Haunting State of Gender Equality

Author: Parveen Kaswan (Profile)

It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved -Swami Vivekananda.

From long back in our country it was believed that the different properties, duties and status accorded to men  and women in a society are fixed by sex, that they are natural and therefore not changeable. Gender is a matter which is seen closely related to the roles and behavior assigned to women and men based on their sexual differences. In our society  boys are always encouraged to be strong, tough and outgoing; but girls are considered just as opposite and encouraged to be home-bound and shy.

Gender inequality is also a  form of inequality which is prevailing in our country and is distinct from other types of all social and economic inequalities. Gender equality is not only prevailing in the house but outside also. It stems not only from pre-existing differences in economic endowments between women and men but also from pre-existing gendered social norms and social perceptions. Gender inequality has adverse impact on development goals as reduces economic growth. It hampers the overall well being because blocking women from participation in social, political and economic activities can adversely affect the whole society.

As truly said, India may be an emerging economic powerhouse, but as far as the state of women is concerned, India needs a lot of catching up to do with the rest of the world.


In a latest setback United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2013 reports a very bad picture on this front.  According to this report India stood at 132nd position out of 187 countries on the gender inequality index – performing worse than even  Pakistan (123). The condition is such that India is far behind than all nations in South Asia.  Except Afghanistan, all performed better than India, with Sri Lanka (75) topping them all. Nepal is at rank 102nd and Bangladesh stood at 111th rank. Gender inequality Index is a very good way of showing a counties real picture in terms of gender biasing. Gender Inequality Index measures the loss in a country’s progress and human development because of gender inequality in three sectors:

  • Reproductive health
  • Women empowerment
  • Labor market participation.

As clear review of the report will show the key factors which put India on such a low position.  These key points are

  • Skewed sex ratio, with only 914 females every 1000 males due to female feticide,
  • Only 29% of Indian women above the age of 15 in 2011 were a part of the country’s labor force, compared to 80.7% men.
  • In Parliament, only 10.9% of lawmakers are women, while in Pakistan 21.1% are women.

According to report education and health status of women in India:

  • Only 26.6% women above 25 years received a secondary education in 2010, compared to 50.4% of men.
  • Maternal Mortality Ratio: In India, 200 women died every 100,000 childbirths.

In a good front overall, India has made significant economic progress, but as a fact improvements are slow on the human development front. On the human development index, India ranks 136th out of 187 countries mentioned in the study. In India huge income disparities, gender inequality and the caste divide remain major issues.

The Constitution of India ensures gender equality in its preamble as a fundamental right. By ways of a number of legislation and policies government adopted many measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights forums to secure equal rights of women, such as ratification of Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in 1993. Women have been finding place in local governance structures, overcoming gender biases. Over one million women have been elected to local panchayats as a result of 1993 amendment to the Indian Constitution requiring that 1/3 rd of the elected seats to the local governing bodies be reserved for women. The passing of Pre-natal Diagnostic Tech Act in 1994 also is a step in removing gender discrimination. This Act seeks to end sex-determination tests and female foeticide and prohibits doctors from conducting such procedures for the specific purpose of determining the sex of the fetus. The Government also announced the National policy for empowerment of women in 2001 to bring out advancement, development and empowerment of women. The Government has also drawn up a draft National policy for the empowerment of women which is a policy statement outlining the state’s response to problems of gender discrimination. As persistent gender inequalities continue we need to rethink concepts and strategies for promoting women’s dignity and rights.

But these are not providing fruits as expected. I think more than the policies, we need active participation by people. Social awakening is very important for solving this serious problem.  We hope these type of reports will act as eye opener for the government and society to act together against this social disease.



UNDP: 2013 Human Development Report; accessed on 21st March,2013

Wall Street Journal: India Ranks Lower Than Pakistan on Gender Equality; accessed on 21st March,2013

Buiseness Line: India way behind neighbours in gender equality: Human Development Report; accessed on 21st March,2013


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