Due to years of conflict, the status of the girl child, which was always low, has taken a further beating
Though Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan are known for the practice of killing the girl child, it happens in other States as well with varying intensity.
Jammu and Kashmir in one such State where communities do not prefer the girl child and even when they are allowed to be born, they face discrimination all their lives. In 2011, the State’s overall sex ratio was pegged at 883 females per 1000 males, indicating a fall of 9 points as compared to the Census of 2001.
The reason families give for female infanticide is because they feel the girl child cannot be a good wage earner, increases the family’s expenditure as she advances in age, and dowry embroils the family in debt.
Lawyer and social activist, Abdul Rashid Hanjoora believes that although the plight of a girl child is not as bad in the valley as it is in other states, the conflict of over two decades has escalated her problems, especially in rural areas. This reflects most distinctly on the education front.
In South Kashmir, the girls who are allowed to be born aren’t allowed to seek an education and hence live in the shackles of illiteracy. Parents, on their part, have their own set of arguments for not sending their daughters to school. They say they avoid sending their girls to school because they would have to cross security force camps en-route and there is no guarantee of their safety.
Incidences of abandoning girl children are also prevalent in the valley. Newborn girls were found abandoned in one of the wards in Lalla Ded hospital.
Though the media and civil society here shy away from picking up the sensitive issue of discrimination against women, there are several examples when mothers are beaten, tortured and even divorced if they fail to give birth to a male child.
Hanjoora believes that for the protection of the girl child, the State government not only needs to implement all the centrally sponsored schemes in letter and spirit but should also look at other options to provide some financial assistance to the parents who have more than one daughter. The assistance can be in the form of job reservation, skill development etc.
In 2009, the Centre launched the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) and asked the states to provide children with protection and a safe environment to develop and flourish. The purpose of the scheme was to provide for children in difficult circumstances, as well as to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities that children face in situations and actions that lead to their abuse, neglect, exploitation, abandonment and separation.
It is disheartening to point out that the ICPS, launched by the Centre three years ago, is yet to take shape in Jammu and Kashmir.