The girl child is a female that is below 18 years of age. In Beijing countries, the World Conference on Women held in 1995 endorsed via the Beijing Declaration that sustaining the rights of the girl child was of the essence. The Resolution 66/170 was implemented by the United Nations General Assembly on the 19th of December in 2011 to proclaim the 11th of October as the International Day of the Girl Child. Written in its Blueprint are the rights and responsibilities of women, particularly the girls in the adolescent age. In countless conferences and fora, the girl child is a topical issue. Different perceptions abound in relation to what the lifestyle of the girl child should be. All over the world, the girl child has the rights to education, employment, safety, health, decision making, dignity, equality and justice. The rights of the girl child are often captured in the established laws of the country to guarantee compliance and punish disobedience.
In Nigeria for instance, the rights of the girl child are enshrined in Section 11 of the Childs Right Act of 2003. It acknowledges that “every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly, no child shall be subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment, including sexual abuse. No child shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No child shall be subjected to attack upon his honour or reputation. No child shall be held in slavery or servitude, while in the care of parent, legal guardian or school authority or any other person or authority having care of the child”. Nevertheless, there are several antisocial occurrences which attest that the rights of the girl child are being wrecked by supposed custodians worldwide. These rights of the girl child are often times truncated by the prevailing gender inequality. Truly, the girl child is supposed to be venerable but misguided practices often make her vulnerable in the society day after day.
There are climes where the girl child is perceived as a second-class citizen. That is why she is segregated, oppressed, downtrodden and neglected. Such attitudes toward the girl child is sometimes engendered by superiority or inferiority complex of the male folks. Construing the girl as substandard because of her gender is a sign of superiority complex. It is the propellant of many gender-specific tasks in diverse places. Erroneously, it has been endorsed by age-long tradition that the boys should do manual labour while menial tasks should be done by the girls. Inferiority complex on the other hand makes the male think that the female will not be submissive if gender equality is allowed to prevail. The fear of being dominated by the female is prominent among the reasons for gender-based considerations in education, employment and appointments in several localities.
Most girls are not educated today just because of their gender. Many parents do not send the girl child to school due to the miscalculation that her duty is confined to doing house chores. There is preferential treatment for the male in most families and worship centres when apportioning roles to members. Same applies to the allocation of opportunities for career trainings and political appointments. Patterns of sharing out positions of authority in the society tend to place the male far above the female. All these phenomena combine to in turn enable the different forms of gender-based violence directed against the girl child most of the time.
Some of the afflictions the girl child undergoes in contemporary society include illiteracy, child labour, parental neglect, harassment, battering and molestation. The girl child also suffers sexual abuse such as rape, under age marriage and prostitution. That is why there are numerous under age girls in the present-day who are growing up with emotional trauma. Some of them end up as commercial sex workers, school dropouts and gang members. Expectedly, these occurrences have caused a worrisome increase in the rate of unwanted pregnancies, children outlaws, fatherless babies, children mortalities, abortions, ritual victims, children beggars, and other abnormalities plaguing the entire world.
The way to make the girl child venerable and not vulnerable is to rethink the place of the feminine gender in the entire sectors and social institutions in the society. All the girl child rights captured in the laws that govern various countries in the world should be enforced. It is imperative to unlearn the distorted conviction that the female cannot be given equal opportunity and platform to function with the male. After all, it is often said that “what a man can do, a woman can do better”. This claim is authenticated by the world record of 12.12 seconds set by Nigeria’s Miss Oluwatobiloba Amusan in women’s 100m hurdles at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA on July 24, 2022.