How risky is it to be born a girl in India today?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012 - 9:30am IST | Place: Mumbai
According to an internationally reputed global rights group, India’s human rights record for 2011 is ‘disappointing’.

According to an internationally reputed global rights group, India’s human rights record for 2011 is ‘disappointing’. But we don’t need a depressing comparison with other countries to tell us that as a society we are treading disturbing territory at present. A glance through the fortnight’s headlines will do just as well. And nowhere is this more evident than in the treatment of the more vulnerable sections — women and children.

Not even a month into 2012 and the plight of the two-year-old battered baby girl fighting for life at Delhi’s AIIMS has gripped our consciousness. Serious injuries, two heart attacks, head wounds — what agonies might such a little one have endured before somehow landing up at the hospital, and whom to hold culpable, given that her parents are still missing? We talk of human rights on a world platform, yet in a country like ours, with cases such as these, it seems human life itself is often rendered cheap.

The capital has its hall of shame to contend with, given the statistics — reports say 83% is the abuse rate for children in the national capital — but we, here in Mumbai, also have our demons to battle with. Reality stares us in the face whilst looking at crime figures in the city, and it is shamefully bleak as concerns little ones: a six-year-old raped in Govandi last week, followed in the span of just a day by a six-year-old being raped in Mahim, ostensibly by a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an accused who had, reports say, been offering chocolates to girls in the locality. Then, a class X girl being raped by a collegian around the same time. In fact, the first month of 2012 had six rapes registered up until January 22, and sad as these figures are, what we must remember is that they are only the reported numbers. Who knows how many are silently suffering a perpetrator’s overtures and not having the courage to seek help? In fact, in most cases, police say, the perpetrator is known to the victim — reportedly, almost 89% of crimes are perpetrated by family or people known.

Reports tell of how crimes against minor girls have gone up in the last year, compared to the previous, and this year (given the above cases) is not shaping as any possible improvement. Given this dismal scenario, could it be assumed a punishment these days to be born in the underprivileged sections of India? And are we now staring at the possibility of it being a double handicap to be not just a child but a girl child in such areas?

Though, disturbingly, it is not just the less affluent sections that practise discrimination against the girl child; 2011 numbers peg affluent states too as those with a dismal child sex ratio, prosperous cities included. ‘Missing’ girls are estimated at 44 million according to a 2008 hospital study, we stand at an alarming 914 girls per 1,000 boys, sliding from 945 in 1991 in the child sex ratio. We cannot afford to ignore the warning signs, so plentiful these days — global human rights reports apart, we continue to spiral on a dangerously deepening downward curve as far as treatment of our women and girl children go.

Introspection time, Mumbai.

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