- (Photo: REUTERS / Navesh Chitrakar)
Today, the world recognizes the first ever International Day of the Girl, charged with bringing attention to the abuses girls suffer around the globe while affording girls a better life by empowering them through education.
But one place more than any other sticks out in the global consciousness. Girls in India face some of the most severe conditions and abuses anywhere on earth. Girls from poverty stricken regions are neglected, trafficked, prostituted and abused because they are seen as less valuable in the eyes of Indian society and treated as property within their family.
Girls in India, usually from the social group labeled as Dalit or the "untouchables," face a bleak future. The moment these girls are born, they face discrimination.
"A very common name for a baby girl, if the girl survives, is 'Nekoosa.' It's a Hindi word, and translated it means 'unwanted'… This is not just a personal thing with parents making a decision; there is very strong community pressure to value boys over girls," Dave Stravers, of Mission India, told Mission Network News.
These communities are limited to poor regions of the country where the value of a child is based on the work and income they can provide to the family. A boy's value is exercised when they are put to work at a very young age, while the value of a girl is placed on her body.
Trafficking and prostitution are common avenues that provide income to either the family or the trafficker; the girls never receive money for the exploitation of their bodies. And while the government recognizes the problem, social indifference and cultural customs keep girls chained in service to their countrymen.
And the government has the numbers to prove it. According to a study conducted by the Central Statistical Organization titled, "Children in India 2012- A Statistical Appraisal," more than 3 million girls went "missing" in 2011. The percentage of girls ages 0-6 of the female population in India declined from 15.8 percent in 2001 to 12.9 percent in 2011 out of a population of 586 million women in India- there are less young girls, but more females.
"During 2001- 2011, the share of children to total population has declined and the decline was sharper for female children than male children in the age group 0-6 years … Though, the overall sex ratio of the country is showing a trend of improvement, the child sex ratio is showing a declining trend, which is a matter of concern," the study said.