What numbers tell: Indian women want to be treated as human beings, not goddesses!     

Be it their sliding participation in paid workforce or the meagre ‘me time’, official data shows that women in India are anything but‘ equal’ to men in rights and choices

What numbers tell: Indian women want to be treated as human beings, not goddesses!      

Sanjukta Basu

Women’s literacy rate up, but workforce participation down

68.4% of women aged 15 to 49 are literate, and 35% of women of same age attended 10 or more years of schooling. But women’s workforce participation rate is around 25-30% (National Family Health Survey 4). Female participation in paid work declined from 34.1% in 1999-2000 to 27.2% in 2011-12, which dropped even further in 2020 to 19.98% in August 2020, ILO and EPFO data shows.

No ownership of property:

Mere 38% of women own a house and/or land either alone or jointly with others (NFHS4). Women comprise over 42% of the agricultural labour force in the country yet they own less than 2% of its farmland. 83% of the agricultural land is inherited by male members of the family. (NCAER, 2018)

Unpaid work that is often not acknowledged

91.8% of women aged 15-59 participate in unpaid domestic work. On the other hand, only 20.6% of men participate in domestic chores (NSO 2019). Women spent upto 352 minutes per day on domestic work, 577% more than men. (OECD)

All work, no fun

Unfortunately, this is not a data that researchers even consider collecting because right to fun and pleasure is nowhere on the list of demands for women either by feminist movements or by any State. However, we can make some assessment from NFHS 4 data and NSO 2019 data.

A mere 1.2% of women consume alcohol, 6.8% use any kind of tobacco. While 44.5% of men use any kind of tobacco and 29.2% of men consume alcohol. Just 6.1% men participate in cooking, even if only for a few minutes in a day, but 87% men participate in leisure activities. Women aged 15 to 59, get 13 minutes fewer sleep at night each day. Women in their working ages also get less time to socialise, eat and drink, and even bathe and get dressed.

What numbers tell: Indian women want to be treated as human beings, not goddesses!      

Violence against women

31.1% of ever-married women face domestic violence (NFHS 4). Around 33% of crimes against women are committed by husband or relative. 86% of rapes are committed by people known to the victims. Around 70 murders recorded in 2015 were in the name of honour, and a total of 134 were on suspicion of witchcraft. Victims in both these cases are women either alone or along with a male relative.

Women’s status in the society is always viewed through the prism of safety and protection but not rights. Women are always referred to in relational terms as somebody’s mother, daughter, wife, sister who are too weak and vulnerable to be on their own. This somebody is presumed to be a man who has the right to own controlled women’s agency in the name of protection. Women are not allowed full access to public space in the name of safety.

For example, female students cannot stay outside the hostel for too late in night, but men can. If a woman is raped at a public space at night, first question asked is, “What was she doing out in the night?” Women are allowed to gain education to some extent, but they have limited choices in picking a job due to gender stereotypes about what job is suitable for them, work timing, domestic responsibilities and so on.

Accordingly, they do not have economic independence. Working women have the double burden of doing both household chores and manage their career. Women’s choices in marriage and sexuality, career growth, passion, dreams are controlled by societal and familial pressures. If she does not fall in line she is killed in the name of ‘honour’, FIRs are filed in the name of ‘love jihad’. Old, widowed or single women are often branded as witches as a ploy to take over her land and property.

Those who claim to be her protector also commit the highest number of crimes against her. PM Modi’s slogan, ‘BetiBachao, BetiPadhao’ itself gives away the patriarchal mindset where female citizens of this nation are ‘beti’ waiting to be saved. From childhood to adulthood to old age, women continue to be controlled by her male ‘protector’ and they never get to become full individual citizens with same rights as men.

What do these numbers tell?

Women’s status in society can no longer be shaped by what society or State think needs to be done for them, but what they want from the State. Women want rights and opportunities to be what they wish to be. This includes the right to fun and pleasure; right to love, right to sexuality, right to take risks, adventure, exploration; even the right to make mistakes. In a nutshell, the right to be human!

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