Formulation of laws against selective sex abortion, awareness about patriarchal expectations of society, and the proactive role of the youth are crucial to ensure a girl child’s right to life, writes Arpita Mitra, 20, a Correspondent from India.
On 23rd January, 2014, Campaign Rebirth – a youth-led awareness initiative – organized a movie screening for students of Delhi University. The campaign, being supported by Half the Sky Movement, is addressing the issue of female foeticide and the rights of abandoned girls in India. It is part of the larger initiative to unearth questions pertaining to societal expectations of having a son at the cost of a girl child, the discriminatory attitude promoting gendercide, and the irrational elimination of girl children.
As part of the initiative to generate awareness on this pressing issue, the campaign screened the internationally acclaimed documentary titled “It’s A Girl” as a symbolic marking of the National Girl Child Day in India, celebrated every year on the 24th January. Organized at the Lady Shri Ram College for Women, in association with the Women’s Development Cell, the documentary pertinently brought out the stark realities attached to the understanding of ‘son preference’, often at the cost of a woman’s right to choose and demand “no” to forced abortion.
“It is our hope that by educating audiences worldwide about gendercide, we can help end this war against girls. We believe that the stories of “It’s a Girl” will capture hearts around the world and will compel us all to rise up and fuel a movement to end gender-based violence and killings, as well as resoundingly affirm the worth and dignity of girls and women in India, China and the rest of the world.” said Evan Grae Davis, Director of “It’s a Girl”.
The documentary focuses on the issue prevalent in India and China. Further, as Dr. Sabu George, Public Health Activist and Fellow in New Delhi comments: “Today, India and China eliminate more girls than the number of girls born in America every year”.
In India, there still remains a tremendous gap in the formulation of a law against selective sex abortion, the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, and its effective implementation. This produces a skewed sex ratio in the country with every population study. On the other hand, the One Child Policy in China often results in forced abortion and sterilization, and with that increasing occurrence of trafficking and kidnapping of young girls in order to address the issue of Bare Branches.
The students attending the screening were disturbed to learn the statistics that they previously considered to be a myth. They appreciated how the initiative was reflective of the potential of students and the youth of countries across the globe to organize similar awareness-generating platforms and discussion through an equally impactful media.
A round of applause came from the audience as the movie concluded, not on the horrifying issue of female foeticide, rather the inspiring stories of certain individuals and groups who are relentlessly fighting for the right to life of the young girls, who have as equal a right to live as their brothers.
The story of Dr. Mitu Khurana made every student sensitive, yet equally assertive of their opinions to demand her plea for justice against her experience of forced abortion, ill-treatment from in-laws, and threats of rape from other members of the society. Most importantly, students realized how the idea of ‘son preference’, especially in India, has acquired a normative position, where people have become immersed in the idea of sons as the ‘only’ gendered identity, having the potential to carry forward the family’s lineage and performing the last rites.
The concept of daughters as ‘paraya dhan’ (someone else’s wealth) receives tremendous focus in the narrative of the documentary, more as a critique of patriarchal expectations of the society at large, reinforced through the practice of female foeticide and infanticide.
The students were convinced to work on this issue more sincerely. The campaign, through this event, made one of its many attempts to work promoting girl child rights in a gendered environment, which ultimately requires immense perseverance and conviction. On another level, the campaign not only focuses on the issue of female foeticide, but also interacts with young girls in shelter homes and orphanages of New Delhi. It brings in art therapy to build effective and creative modules for non-verbal communication for children with an emotionally traumatic past, and helps them develop skills, personality and the confidence to face world challenges in the brighter future ahead.
About me: Ambitious, creative and enthusiastic, I want to make a difference. A sociology student and advocate of women and child rights, I am Campus Ambassador for Half the Sky Movement and Founder/President of Campaign Rebirth- a student led initiative focusing on female foeticide and issues concerning abandoned girls in New Delhi.
I aspire to be a criminologist, specializing in juvenile justice internationally. Authors who inspire me are Daw Aung San Suu Kyi- an alumni of my own college, and Khaled Hosseini.
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