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The Girl Child

When will she get the love and respect she deserves?

From sexual molestation to unequal opportunities for education, vcialis 40mg girls and women the world over have faced bias and discrimination because of their gender. And it gets worse, of course, especially here in India where rape and female foeticide and infanticide remain major issues. On the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child (marked worldwide on Oct. 11), psychologist Dr. Charlane Pereira e Rebello catches up with several people to gauge the prevailing mindset of Goans toward the girl child.

As I was waiting in queue to buy a loaf of bread, I heard a young married man just ahead remark to the lady owner, “Mhaka ek bai zaie… Dev mhaka diyena.” (I want a baby girl. God has not blessed me).”

The statement was music to my ears, though actually quite untrue. Because God has blessed this gentleman, perhaps not with a girl, but with a modern, progressive mindset! Such statements were a rarity in decades past, when couples anticipated the birth of a baby boy far more eagerly than a girl.

Anita Fernandes, a 70-year-old lady says, “In those years, when a boy was born, 3 crackers were fired. A single cracker was fired when a girl was born.”

A girl child was often considered a burden because of the dowry her family was expected to provide at the time of marriage. Some sections of the society still espouse the social evil of dowry, a practice the Goan government is fighting with financial incentives. Recently, the Panjim police registered a FIR against a husband and in-laws for dowry harassment of a young woman.

Rochelle Pereira, a Margao-based psychologist remarks, “Societal perception in Goa has undergone a change towards girls. As a result of which, our young girls have more facilities, opportunities, fare better than the boys in academics and get themselves employed, giving them a sense of financial independence.”

A Government of India report covering 2013-2014 shows that Goa is among the 7 states and union territories to have achieved the target of reducing the gender gap in girls’ school enrolment to less than 10 percentage points, having achieved 9.1 percent. Kerala ranks the highest in reducing this gap to 4.6 percentage points.

However, statistics paint a sordid tale about India’s discriminatory practices toward the girl child – a reality most starkly apparent in the atrocious practices of female feoticide and infanticide.

The latest Census of India from 2011 show the overall sex ratio in India is 940 females per 1000 males. That’s lower than the world average of 990 females per 1000 males, and puts our nation near the bottom of the list internationally when it comes to balanced sex ratios.

Goa’s sex ratio of 968 females per 1000 males is higher than the national average but has declined compared to past decades. There were 1066 females per 1000 males in 1960; 981 females per 1000 males in 1971; 975 females per 1000 males in 1981; 967 females per 1000 males in 1991; 960 females per 1000 males in 2001.

Experts agree that the lopsided sex ratio is due largely to the practice of aborting female foetuses and, in some cases, killing baby girls after birth.

To curb female abortions, the Indian government had passed Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques – Regulation and Prevention of Misuse (PCPNDT) Act in 2004 to ban and punish prenatal sex screening and female foeticide.

Though it is illegal in India to determine or disclose the sex of the foetus, poor enforcement of this act has led to serious violations. Doctors often do reveal the gender of the foetus to expectant mothers when undergoing ultrasound scans.

In 2013, a report published in the Journal of Human Resources found that Indian mothers were slightly more likely to seek out better prenatal care when carrying a boy than when carrying a girl.

Sections 315 and 316 of the Indian Penal Code discuss the offences of foeticide and infanticide and are punishable under law as long as it is not done in the interest of the mother’s health or life.

Increasing awareness among the public about women’s role in society is important. Rajeshree Nagarsekar, editor of EVESCAPE magazine says, “EVESCAPE has taken upon itself the challenge to change the perception of women in society and strengthen their image at the same time inspire faith and excellence in them.”

Pereira, the psychologist from Margao, adds, “Cultivating emotional independence, encouraging freedom of speech, and improving self-esteem through educative workshops for students as well as parents will help in changing the mindset of the public.”

Several campaigns in India such as the ‘Beti Bachao’ campaign (Save the Girl Child) have been started to end gender selective abortions. Nutritional programmes have also been introduced for adolescent girls as part of government schemes.

The Balika Samriddhi Yojana started in 1997, a government initiative to raise the status of the girl child through enrollment in schools, raising the marriageable age, and creating income opportunities also provides several incentives such as a monetary gift after the birth of the girl child and scholarships for education.

The Government of Goa has launched Ladli Laxmi Scheme to promote girls’ professional and personal welfare and the Dhanalaxmi Scheme where a sum of Rs. 25,000 is deposited in a bank account when a girl child is born and can be withdrawn when she reaches the age of 18. With this scheme, the government hopes to eliminate the financial burden of a dowry and provide an additional incentive for having girls.

Hopefully, the day will arrive when the birth of a girl is prize enough, and there will be no need for a cash reward.