Deplorable state of women

By Dr Santosh Kumar Mohapatra*

Each year IWD is given a “theme”, and “campaign them” which often relates to contemporary events, trends and struggles. The theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023 (IWD 2023) is, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. This theme is aligned with the priority theme for the upcoming 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-67), “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. The campaign is: #EmbraceEquity. A focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society’s DNA.

But when we are told to embrace equity, there is a need to examine the deplorable state of women in the World as well as In India and whether equality is achieved or not. Equity is a distance dream. The world has made unprecedented advances, but no country has achieved gender equality. Globally, legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men and less than 25 percent of parliamentarians were women, as of 2019.

The world is moving towards legal gender equality – but it’s moving very, very slowly. According to World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2019” report, only six countries currently give women and men equal rights. But the rate of progress means that, by CNN calculations, women won’t achieve full equality in the areas studied by the World Bank until 2073.

Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden scored full marks out of 100.

Of those nations, France saw the biggest improvement over the past decade for implementing a domestic violence law, providing criminal penalties for workplace sexual harassment and introducing paid parental leave.

Violence against women remains devastatingly pervasive and starts alarmingly young, showing new data from WHO and partners. Across their lifetime, 1 in 3 women, around 73.6 crore, are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner – a number that has remained largely unchanged over the past decade. However, 6 percen of women globally report being sexually assaulted by someone other than their husband or partner.

Intimate partner violence is by far the most prevalent form of violence against women globally (affecting around 64.1 crore) one in 4 women experiences violence during pregnancy, 5,000 “honour killings” are reported every year around the world.

This violence starts early: 1 in 4 young women (aged 15-24 years) who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties. 47,000 women and girls were killed by their male partners or family members in 2020 – and those are only the deaths we know about. Around 47 countries still have no repercussions for husbands who rape their wife while 45 countries do not have specific laws against domestic violence.

Gender violence is rampant in India. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), In India , cases of crime against women rose to 4,28,278 in 2021 showing an increase of 56,775 cases or 15.3 percent from 3,71,503 cases in 2020. In India, a total of 31,677 rape cases were registered in 2021, or around 87 rape cases every day on average – as compared to 28,046 cases in 2020, a 19.34 percent increase in rape cases last year when compared 2020.

The data also reveals that across India, in 96.5 percent of rape cases, the offender was known to the woman. Of the total 31,677 rape cases, 28,147 or nearly 89 percent of the rapes were committed either by friends (including online friends), live-in partners (on the pretext of marriage), separated husbands or family friends, employers, or other known persons.

The NCRB report also noted, “Majority of cases under crime against women under IPC were registered under ‘Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives’ (31.8 percent) followed by ‘Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty’ (20.8 percent), ‘Kidnapping & Abduction of Women’ (17.6 percent) and ‘Rape’ (7.4 percent). The NCRB report also corroborates the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 report. According to (NFHS), nearly one-third of women in India have experienced physical or sexual violence.

Given the high levels of stigma and under-reporting of sexual abuse, the true figure is likely to be significantly higher.

Gender gap is pervasive in India too. According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2022 of the World Economic Forum , India ranks 135 out of 146 countries. It means in terms of closing the gender gap, India is behind 134 countries. At present speed, it will take around 197 years to close the gender gap in India. What is a matter of concern is that only 11 countries are ranked below India on this index of 146 nations .

India also ranks poorly among its neighbours and is behind Bangladesh (71), Nepal (96), Sri Lanka (110), Maldives (117) and Bhutan (126). Only Iran (143), Pakistan (145) and Afghanistan (146) perform worse than India in south Asia.

The Gender Inequality Index (GII) is an index for measurement of gender disparity that was introduced in the 2010 Human Development Report 20th anniversary edition by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). According to the UNDP, this index is a composite measure to quantify the loss of achievement within a country due to gender inequality. GII is a composite metric of gender inequality using three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market.

A low GII value indicates low inequality between women and men, and vice-versa. The new index was introduced as an experimental measure to remedy the shortcomings of the previous indicators, the Gender Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), both of which were introduced in the 1995.India ranks 122 out 162 countries in 2021 index. It means India is behind 121 countries.

Labour income is the amount that employed people earn by working. According to the estimates of the World Inequality Report 2022, in India, men earn 82 per cent of the labor income whereas women earn 18 per cent of it. Indian women earned, on an average, 48 percent less compared to their male counterparts in 1993-94. Since then, the gap declined to 28 percent in 2018-19 as in the labour force survey data of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). Still , gap is too high compared to other countries.

The pandemic reversed decades of progress as preliminary estimates from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2020-21 show an increase in the gap by 7 percent between 2018-19 and 2020-21. The data further suggests that faster decline in female wages during the pandemic contributed to this decline, compared to a faster growth in male wages, which requires urgent policy attention. Similarly, women are last to be hired and first to be fired. Women labour force participation is shrinking. Periodic Labour Force Survey’s 2020-21 annual report which reveals that the labour force participation rate among Indian women is just 23.15 percent, in contrast to 57.75 percent in men.

Women and girls are most likely to experience the negative impacts of gender discrimination, gender Inequality. It can mean rising female foeticide, restricted access to education, inferior standing in society, less freedom to make decisions around their personal and family life, a decline in labour participation and lower wages for the jobs and work they do.

With the prevalence of gender discrimination, patriarchal mindset, social norms, and practices, girls become vulnerable to the possibility of child marriage, teenage pregnancy, child domestic work, poor education and health, sexual abuse, exploitation, and violence. Many of these manifestations will not change unless girls are valued more.



The author is an Odisha based eminent economist/ columnist/ social thinker. E-mail: [email protected]


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.

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