India’s gender gap is a disgrace and
it’s time we paid attention to women (Indian Express)
Mains Paper 5: Society
Prelims level: Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy
Mains level: Women empowerment and Gender equality
- India’s well-known biological imbalance one of the world’s worst sex
ratios it boasts a top 20 ranking (19th out of 149 countries) in terms of
political empowerment of women, according to the World Economic Forum.
- This is translating into outcomes at the polling booths.
- The turnout of women has been rising faster than that of men, even in
the traditionally backward states; and if recent trends persist, women will
outnumber men in the 2019 elections.
The silent revolution
- The silent revolution is happening on the digital front.
- The past two years have been dramatic in terms of increased access to
the internet across the country.
- Some of the most significant beneficiaries of this surge are women.
- More than 40 per cent of Indian women are now aware of the mobile
internet, according to the GSMA.
- In isolation, this might seem like a glass half empty given the 60 per
cent still excluded, but this is already more than double the proportion of
women aware of the mobile internet from just a year before.
- The proportion of women who might have independent sources of
information and, unfortunately, misinformation has jumped.
CMIE data highlights on women empowerment
- According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a large
percentage of all the jobs lost last year were held by women.
- Out of the 11 million jobs lost in 2018, women accounted for 8.8
- This only serves to exacerbate an already severe economic imbalance
across gender lines. Indian women receive 34 per cent less wages than men
for equivalent work, spend around five hours a day on unpaid care work
compared to a mere half an hour for men and are primarily engaged in
low-paying, informal sector work.
- Putting these three developments together, rising female political
engagement, surging female access to information, true or false, and
worsening economic opportunities for women sounds like a recipe for a
revolution and quite possibly not a silent one.
- In the global context, India’s long-standing gender gap is already a
disgrace. The country remains a perpetual bottom hugger of international
league tables when it comes to metrics on the status of women.
Consider this sampling of India’s rankings:
- 147th out of 149 countries on health and survival of women and 142nd out
of 149 in terms of economic participation of women, according to the WEF’s
gender gap index; 163rd out of 181 countries in female labour force
- According to the World Bank; 149th out of 193 by percentage of women
representatives in parliament, notably behind Bangladesh, Pakistan, and,
yes, even Saudi Arabia, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union;
- The most dangerous country to be a woman, according to the
Thomson-Reuters Foundation, worse than Afghanistan, the DRC, Syria or Yemen.
Needs to change
- First, look past the reductive and politically expedient ways to
frame women’s needs; think beyond toilets, talaq and cooking gas.
- Women need equal access to opportunities to gain a measure of economic
independence, without which it is hard to imagine independence on other
- The barriers are inter-connected, and not just societal mores but those
related to poor education and healthcare access as well.
- The solutions have to be systemic. Higher paid jobs, for example, call
for schooling, but 23 million girls drop out of school each year because the
families fall on hard times or because of inadequate sanitation or proper
menstrual hygiene capabilities in schools. The opportunity crisis is tied to
- India’s water problem imposes a heavier burden on women with
consequences for their access to opportunities.
- A rural woman might walk 5-20 km a day to fetch water. Carrying water
across long distances is stressful on the body and managing households with
little water is stressful on the mind.
- With this kind of a burden, it is hard to imagine acquiring skills,
remaining healthy and getting into productive employment.
Promoting women centric initiatives
- There are several women-oriented government initiatives with good
intentions, such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao; however, their track record has
been long on publicity and short on results. Consider the Nirbhaya Fund set
up in 2013, to support projects aimed at the safety of women.
- Till the end of 2018, only 42 per cent of that money has been used and a
modest Rs 450 crore was allocated for the Herculean task of making eight of
India’s largest cities safer for women.
- The patchwork approach must go. Leadership at the Centre and the states
needs to develop a less patronising attitude and a genuine commitment to
- More women ought to be politically elevated to run in the next election.
- A ministry with real clout ought to own the problem of ensuring gender
inclusion. Yes, there is a ministry already. But why is it called the
Ministry of Women and Child Development? Tying women’s development with
child development itself is a vestige of a patriarchal mindset that must go.
- Closing the gender gap offers a big political return on investment.
India could add over 18 per cent to its GDP by 2025, by giving equal
opportunities to women, according to those clever fellows at McKinsey.
- If that doesn’t wake up our politicians, the rising clamour of women at
polling booths and on the internet will.
- The silent revolution will get noisy soon. If the #MeToo campaign
teaches us anything, it is to never underestimate the power of an angry
woman with a mobile phone.
Q.1) Consider the following:
1. Nuclear Command Authority
2. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
3. National Disasters Management Authority
4. Department of Atomic Energy
Which of the bodies given above are headed by Prime Minister of India?
(a) 1, 2 and 3 only
(b) 2 and 4 only
(c) 1, 3 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4
Q.1) If the MeToo campaign teaches us anything, it is to never underestimate the
power of an angry woman with a mobile phone. Critically examine the statement.
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