Gender gap: The oldest unfinished business

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The systemic problem of the gender gap is one of the oldest unresolved issues. It has historical roots that bind the society to date. The gender performance of India has not been very motivating. The parity is visible in almost every field. Right from birth sex ratio, educational enrolment to employment participation of women, we lag by a lot compared to the developed countries of the world. Just to give a glimpse of this tragic truth let’s browse through some data, indices and reports.

— The sex ratio of India is 899 females per 1000 males according to NITI Aayog. This number is variable across the country. The sustainable development goals (SDG) index released by the NITI Aayog shows inter-state parity. Chhattisgarh has a sex ratio of 958 was the best performer, while Uttarakhand emerged as the worst-performing state with 840 females per 1000 males.
Sex ratio at birth is 934 in 2019-20.
Gross enrolment ratio (GER) of girls in school at the secondary level is 81.32 (2018-19-provisional figures).
Female labour force participation rate of India is 24.5% (2018-19) while the global average is 45%.
Global Gender Gap report of 2021 that was released by the world economic forum (WEF) ranked India 140 among 156 countries, making India the third worst performer among the south Asian countries. Four thematic dimensions were assessed that are-
1. Economic participation and opportunity
2. Health and Survival
3. Educational Attainment
4. Political Empowerment
India’s performance was comparatively good in health and survival indicators.
Reproductive health report 2021 titled ‘My Body is my health’ published by United Nations population Fund (UNFPA) showed a dismal state of women’s access to bodily autonomy across borders.

These statistics mirror the gender parity in India. Although there is still not a single country where both, males and females, are exactly equals but many are close to the target. India still has a long way to go. The reasons behind the poor performance are many but the two most important areas follows.

—Patriarchal society and the inherent rigidities resist reforms that can help in women empowerment. The mindset of the people is the biggest culprits. Consciously or unconsciously they enforce norms that are antithetic to the empowerment of women. We need not look for examples outside. Most of the households in India show such behaviours.
— The lax attitude of the political leadership is another factor. The political participation of women is a testament to this fact. This insensitivity in governance is reflected in the numerous controversial judicial pronouncements.

Not everything is bad for women in India. The silver lining for us women is the fact that people are willing to fight for the cause. The government and the international community recognises the issue and through joint efforts, they have improved the situation. Schemes like Beti bachao, Beti padhao, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, schemes to attract women in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) streams, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Medical termination of pregnancy act are all examples of these efforts. The list is long but when we assess the performance we find that developments are snail-paced. The fight for equal rights on paper might be over but the fight for its realisation continues.