The National Girl Child Day is celebrated every year in India on January 24. This was introduced by the Government of India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2008 to spread awareness about all the inequalities that girls face.
In India, gender inequality finds its most heinous expression in the form of sex selective abortions. Despite 17.3 million girls having gone missing, in the last three decades alone, due to sex selective abortions and other forms of pre-natal selection, it still hasn’t shaken our collective conscience.
ADF India initiated the Vanishing Girls campaign four years ago with the specific goal of combating the illegal act of sex determination by promoting the effective implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
Among other countries facing this crisis, South Korea is the first Asian country to reverse the trend in rising sex ratios at birth. In that country, the sex ratio at birth was 116.5 boys for every 100 girls during the mid-1990s and has come down to 105-107 boys for every 100 girls since 2013. The initial campaigns by the Korean government stressed on the value of daughters like the 1983 slogan, “A daughter raised well surpasses ten sons” that was made in response to the traditional Korean proverb, “One son is worth ten daughters”. During the country’s transition away from attitudes of son preference, women holding higher quality jobs were seen to show less son preference than lower wage earners.
Such awareness campaigns, enforcement of sex-selective bans, societal transformation and socio-economic development led to gender rebalancing in South Korea.
India is also reportedly starting to see signs of improvement in the Child Sex Ratio in some regions. Sting operations conducted in several districts of Maharashtra by Advocate Varsha Deshpande, with pregnant mothers as decoys, led to the prosecution of several erring doctors and ultrasound clinics. Jhunjhunu and Sikar which had the worst child sex ratio of Rajasthan’s 33 districts as per Census 2011 have shown significant improvement due to the strict implementation of the PCPNDT Act.
While there are laws and ongoing awareness campaigns to protect the girl child in India, there is still a dire need to transform societal attitudes and provide more opportunities and access to socio-economic development for women in India.
The National Girl Child Day serves as an annual reminder that daughters are valuable and capable, not a burden. We must consciously take steps to protect her and provide opportunities that empower her.