need of the Hour
- In Bihar the giving of bicycles to the girls is a revolutionary idea. It has made a change in their sense of independence and empowerment. Same is the case in Tamil Nadu. These things should be implemented all over the country. Ultimately it is the mindset and attitude of the girl child which has to be changed. Nothing will change until she herself changes and fights back.
- Feminist ideas, ideas of women uplift, better position for women in society are needed like in 19th century when first reforms started on women issues like sati and widow remarriage. These things were not changed by government policies, the leaders rejected government intervention. It came from within society and we need similar kind of movement.
- Better policing and law and order are not the only answer. Answer has to be to bring about change in the mindset of men and young boys. We may have changed the way we bring up the girls, but not the way we bring up the boys. We need to teach them how to treat girls and how to respect their future partner. The way father treats his mother is the time when the child pickup the attitude. If there is alcoholism and female abuse in the family then these patterns tends to repeat.
We see Haryana having low sex ratio and women wrestlers coming from that state. Parents are supporting their daughters for wrestling which is a positive development. One of the ways to help girl child is to provide more scholarships not only for meritorious students but also to have women empowerment in a big way.