Published on 26 Aug, 2022
We felt broken many times in the past 30 days:
- A couple in Gujarat were arrested for burying alive their newborn daughter (although they claimed that it was not because she was a girl, but they could not afford her treatment)
- Allegedly tortured by her husband for eight years for not bearing a son, a woman of Indian origin died by suicide in New York
- A court in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh sentenced a man to life imprisonment for burning alive his wife in 2015 for bearing daughters
In the same span, we saw the ladies of the nation making our hearts swell with pride.
- We welcomed Mrs. Droupadi Murmu, a former educator, as India’s 15th (and the youngest ever) President
- We cheered for 27-year-old Mirabai Chanu from Manipur for becoming the first Indian to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games
- Our hearts went out to the India Women’s Cricket Team as they missed the CWG Gold in a nail-biter, and we were overjoyed to see the India Women’s Hockey Team secure a podium spot after 16 long years
- We applauded maestros such as shuttler P.V. Sindhu, wrestler Sakshi Malik, boxer Nikhat Zarin and many others for podium finishes
Such starkly contrasting narratives about the daughters of the nation, in the same timeframe, are nothing short of alarming.
The former reports make a case for ‘son preference’ still being widely prevalent (as does the National Family Health Survey 5) and destroying multiple lives in the process. Meanwhile, the latter stories stand, boldly on the podium, to show what daughters are capable of, if they receive the L.I.F.E. (Love, Inheritance, Freedom, and Equality), and that FREEDOM is an absolutely critical element here. Contrary to the belief (still held by many) that daughters only contribute to the legacy of someone else’s family, daughters have the potential to build the legacy of a nation, given their rightful freedom.
A testament to this is also a 2017 ToI interview with PV Sindhu, where she highlights the freedom her parents gave her while growing up, which allowed her to live up to her potential. “There were many struggles, but my parents supported me a lot. Whenever I wanted anything, wherever I wanted to go...they were there for me,” says Sindhu.
But, in terms of Girl Child, how do you define Freedom? Here are our two (actually, three) bits.
1. Freedom of environment: For a Girl Child to live up to her full potential, she must have a safe and healthy environment. It is essential that the laws that safeguard women are strictly implemented and adhered to. Further to this, the mindset of society must undergo a major transformation towards respecting the will, the ambition, the purpose, and the consent of women. In light of the increase in the number of rape cases, we must build legal awareness for women to have safe spaces to report such incidents of violence, if any.
2. Freedom of education: In a previous article, ADF India Allied Lawyer Anushree Bernard wrote about the importance of education in the Girl Child’s life. She emphasises on how delaying marriage (until at least the marriageable age can be attained and focusing on education can empower her. The self-dependence and knowledge from this endeavour would ensure her health but also help in rectifying the declining sex ratio in the country.
But, for many girls in the country, the reality is far from ideal. A poll of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) conducted in India on International Women’s Day (March 8th) 2022 called the dropout rates of female students “alarming”. Also, the post-COVID dropout rate for girls in India stands at 14.6%, according to the Unified District Information System for Education Plus Annual Report 2020-21.
3. Freedom of employment: According to a 2019 Forbes article, “the participation of women in India’s workforce has been abysmal and is one of the lowest in the world.” And 2020 was not great for female professional either. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), women bore the brunt of unemployment due to COVID-19 affecting businesses, and hence, employment. The article claims that while the overall unemployment rate was 7%, the unemployment rate among women was as high as 18%! That’s one woman in six! Not just that, the Gender Gap Report 2022 by the WEF ranked India as low as 135th in gender parity.
Employment equals self-dependence and self-sustenance. When women are denied the freedom of employment, they are denied the opportunity, to not just make the best choices for themselves, but also to contribute to society at large. India's economy would grow manifold when women are free to contribute to it.
So, our appeal to you today, dear reader, is to give serious thought to the Freedom of the Girl Child, which in the long run becomes the Freedom of the Indian Woman. Let’s start a conversation about all the ways we can contribute to ensure that she gets the freedom she deserves, as well as requires, to reach her full potential.