Creating a ‘Safe Space’ for Girl Child in India

Azeemah Saleem Kitaab Cafe

Book: Right of the Girl Child in India: Struggle for existence and Well being

Author: Nitu Kumari

Publication: Sage, New Delhi

Price: 1095 INR

Reviewer: Azeemah Saleem

The social, political, economic, cultural, and religious status of women in India has always subjected to discrimination and inequality. The patriarchal inheritance has undermined freedom of expression, the right to equality, and dignity of women. The male-dominated notion has formulated sociocultural norms along with discriminatory religious and social belief. Thus, creating a challenging condition for women in society. The girl child is the most vulnerable section within the discrimination of women. The discrimination faced by girl child deepened the trauma, anxiety among future women. Nitu Kumari, in her book, traced the roots problems, discrimination and patriarchal norms that dented trauma in the most vulnerable section, i.e. girl child.

The book highlighted the girl child’s problem with various regional variations and lack of implementation policies in the international platform that aims for a universal solution. The book is categorized into five core chapters discussing both the global and regional discourse about girl child issues. Kumari instigated her discussion on the definition and conceptual understanding of the Child (children), specifically girls; especially in terms of age, and rights. It provides a clear discussion of Child on various international and regional conventions such as Geneva Convention (1924), Convention on the Right of the Child (1959), International Labour Organization (1986), United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (2010), Immigration and Nationality Act. It explores various challenges of Child and their childhood such as child labour, exploitation, violence, health, child trafficking and other child complexities. Within the ambit of these exploitations, the author traced the girl child’s conditions and how the international communities are dealing with the issues and challenges of the girl child in the international arena. Through Beijing Conference, a separate international agenda for the girl child was adopted to formulate and implement policies and programs. Thus, the mechanism played a significant role in the formulation of such policies and evaluation of implementation. Kumari further comprehends the vulnerability of a girl child in the Indian context. Due to harmful traditions such as female foeticide, female infanticide, child marriage, trauma, abuse, prostitution, rape, sexual exploitation and other practices; it adversely affected the girl child’s status. The book coherently and systematical traced the traditional practices from historical to contemporary times. The consistent cycle of violence, vulnerability and marginalization affects mental and social growth of the girl child. The preference for a son and growing poor sex ration creates a gender-discriminatory environment. The lack of girls education results in the lack of women in the decision and policy-making body. The existing child marriages and child window lead to child prostitution, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and forced domestic labour. The selective imposition of cultural, traditional and religious norms deter the growth and development of girl child and ‘future’ women. The book clearly states the formulation of laws and legal discourse for the Child’s protection and welfare. The state and civil actors’ role with civil society deal with harmful and unequal norms and inadequate rights. The presence of huge diversities had made it difficult to collect the mass information. The lack of proper implementation and evaluation of policies and programs, irregular supervision, lack of victims experience, inadequate sensitization; creates difficulties for both the national and international governmental conventions to reach the grassroots level. The lack of reliable data on systematic exploitation against girls child has created hassle to formulate policies and proper rehabilitation to the victim girl child. Lastly, it conceptualizes the role of cultural relativism and its supplementary impact on basic human rights. Culture, tradition, religion, customs and social norms vary from society to society. The variation in social and cultural norms has contradicted universal human rights, where everyone is treated equally irrespective of their gender. The traditionally gendered disparities caused dues to discriminatory education, child marriage, violation of consensual marriage, restricted sexual and reproductive rights and lack of freedom to live and from violence, violating the basic human rights. Human rights face various challenges while dealing with traditions and cultural beliefs, resulting in the unacceptance of human rights. It also projects its huge loopholes in implementing the law and legal right for the girl child. The huge security gap, lack of legal access, lack of political will, implementation gap, discrimination, armed conflict, and law legalizing violence are various challenges human rights face while dealing with cultural relativism. Thus, it lacks a comprehensive explanation of the conceptual understanding of cultural relativism.

Rights of the Girl-child in India highly recommended for human rights activist, academician and the policymaker. It is technically loaded book with all the references of national and international conventions relating to Child, specifically girl child. It attempts to provide a methodological mechanism for formulating, implementing, monitoring and evaluating various policies and programmes at the grassroots level to achieve a successful outcome.

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