Who doesn't recognize the tennis ace, Sania Mirza? And which Indian is not proud of her? When speaking of how she got there, Sania talks of the opportunities she had from early childhood to pursue what she wanted and the very liberal and supportive atmosphere she had at home. This and hard work of course, made her what she is today.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if all of India's children had the same enabling environment? While it is true that not all Indians enjoy rights equally, there is a wide gap that separates the girl child from the boy. Far from being treasured, girl children face discrimination at every level, starting with feticide -- the worst form of human rights violation - where discrimination starts even before birth. From then on, except for a privileged few, most Indian girl children continue to live a life of disregard, abuse, malnourishment, disease and death.
Satatistics tell a sorry tale. Just one area: sex ratio, the numbers are shocking: In 1991, boys outnumbered girls by 1.37 crore. In 2001, boys outnumber girls by 1.98 crore. And while the sex ratio for entire population is 927 females for every 1000 males, with the case of children, this is just 910.
Curiously the evil is not just out there -- attitudes that perpetuate this begin within the four walls of the home. The traditional patriarchal structure manifests itself in overt ways like denial of property rights, but also in the language of care and nurturing the girl child receives. While her brother gets nourishing food, goes to school, gets time for play, she is expected to work at home, look after siblings, not go to school and is often given less to eat. In many cases she is also married off early - and made to bear children at a young age.
And then continues to live a life of neglect and abuse
Girls should be given the same opportunities and protection as boys, and must be treated on par. A girl's childhood can and must be preserved, cherished, nurtured and protected. Because she has the right. The right to survive, develop, be protected and participate in decisions that impact her life. That will impact future generations to come.
Since she faces biases at all levels, the girl child needs more than just equal treatment - this is well provided within the Indian Constitution. She needs to be positively discriminated for protection and development both within families and outside.
Creating such a milieu both within and outside families -- that is conducive to her holistic development is primarily the responsibility of the government as reiterated both in the Constitution and the UNCRC.
This Girl Child day provides an opportunity for the state to walk its talk. It is also provides an opportunity for reflection and a change of mindset in society at large, ensuring that at every step, the belief that the Girl Child is equal to and not as good as, remains.
CRY - Child Rights and You - is India's leading advocate for child rights. Over 27 years CRY has partnered NGOs, communities, government and the media to eliminate the root causes of deprivation, exclusion, exploitation and abuse.
Today, CRY is a peoples' movement for the rights of India's children encompassing diverse segments, each pledging their particular strengths, working in partnership for a common cause. The website, www.cry.org details on all the activities.
Much more needs to be done.and crucial to this endeavour is commitment and support. Surely, this much is possible for India's children.