Human Development (2019) Report says that out of 189 countries, India has been ranked 129th in gender equality.
World Economic Forum has also come up with a startling news that India has slipped to 112th rank in Gender Gap Index.
India’s ranking is lower than China’s (106th), Sri Lanka (102nd), Nepal, (101st) and Bangladesh (50th). One wonders why we are so far behind our smaller neighbours.
The WEF has calculated gender gap between men and women in four key areas, health, education, economy and politics; in health and survival and economic opportunities, India is at the bottom of the pile.
The Gender Gap index has tried to measure the disadvantages women have vis-à-vis men in these areas.
There has been a large decline in the labour force participation of women (23.3 percent in 2017-18 and 26.9 percent in 2018) and it is below world average (48.47 percent in 2018; World Bank).
Women are also getting less economic opportunities than men due to various reasons.
Women, even when they get jobs there is concern about the safety of transport from the family, low pay and sexual harassment.
In access to health also, women have lesser access to healthcare than men due to the practice of patriarchy which gives preference to males.
In education, female students are spending less years in school than male students. The mean years of schooling for girls is 4.7 years whereas for boys it is 8.2 years.
Girls are often withdrawn from school after they reach puberty and their education or skill training is cut short.
Most of the schools also do not all have separate toilets for boys and girls which parents object to and are reluctant to send girls to school.
Another major source of concern in India is female foeticide and its consequence of having abnormally skewed sex ratio at birth at 91 girls for every 100 boys.
This practice though closely monitored is still going on in the villages. The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign seems to have failed.
Political representation of women in the Parliament is low at 14.4 percent. (122nd rank) and 23 percent in the Cabinet. India also has very few women on the boards of corporate companies.
It is indeed a shame that from 2006, when the first WEF gender gap report started, India has slipped four spots on gender parity. Bangladesh has the highest gender equality in the region.
India’s economic power would be greatly enhanced if women were given proper healthcare, education, economic opportunities and if they could be better represented in the political institutions across the country.