The National Girl Child Day is celebrated in India every year on January 24. It was initiated in 2008 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Government of India. It is a day set aside to call for increased awareness of challenges faced by girls in the country based on their gender.
Over the years, the Indian government has undertaken various legal initiatives and measures to protect and empower the girl child. Let us look into five of them:
1. Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994:
In India, gender inequality finds its most heinous expression in the form of sex-selective abortions. As per a study by Pew Research Center, at least nine million female births went “missing” between 2000 and 2019 because of sex-selective abortions.
The PCPNDT Act is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to stop female foeticide and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception, and for regulation of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for the purposes of detecting genetic abnormalities or metabolic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities or certain congenital malformations or sex-linked disorders and for the prevention of their misuse for sex determination leading to female foeticide and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Learn more on the Act here.
2. Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005
India does not have any uniform law regarding property ownership and inheritance rights of women, which means the law in matters pertaining to inheritance and sharing of property differs for people from different faiths.
Equal property rights of sons and daughters were recognised after the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 which stated that a daughter will have equal ownership in her father’s property even after she gets married.
Learn more on inheritance rights for the Girl Child here.
3. Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009:
Under this Act, all children between the ages of six and 14 years have the right to free and compulsory education. The RTE Act also states that a child cannot be detained in any class till the completion of elementary education. Although this law is gender-neutral, it encourages the education of girl children, by giving them enhanced access to schooling.
4. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
The minimum age of marriage in India for girls is 18 years. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act provides a civil remedy as well as criminal provisions to prohibit child marriage and protect the rights of the children. While the Act provides for relief to the child entering the marriage, it also provides for punishment of adults, who enter into a child marriage or perform, conduct, or direct child marriages.
5. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
All children, including female children, have the right to be brought up in a safe and protected environment. Special provisions for the protection, treatment, and rehabilitation of girls under the age of 18 are included in the Juvenile Justice Act. This act protects girls trapped in brothels for child prostitution and protects any person engaged in an immoral, drunken, or depraved life.
Juvenile Welfare Boards addresses the issue of neglected girls by providing special protective homes and supervision by probation officers. The Juvenile Justice Act also makes it illegal for parents and guardians of children to abuse, assault, neglect, or abandon a child.
This National Girl Child Day, ADF India’s Vanishing Girls campaign is calling for proactive efforts by the Centre and state governments to improve the status of the Girl Child and ensure that prevention of the systematic erasure of our daughters to be of national priority.
ADF India, with our network of legal experts across the country, would be glad to collaborate with you and organise free legal trainings for your organisation, church group, school, college, etc. to raise awareness about sex-selective abortion and other legal rights benefitting the Girl Child. You can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.