India sees high levels of sex ratio discrepancies (2011: 918 girls for 1,000 boys), forcing the Indian government initiated a program named ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme to provide survival, safety and education to the girl child. The program fights bias, and offers inclusiveness benefits – all to fight female foeticide. Literally meaning ‘Educate the Girl Child, Save the Girl Child’ the Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao Scheme aims to use massive awareness, large-scale female welfare services across districts. It is important to analyse the circumstances of gender inequality that have made such policy measures mandatory.
What is gender inequality?
Gender inequality refers a systematic oppression of girls and women in all stages and spheres of their lives. It refers to reducing their access to education, essential healthcare services, recreational opportunities including sports, and career opportunities. In India, gender inequality is often made a part of the culture so that it has become normalised.
This has led to high rates of child marriage, violence against girls, high drop-out rates for girl children from schools, and overall low socioeconomic status as the fate of girl child. Such circumstances enforce a mindset that girl children are inferior in every way, also making it normal’ for parents to abort girl infants after prenatal sex testing.
What are its causes and how can we prevent it?
1. Civic bodies support
While the government has been fighting for gender equality reforms, it has been difficult to enforce these measures. On-ground, constant civic body support is needed in the form of local governance in districts with poor sex ratio. Civil society workers tasked to address issues like female foeticide, education, and welfare services for females must regularly meet and chart out action plans with Divisional Commissioner and other representatives. They must also be supported by local police, members of legislative assembly, and other influential people. Further, all officials must be made accountable for measurable goals they are tasked with.
2. Constantly changing administration
Administration is essential to enforce government policies to achieve gender equality. However, after relationships are developed at the local governance level, these officers often get transferred very quickly. Officials, NGO workers, and those who volunteer must then develop new relationships. After top local officials are transferred, newly appointed officials need time to be educated and sensitised to the needs of the NGOs, as well as the girl children in their respective districts. Similarly, police and other officials providing on-ground support also are transferred due to procedural needs.
3. Safety of NGO workers
In India’s poorer regions, women officials are ogled and face unwanted advances. Decades of patriarchal thinking and regressive local governance has created such attitudes towards women. Volunteers visiting to educate or counsel young girls have to face these challenges regularly. This can slow down the pace at which social change is brought about in these regions.
4. Obsession with marriage
Despite programs to give girls access to education, a deeper mindset still persists – that girl must be married as soon as possible. Hence, many see a woman’s bigger role in life to be a subservient housewife. This mindset is the basis of considering women inferior, and thus female foeticide is the logical conclusion if women are considered ‘someone else’s wealth’.
According to ‘The State of World Population 2016’, a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), India loses almost $56 billion every year in potential earnings by not educating girls. Such losses are attributed to adolescent pregnancy, high secondary school dropout rates and joblessness among young women. Child rights NGO Bal Raksha Bharat has worked with leading corporates to empower the girl child. The P&G’s Shiksha project has facilitated education across schools in Jharkhand and imparted training in extra-curricular activities. Spanning 30,000 children, the program also brought back out-of-school children to schools, encouraging them with gender-sensitive materials and well-stocked libraries.