The Voiceless Girl Child in India

International Day of the Girl Child
11 October

Today is International Day of the Girl Child

This is the news that caught my eyes when I glanced at the newspapers. And that made me wonder why UN had to take a resolution to mark a special day or the girl child.

I curious glance at a statement at the UN website, and I find myself reading this:

Every year an estimate of 10 million girls are married before they reach 18. In the most appalling of these cases, little girls as young as eight years old are being married off to men who may be three or four times their age.

Child marriage cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities; 46% of girls under 18 are married in South Asia; 38% in sub-Saharan Africa; 29% in Latin America and the Caribbean; 18% in the Middle East and North Africa; and in some communities in Europe and North America too.

Child marriage is a violation of all the rights of the child. It forces children, particularly girls, to assume responsibilities for which they are often physically and psychologically not prepared for.
I guess I don’t have to look much ahead to understand, or even accept this reality. My grand mom was married off at the age of 14, and gave birth to my mom at the tender age of 16. But she was a very determined lady, and ensured her only child did not suffer the same fate. She made my mom go for higher studies, and only let her marry to my dad at the age of 24 years.

Considering the social milieu of India in the early seventies, that was an extremely bold decision take by my grandma.

Forty years later, as I am writing this today, I can understand the strength of my grand mom’s character, for getting daughters marry off at an early age, is still embedded in our society. So my mom ensured that both me, and my sister get married only when we are in our mid twenties, but I know for sure that this may be far from the truth in the rural India.

Yesterday, our citizens speaking on various media channels went berserk with indignity when a former Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala supported dictates of a khap (caste council) that girls must be married off in their childhood to stop the many instances of rape in the state. Our state of Haryana, which has reported 17 gang rape incidences in the period between September 9, and October 9, 2012, is also the state with the lowest sex ratio of 830 girls to 1000 boys, as per the 2011 census. Killing female babies in the womb is an acceptable practice in that state.

Such news makes my blood boil, and yet I am thinking that how perceptive is UN in doing what it did in declaring a day for the girl child. At this point of time in many nations across the world, the girl child needs all the support it can get. I guess, she needs you and me to lend hand. I am doing my bit, can’t help wonder if you are?

Photo courtesy: http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/

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