The girl child day is celebrated every year on 24th January across the country with special focus on different aspects of rights of Girl child like awareness, information, protection, safeguards, provided under the constitution, statutes, beneficial schemes and the covenants under the UN Conventions about rights of the girl child; from mother to maternity home, primary educational institution to highest seat of learning. In our society the awareness, information, and caution about the rights of the girl child provided under religious scriptures like Holy Quran (Don’t kill your children for fear of poverty; it is we who provide for them as well as for you, killing them is surely a grave sin. Surah 17, Ayat 31), are underlined. The aim and objective is to make the rights of the girl child meaningful, purposeful and fruitful in the present day world.
As an independent country, India has been on the mission to alleviate the sufferings of females through allocation of funds, plans, social welfare schemes, flagship programmes etc. Every effort is made to alleviate the sufferings of girls and to empower them to face the challenges with wisdom, valour and determination, and to carve out a niche in this competitive world. The rights and interests of girl child are of paramount importance to ensure gender justice, equality and parity. There is no field where females have not excelled, shown their talent and skill – from medicine to mathematics, from home science to home department, panchayats to parliament. The support from top to bottom for the protection of the rights of the female child is gaining momentum, as this is the age of information technology and globalisation.
Every year the India observes National Girl Child Day to achieve gender justice, to raise voice for voiceless. It includes awareness, knowledge, information, about the disparity, inequality, discrimination, and violence perpetuated against the girl child. The day is organised and observed since 2008 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development Govt of India. The objective is to strengthen efforts to bring sensitisation in all institutions about the constitutional safeguards, statutory provisions, welfare schemes, plans about the rights of the girl child in the family, society, in primary educational institutions, schools, colleges, departments, hospitals, social welfare departments, both in organised and unorganised sectors of the society, to stop the practices derogatory to the dignity of women and children, to stop female foeticide, female infanticide, female trafficking.
A female child has to assume multidimensional roles in the society from mother to mother-in-law, from sister to sister-in-law, and much more. To organise and strengthen institutional support for the protection of the rights of female child across the length and breadth of the country, to rekindle hope of fair treatment with honour and dignity in the society, as the girl child is still not taken in most of the families with respect and honour, and has to suffer throughout her life. Thus quality education in all respects is indispensable for overall development of girl child; when family becomes strong, ultimately nation becomes strong.
The initiatives taken by the Ministry of Women and Child Development for more than two decades are coming to fruition on the ground level. The untiring, organised efforts and support from Social Welfare Department, Educational Department, and Health Department down the line for the interests of the girl child in terms of scholarships, Lardly Beti Scheme, Beti Bachoo Beti Padhoo, Marriage Assistance Schemes, and reservations in admissions for under privileged sections of the society are showing significant results.
The biased narrative, a faulty approach, and gender disparity against girl child in the society, are the issues that need to be addressed at the earliest. To spread awareness through both print and electronic media, physical and virtual mode, sensitization about protection of girl child is the need of the hour. the girl child is fraught with number of issues and problems like female child marriages, female child labour, trafficking of females, domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, bullying, stalking etc. The technology is being misused against girl child, in spite of available safeguards provided under law, the efforts by the Ministry of Women and Child Development regarding the steps taken for the welfare of female child are commendable. India is a signatory to UN Convention on Rights of the Child (CNC) and signatory to the programme of Action (POA), and convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW). The social security provided to her from birth till her life by statutes has increased her status, honour and position in the society, the fair play of justice towards her rights across the length and breadth of the country has been gaining momentum over the years. The sex ratio especially in Punjab and Haryana is showing dismal performance as compared to other states, despite laws for protection of female child. The laws are being breached, undermined by medical practitioners to pave way for practices which are totally banned, and entail penal consequences.
We have found in our societies abandoned babies both female and male thrown in dust bins, near hospitals, graveyards, deserted houses, roadsides, because of number of factors like congenital deformities, born out of legal relationship, and others. Even for such children there is a beneficial legislation CARA – centre for care of adoption for such children as provided under Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act 2015; Integrated Child Protection Services in Jammu and Kashmir has done wonderful job. The minor girls who were saved from forceful marriages against their consent by the efforts of child welfare committees in different Districts of Jammu and Kashmir ,child helpline(1098), juvenile police units, were handed over to their parents for follow up in the right direction to secure their welfare and well-being.
The people working in unorganised sectors like factories, brick kilns, casual labours, seasonal workers etc., where the condition of their children is pathetic, need holistic support from government, NGOs and other stakeholders to save their children from exploitation, human trafficking, drug trafficking etc. and put them on right track in the overall interests of society.
The Girl child needs institutional support to develop in a peaceful atmosphere as a good human being which shall serve the interests of society in all spheres of life. The girl child must be equipped with such traits, qualities, which make her self-reliant, contributory, purposeful, and meaningful for the society; not a burden for parents.