International Women’s Day: It’s still a man’s world 

By Dr. Santosh Kumar Mohapatra*

Around the world, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8, through a myriad of events, including rallies, marches, panel discussions, cultural performances, and more. These gatherings serve as platforms for women to share their stories, amplify their voices, and advocate for change.
The basic objective of celebrating women’s day is accelerating gender equality as women are always subjected to gender inequality, gender discrimination and gender violence. The official theme of International Women’s day (2024) is “Invest in women: Accelerate progress” and campaign theme is “Inspire inclusion”.
However, it is still a man’ world where women struggle in each sphere of life. James Brown famously sang the line this is a Man’s world in his August 1966 no 1 hit it’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s world. The male bias is so firmly embedded in our psyche that even genuinely gender-neutral words are read as male. Male participants were found to be more than likely to depict a researcher as having no gender than as a female. From scientists to stuffed animals, things are more likely to be portrayed as male than as a female.
Over the course of centuries, research and policies focused on men became the default. But if men are treated as the default, virtually no aspect of women’s lives ends up being built or optimized for them. Research that excludes women is not simply “gender-neutral” – it is incomplete.
The consequences can be deadly. For example, women are 73 percent more likely to be injured, and 17 percent more likely to die, in vehicle crashes than men. One reason for this is that the crash-test dummies used in vehicle-safety trials are designed to mimic the body of an average man. “Female” dummies were not even developed for many years and regulators still do not require that they be included in vehicle-safety research.
Personal protective equipment, like that used by health-care workers, is also optimized for male bodies, with dimensions staying the same even as items are scaled down for women users. In a 2020 survey of British health-care workers, 44.7 percent of women found PPE overalls ill-fitting, compared to just 15.3 percent of men.
Seventy-five years ago, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Anchored on the premise that all individuals are born with equal dignity and are entitled to enjoy their rights and freedoms without discrimination, the UDHR serves as one of the cornerstones for the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law (WBL) project.
The global gender gap for women in the workplace is far wider than previously thought, a groundbreaking new World Bank Group report shows. When legal differences involving violence and childcare are taken into account, women enjoy fewer than two-thirds the rights of men. No country provides equal opportunity for women—not even the wealthiest economies.

According to the UN Women’s report Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The gender snapshot 2023, jointly produced by UN Women and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). The report provides a comprehensive analysis of gender equality progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Halfway to the end point of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world is failing to achieve gender equality, making it an increasingly distant goal. If current trends continue, more than 34 crore women and girls will still live in extreme poverty by 2030, and close to one in four will experience moderate or severe food insecurity.

Growing vulnerability brought on by human-induced climate change is likely to worsen this outlook, as many as 23.6 crore more women and girls will be food-insecure under a worst-case climate scenario.

More women than men are living in poverty overall. Currently, more than 10 percent of women globally are trapped in a cycle of extreme poverty, living on less than USD 2.15 a day.

At the current rate of progress, as many as 34.2 crore women (8 per cent) will still be living in extreme poverty by 2030. Women’s poverty is fuelled by discrimination in the world of work, limited access to resources and financial assets, and deep-rooted stereotypes that limit women’s participation in education, decent employment, and decision-making, while burdening them with a larger share of unpaid care and domestic work.

Gender gaps in food insecurity have grown from 1.7 per cent in 2019 to more than 4 per cent in 2021, with 31.9 percent of women moderately or severely food insecure compared to 27.6 percent of men. This is even more acute for older and indigenous women, women of African descent, gender-diverse persons, persons with disabilities, and those living in rural and remote areas.

Seventy-five years ago, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Anchored on the premise that all individuals are born with equal dignity and are entitled to enjoy their rights and freedoms without discrimination.

Around the world, nearly 240 crore women of working age still do not have the same rights as men.

The 2023 Women, Business and the Law (WBL) report measures the laws and regulations affecting women’s economic opportunity in 190 economies—the barriers women face for economic participation as well as how to go about creating reform of discriminatory laws that may hold them back.

The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law (WBL) project. assesses legal barriers to women’s economic participation across eight indicators: Mobility, Workplace, Pay, Marriage, Parenthood, Entrepreneurship, Assets and Pension. However, despite the values enshrined in the UDHR, gender equality remains indefinable for most women around the globe.

The latest Women, Business, and the Law report 2024 published on March 4, 2024 offers a comprehensive picture of the obstacles that women face in entering the global workforce and contributing to greater prosperity—for themselves, their families, and their communities. It expands the scope of its analysis, adding two indicators that can be critical in opening up or restricting women’s options: safety from violence and access to childcare services. When those measures are included, women on average enjoy just 64 percent of the legal protections that men do—far fewer than the previous estimate of 77 percent.
India’s ranked improved to 113 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Women, Business and Law index, according to the 10th edition of the report released 4 March. The index indicates the gap between legal rights enjoyed by men and women, Indian women enjoyed 60 percent of the legal rights given to men as per the new report, lower than the global average of 64.2 percent, as per the 2024 index report.
Gender inequalities in employment and job quality result in gaps in access to social protection acquired through employment, such as pensions, unemployment benefits, or maternity protection. Coverage of women lags behind men by 8 per cent (34.3 per cent and 26.5 per cent, respectively). Globally, an estimated 73.5 per cent of women in wage employment do not have access to social protection.
According to UN Women, globally, an estimated 73.6 crore women—almost one in three—have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life (30 per cent of women aged 15 and older). This figure does not include sexual harassment.
The rates of depression, anxiety disorders, unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV are higher in women who have experienced violence compared to women who have not, as well as many other health problems that can last after the violence has ended.
Most violence against women is perpetrated by current or former husbands or intimate partners. More than 64 crore or 26 per cent of women aged 15 and older have been subjected to intimate partner violence. In 2022, around 48,800 women and girls worldwide were killed by their intimate partners or other family members, up from 47,000 in 2020.
This means that, on average, more than 133 women or girls were killed every day by someone in their own family, women and girls are disproportionately affected by homicidal violence in the home: they represent approximately 53 percent of all victims of killings in the home and 66 percent of all victims of intimate partner killings.
Similarly, 47 countries still have no repercussions for husbands who rape their wife, 270 crore women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men, 45 countries do not have specific laws against domestic violence, 30 percent of women globally have experienced sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.
Across five regions, 82 per cent of women parliamentarians reported having experienced some form of psychological violence while serving their terms. Violence and harassment in the world of work affect women regardless of age, location, income, or social status. The economic costs to the global economy of discriminatory social institutions and violence against women is estimated to be approximately USD 6 trillion annually.
In India, the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) annual report has revealed a distressing surge of 4 percent in crimes against women in India throughout 2022. This includes cases of cruelty by husbands and relatives, abductions, assaults, and rapes.
The NCRB report detailed a substantial escalation in reported crimes against women, soaring from 3,71,503 cases in 2020 to 4,45,256 cases in 2022. Compared to 2021’s 4,28,278 cases, the 2022 statistics marked a troubling increase.


The report highlighted that a significant proportion of crimes against women under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) involved ‘Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives’ (31.4 percent), ‘Kidnapping and Abduction of Women’ (19.2 percent), ‘Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty’ (18.7 percent), and ‘Rape’ (7.1 percent).
The crime rate per lakh women population rose to 66.4 in 2022 from 64.5 in 2021. Notably, the country registered 13,479 cases under the Dowry Prohibition Act, with over 1,40,000 cases categorised under ‘Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives’ (Sec. 498 A IPC).
Women have been relegated to being mere pawns in the vicious ego tussle between opposing factions as a result of patriarchy. Weaponization of women’s bodies in areas of conflict have become regular features.
Around the world, finding a job is much tougher for women than it is for men. When women are employed, they tend to work in low-quality jobs in vulnerable conditions, and there is little improvement forecast in the near future. When someone is employed or actively looking for employment, they are said to be participating in the labour force.
Women face persistent barriers in labour markets mainly because of discrimination and culturally entrenched ideas about gender roles. Globally, over 270 crore women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men, according to World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law research 2024.
According to ILO, the current global labour force participation rate for women is just under 47 percent. For men, it’s 72 percent. That’s a difference of 25 percentage points, with some regions facing a gap of more than 50 percentage points. Women who want to work have a harder time finding a job than men. In India, female labour force participation is one of the lowest in the world.
Women are not only less likely to participate in the labour market than men around the world, they are over-represented in informal and vulnerable employment. While vulnerable employment is widespread for both women and men, men are more likely to be working in their own-account employment, while women are more likely to be helping out in their households or in their relatives’ businesses.
Women are slightly more likely to be unemployed than men but experience a much larger jobs gap. In the agricultural sector, women are overrepresented in seasonal, informal, part-time, and low-wage work with limited access to social protection.
The decline in employment has been higher for women than men, indicating further divergence, said experts. “Women have to bear the brunt of job losses whenever the economy is not performing well. The PLFS data reflects this reality in India.
In 2022, global unemployment rates for women and men stood at 5.7 per cent and 5.8 per cent respectively. This is projected to remain relatively unchanged in 2024. In 2022, the jobs gap rate for women was 15 per cent compared with 10.5 per cent for men, meaning an additional 15. 3 crore women have an unmet need for employment compared with 11.5 crore men.
Women are also getting a smaller chunk of the promotion budget. Corporate India has a gender promotion gap problem. Only one in nine female employees got promoted in 2023, as against one in six men, according to a study covering more than 600 companies in over 40 sectors. Of the entire promotion budget that companies have, women are paid Rs 88 for every Rs 100 that men are paid, according to data from global professional services firm Aon.
Women also face significant obstacles in other areas. In the area of entrepreneurship, for example, just one in every five economies mandates gender-sensitive criteria for public procurement processes, meaning women are largely cut out of a $10-trillion-a-year economic opportunity.
Women are paid less than men. The gender wage gap is estimated to be 20 per cent. This means that women earn 80 per cent of what men earn, though these figures understate the real extent of gender pay gaps, particularly in developing countries where informal self-employment is prevalent.
According to a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the gender pay gap in India stands at 27 percent as of 2023. This means that, on average, women in India earn 73 percent  of what men earn for doing the same job. This gap is even wider in certain industries, such as the technology sector, where women earn just 60 percent  of what men earn. Most women are focused on the frontline in low-paying jobs and women across the healthcare workforce, on average, earn 34 percent less than their male counterparts.
Women also face the motherhood wage penalty, which increases as the number of children a woman has increases. Women tend to live longer than men, but because they receive lower pay while they work, take time off when they have children, and retire earlier, they end up with smaller pension benefits and greater financial insecurity in old age.
Despite a significant presence of female workers in entry level roles, the report showed a significant under-representation of women in leadership roles, especially at the executive and board levels, across healthcare sub-sectors.
The 2023 edition of the global Women Peace and Security Index (WPS Index) scores and ranks 177 countries in terms of women’s inclusion, justice, and security. No country performs perfectly on the WPS Index and the results reveal wide disparities across countries, regions, and indicators. The WPS Index offers a tool for identifying where resources and accountability are needed most to advance women’s status – which benefits us all. In India fewer women feel safe than before.


According to the Georgetown Institute 2023 Women Peace and Security Index, India scored 0.595 out of 1 points, placing it in rank 128 among 177 countries rated in the index. The report attested an especially high amount of political violence aimed at women, counting the seven-most incidents of all countries. India also fared poorly due to the rate of boys to girls being born with the sixth-worst score in the ranking. The nation was among the most improved in women’s financial participation, while scoring much lower in education, employment and parliamentary representation.
Being a woman means being the larger-than-life role model. Being a woman means being a pioneer, resilient, visionary, trendsetters and go-getters.  Women are incredibly buoyant, who never seem to put the brakes on their ever-moving wheels. Being a woman means being honoured. Women never stop moving.




The author is an Odisha-based eminent columnist/economist and social thinker. He can be reached through email at [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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