CITY ACTIVISTS and doctors have welcomed the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on Wednesday, criminalising sex with wife below 18 years of age, saying it would reduce the cases of early marriage and child trafficking in the country. The verdict is also significant as it was passed on the International Day of the Girl Child, they added. Poonam Muttreja, executive director, Population Foundation of India, said, “Girls below 18 years are still developing physically and mentally, and may not be in the position to make informed decisions and choices regarding their health and well-being. While the trauma of forced sex for a minor is a burden in itself, it could also jeopardise the girl’s health and that of the infant.”
“This is a timely and positive step, taken in the right direction for the discourse on marital rape and the subject of consent,” she added. Meanwhile, doctors involved in the Save the Girl Child campaign pointed out they had been offering free or concessional treatment to women giving birth to girls. The campaign included doctors from many districts, including Pune, Solapur, Nasik, Kolhapur, Satara, Beed, Ahmednagar, Sangli, Nanded, Thane, Ratnagiri, Mumbai, Aurangabad ,Yavatmal, Nagpur, Osmanabad, Jalgaon, Parbhani , Latur, Jalna, Raigad.
Started at a small scale five years ago, the Save The Girl Child movement in the state now has more than 10,000 doctors from Pune and other districts as its members. The campaign is led by Dr Ganesh Rakh, who performs deliveries of girls for free. The campaign has found an echo in several other areas.
Dr Rakh said, “Such has been the impact that even barbers in some of the districts are not charging money for performing ‘mundan’ ceremonies of baby girls. Jewellers, too, are offering to pierce a baby girl’s ears at concessional rates.”
He added that, so far, delivery of 900 girls have been performed free of cost at his Medicare Hospital.
The United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 recognises both the value and power of girls and revisits the barriers and discrimination that girls face in pursuit of their rights and happiness. The theme for this year is — ‘The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030’.