The government campaign of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ was started with much celebration with a fervent hope that finally, India will work on the girl child problem that we have been struggling with for decades now.
As per the 2011 consensus, India is at an abysmal level of child sex ratio with just 914 females to 1000 males, which marks this ratio as the lowest since the time of Independence.
Even with so many laws and provisions in place like the The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act of 1994, which according to one of its clauses prohibits sex selection either before or after a child is born and any misuse of the technology that can be used pre-natally, the child sex ratio is not something we can be proud of.
However, the society around us is changing with some good examples of powerful girls surrounding us like the Phogat sisters or Mary Kom and more, inspiring not just young girls but also parents that girls are not a liability. Also, progressive radio ads that try to break popular stereotypes like girls belong in the kitchen, the man works and also that girls do not need a large involvement in the will and so on are really great to see.
These ads reach to even the small and rural places that are not yet touched by modern advancements and can perhaps work towards changing the hard-set mindset that people have.
This gives us hope that India is becoming more accepting of girl child and one way to ensure that is by making the child and the parents aware of the rights girls have.
1. Hindu Succession Act, 2005
Before the amendment was made in 2005, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 stated that daughters only had a right to their father’s property until they got married. As per the act, daughters would no longer be a part of her father’s HUF (Hindu Undivided Family) once she is married.
But this provision was changed in September of 2005 and as per the amendment, the daughter, no matter married or unmarried, will always be taken as a member of her father’s HUF and even has the right to be placed as the ‘karta’ or manager of his HUF property.
The amendment basically opened the doors for daughters to be placed at an equal level with sons by giving them the same duties, rights, liabilities and disabilities that were earlier only restricted to sons.
This also removes the long-held notion that only sons can take the family forward as daughters are ‘paraya dhan’ since daughters can very well manage the property and wealth of their father.
2. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
Child marriage has been a practice that has long been a part of the Indian culture, that also created a fear for parents of girls. Arranging for her dowry so early on, spending on her marriage and more were expenses that parents found to be burdening. So they thought of eliminating the girl only.
The law came into effect in 2007 and prohibited child marriage that is, a marriage where either or both the bride and groom are underage or the bride is below 18 years and the groom is below 21 years of age.
3. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971)
While sex determination was and still remains a reality, a result of that would be the forceful termination of the pregnancy if the test showed the unborn child to be a girl.
Thus, female foeticide was something that was steadily on the rise.
The pregnant woman was usually forced and pressured into getting it done, even against her wishes sometimes.
However, as per the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971) or MTPA section 3(4)(b) “no pregnancy shall be terminated except with the consent of the pregnant woman”.
The husband’s consent in this matter is not relevant therefore now, so if a husband wants the abortion but the wife does not, then she has full right to go ahead with the pregnancy.
4. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
As stated for the child marriage case, dowry has been a big deterrent for Indian parents when it comes to a girl child. The dowry practice of giving the husband and his family some wealth like cash, gifts and so on put a great load of burden especially on poor families, as the groom’s family would expect and even outright ask for expensive stuff before the marriage happens.
But with the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 the act of giving or taking dowry at the time of the marriage either to the bride or the bridegroom and their families was penalized.
Essentially the very act of giving a dowry is a punishable offence, while asking for dowry is an even bigger offence.
5. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
An old one but still a very important one would be the right to free and compulsory education for all of the age of 6 to 14 years.
The right extends to the entire country with exception of Jammu and Kashmir and basically states that every child from the ages of 6-14 years has a right to free and mandatory education in a neighbourhood school. Also, no child is liable to pay any kind of fee or charges during this time that could prevent him/her from completing elementary education.
Apart from these few rights, there are also laws in place for equal and minimum wage between men and women, maternity laws and more.
The object of these laws is very clear, that is to show that a girl child is not a liability. In fact, these things empower the girl child in India and the only things that remain to be tackled are the social taboos and stereotypes and definitely the security part.
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