Save the Girl Child-00123

Ladli — which in Indian languages (Hindi and Urdu) means ‘beloved daughter.’

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LADLI - The loved one! campaign by SOCIAL GEOGRAPHIC

Photo: Firoz Ahmad Firoz

 

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"Worst of all, violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence -- yet the reality is that, too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned." (UN SECRETARY-GENERAL in International Women’s Day 2007 Message.)

 

“Almost every country in the world still has laws that discriminate against women, and promises to remedy this have not been kept.” (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the eve of International Women's Day 2008)

 

According to one United Nations estimate, 113 to 200 million women are “demographically missing” from the world today. That is to say, there should be 113 to 200 million more women walking the earth, who aren’t. By that same estimate, 1.5 to 3 million women and girls lose their lives every year because of gender-based neglect or gender-based violence and Sexual Violence in Conflict.

 

In addition to torture, sexual violence and rape by occupation forces, a great number of women and girls are kept locked up in their homes by a very real fear of abduction and criminal abuse. In war and conflicts, girls and women have been denied their human right, including the right to health, education and employment. “Sexual violence in conflict zones is indeed a security concern. We affirm that sexual violence profoundly affects not only the health and safety of women, but the economic and social stability of their nations” –US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, 19 June 2008 (Read more about UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict www.stoprapenow.org/ ).

 

Millions of young women disappear in their native land every year. Many of them are found later being held against their will in other places and forced into prostitution. According to the UNICEF ( www.unicef.org/gender/index_factsandfigures.html ),Girls between 13 and 18 years of age constitute the largest group in the sex industry. It is estimated that around 500,000 girls below 18 are victims of trafficking each year. The victims of trafficking and female migrants are sometimes unfairly blamed for spreading HIV when the reality is that they are often the victims.

 

According to the UNAIDS around 17.3 million, women (almost half of the total number of HIV-positive) living with HIV ( www.unaids.org ). While HIV is often driven by poverty, it is also associated with inequality, gender-based abuses and economic transition. The relationship between abuses of women's rights and their vulnerability to AIDS is alarming. Violence and discrimination prevents women from freely accessing HIV/AIDS information, from negotiating condom use, and from resisting unprotected sex with an HIV-positive partner, yet most of the governments have failed to take any meaningful steps to prevent and punish such abuse.

 

United Nations agencies estimated that every year 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing the procedure – which involves the partial or total removal of external female genital organs – that some 140 million women, mostly in Asia, the Middle East and in Africa, have already endured.

 

We can point a finger at poverty. But poverty alone does not result in these girls and women’s deaths and suffering; the blame also falls on the social system and attitudes of the societies.

 

India alone accounts for more than 50 million of the women who are “missing” due to female foeticide - the sex-selective abortion of girls, dowry death, gender-based neglect and all forms of violence against women.

 

Since the late 1970s when the technology for sex determination first came into being, sex selective abortion has unleashed a saga of horror in India. Experts are calling it "sanitized barbarism”. The 2001 Census conducted by Government of India, showed a sharp decline in the child sex ratio in 80% districts of India. In some parts of the country, the sex ratio of girls to boys has dropped to less than 800:1,000.

 

It's alarming that even liberal states like those in the northeast have taken to disposing of girls. Worryingly, the trend is far stronger in urban rather than rural areas, and among literate rather than illiterate women, exploding the myth that growing affluence and spread of basic education alone will result in the erosion of gender bias. The United Nations has expressed serious concern about the situation.

 

Over the years, laws have been made stricter and the punishment too is more stringent now. But since many people manage to evade punishment, others too feel inclined to take the risk. Just look at the way sex-determination tests go on despite a stiff ban on them. Only if the message goes out loud and clear that nobody who dares to snuff out the life of a female foetus would escape effective legal system would the practice end. It is only by a combination of monitoring, education, socio-cultural campaigns, and effective legal implementation that the deep-seated attitudes and practices against women and girls can be eroded.

 

The decline in the sex ratio and the millions of Missing Women are indicators of the feudal patriarchal resurgence. Violence against women has gone public – whether it is dowry murders, the practice of female genital mutilation, honour killings, sex selective abortions or death sentences awarded to young lovers from different communities by caste councils, rapes and killings in communal and caste violence, it is only women’s and human rights groups who are protesting – the public and institutional response to these trends is very minimal.

 

Millions of women suffer from discrimination in the world of work. This not only violates a most basic human right, but has wider social and economic consequences. Most of the governments turn a blind eye to illegal practices and enact and enforce discriminatory laws. Corporations and private individuals engage in abusive and sexist practices without fear of legal system.

 

More women are working now than ever before, but they are also more likely than men to get low-productivity, low-paid and vulnerable jobs, with no social protection, basic rights nor voice at work according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) issued for International Women’s Day 2008. Are we even half way to meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals?

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Unite To End Violence Against Women!

Say No To Sex Selection and Female Foeticide!!

Say No To Female Genital Mutilation!!!

Say No To Dowry and Discrimination Against Women!!!!

Say Yes To Women’s Resistance !!!!!

Educate & Empowered Women for a Happy Future !!!!!!

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www.un.org/womenwatch/

www.un.org/women/endviolence/

www.saynotoviolence.org/

www.unaids.org

www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

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Taken on April 28, 2008