In India, right from her birth, a girl child is treated by the society, including her parents as a burden because of various traditional belief and misconceptions of the society. The bias against girl children is rooted in a complex set of religious, economic, social and cultural factors. Often, the girl is born and brought up in an atmosphere where the family would have rather preferred a boy in her place. This attitude of acceptance to large extent affects her existence. The son-preference attitude and the aversion towards a girl child has grown up so much and brought into the system of eliminating the girl children before or after birth, leading to declining child sex ratio. The elimination of girl children started in the form of female infanticide and with the advent of the pre-natal diagnostic techniques, it has shifted to female feticide. Those who survive are also discriminated against and neglected in numerous ways. Girls are often neglected in their access to nutrition, health care and education. They are often the target and victims of violence, sexual exploitation and abuse.
As girls were considered as a liability, Tamil Nadu was the first state to launch Conditional Cash Transfer Schemes in India to address the issue of post-birth elimination of female gender, targeting the poor families. The Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar Ninaivu Marriage Assistance Scheme was introduced in 1989 with the objectives to help financially poor parents in getting their daughters married and to promote the educational status of poor girls. The Cradle Baby Scheme was launched in 1992. The scheme aims to eradicate female infanticide in vulnerable parts of Tamil Nadu and to promote adoption. The Girl Child Protection Scheme was launched in 1992 to eradicate female infanticide, promote education of girl children, and discourages the preference of male child and to promote the small family norm. Subsequently, both the central and many state governments have launched special incentive financial assistance schemes to improve the survival and welfare of girls and reverse the distorted child sex ratio and sex ratio at birth.
This study intends to investigate whether the schemes launched in Tamil Nadu have impacted positively on the value of the girls or devalued them; impact of these schemes on parental attitude and behavior towards son preference and daughter aversion; enumerating the key social factors that determine the value of the girls; perception of the beneficiaries of the schemes and non-beneficiaries towards the girls; attitude and opinion of the beneficiaries about the scheme; and to put forth recommendation to the policy makers.
The ‘value of girl child’ was assessed under the factors chances of survival, absence of gender discrimination and gender bias in the family institution, educational attainment, prohibition of early marriages, dowry and marriage expenses, violence free environment, independent social mobility and inheritance of family property. Multiple sources of qualitative and quantitative data were used for this study.