Discrimination against girl children is a form of discrimination and oppression. It is rooted in the social construct, and beliefs that women are inferior to men. Such beliefs are repeated by women themselves, perpetuating the negative conception that it is acceptable to treat girl children differently or put them at a disadvantage based on their sex. In the past century, we have made significant progress towards achieving gender equality in many parts of the world. And yet, today we live in a world where girl children are still denied equal rights and equal opportunities as their male counterparts as well as lack social security and support systems that could help them develop into self-sufficient individuals.
Problems faced by the girl child are partly biological and partly socio-cultural. The biological problems related to the reproductive system, the birth process, lactation, and menstruation. Biological problems can be minimized by proper care during pregnancy, delivery, and child-caring practices. In comparison, socio-cultural barriers are those that societies create for their reasons. These barriers are most pervasive in customs and traditions that affect the lives of girls disproportionately. Discrimination against girls is a global threat. It is not limited to any one country or region, nor does it disproportionately affect any specific population. The practice of gender discrimination and the impact it has on girls’ lives are all-pervasive.
Both forms of discrimination have serious impacts on the development of girls and women throughout the world. In regions such as India, they are among the leading causes of death for young girls. In addition to causing the deaths of thousands of girls annually, both also promote female foeticide (girls selectively aborted) and infanticide (girls selectively abandoned or killed after birth), which further impact girl’s welfare and well-being.
An unbiased deduction of any observing individual reveals clearly that the discrimination against girl children has existed for centuries in India in both subtle and explicit forms. From infanticide to sex selection to lowering of marriage age for dowry, from rape to increasing illiteracy and malnutrition among young girls, have all led to a harrowing future for women in India. A necessary component of the intellectual battle against sex selection is an increased awareness among public policymakers and the general public that sex discrimination is not a matter of cultural preference, but rather a form of sex-based violence. The experiences of women in South Asian countries, who face high levels of gender-based violence like domestic violence and dowry murders, as well as female infanticide and selective abortion, have shown that action needs to be taken locally and regionally, as well as globally.