Who lowers the dignity of women?
By Dr. Santosh Kumar Mohapatra*
Addressing the Nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 76th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed ‘Nari Shakti’. He further said that respect for women is an important pillar of India’s growth. Stating that women in India face many challenges, he gave a message to the nation to take a pledge to stop disrespecting women or do nothing that lowers the dignity of women.
Highlighting the strength of women in India’s freedom struggle, PM Modi said, “Every Indian is filled with pride when they remember the strength of the women of India- be it Rani Laxmibai, Jhalkari Bai, Chennamma, Begun Hazrat Mahal.”
“He emphasized gender equality to ensure this unity. If daughters and sons are not treated equally, there won’t be unity. At home too, the roots of unity are sowed when both the son and the daughter are equal. If they are not, the mantra of unity cannot reverberate. Gender equality is a crucial parameter of unity,” the Prime Minister said. He urged everyone to ensure the further empowerment of women.
He said, if India is to achieve the goals envisioned by its freedom fighters in the next 25 years, women have to play a critical role. If we uplift women and empower them, we can achieve the goals in a shorter duration and with less effort. “Our Nari Shakti is being represented in all sectors- in police, villages etc. The more opportunities we give to our daughters, the more they will take us forward,” he said.
But questions creep in mind: who lowers the dignity of women and why? Why do laws fail to prevent the such unsavoury incident? Why does his government fail to take immediate and harsh punishment on those who perpetrate such crimes against women? The release of 11 men on the same Independence Day who were convicted and imprisoned for life in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case exposes his hypocrisy.
Who prevents PM Modi’s government to empower women? What his government has done in the last 8 years to empower women and reduce gender discrimination/inequality and gender violence? Is it not ridiculous to tell someone to wait for 25 years to get something? Nobody has seen tomorrow and everybody is dead in long run.
Escalation Of Crime Against Women
All elite persons, legislators, ministers, and top bureaucrats stay in Delhi. But crime is increasing at a faster rate in Delhi. Crime against women in the Capital increased by 63.3% in the first six months of 2021 as compared to 2020, data shared by Delhi Police showed.
According to the NCRB, which functions under the Union Home Ministry, a total of 371,503 cases of crime against women were reported across the country in 2020 in comparison to 405,326 in 2019 and 378,236 in 2018. The dip of 8.3% in crimes against women in 2020 compared to 2019, may be due to the failure of many women to report the crime in the time of the pandemic.
Crimes against women include cases of rape, outraging modesty, dowry deaths and harassment, acid attacks and kidnapping. “Majority of cases under crime against women were registered under ‘Cruelty by Husband or his Relatives’ (30.2%) followed by an assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (19.7%), kidnapping and abduction of women (19.0%) and rape (7.2%).
Domestic violence and sexual harassment have increased during the pandemic as women have to cope with the agony, and anguish of male members of the family who lost jobs or remained home for a longer period. Domestic work including child care increased the burden on women killing their leisure and rest.
Of the total cases of crimes against women during the Covid pandemic-induced lockdown, there were 28,046 incidents of rape involving 28,153 victims. Out of the total victims, 25,498 were adults, while 2,655 were below the age of 18 years, the report stated.
The number of rape cases, as defined in the Indian Penal Code section 376, stood at 32,033 in 2019, 33,356 in 2018 and 32,559 in 2017. The figure for 2016 was 38,947, as per NCRB data from corresponding years. With 5,310 cases, Rajasthan reported the maximum number of rapes in 2020 while Uttar Pradesh reported 2,769 cases, Madhya Pradesh 2,339 cases, and Maharashtra 2,061 cases and Assam 1,657 cases.
Rape cases are increasing but are found false after a probe or sometimes, the victim forms an agreement with the accused and does not want to pursue the case. “Despite making strict laws, including capital punishment, for raping a minor of less than 12 years, the number of cases is not coming down significantly. One of the major reasons is a delay in justice and a lower conviction rate.”
Gender Inequality Index
The Gender Inequality Index is generally considered the most definitive template for measuring gender inequality, which takes into account Maternal Reproductive Health, Parliamentary representation and Female Workforce participation. This Gender Inequality Index (GII ) is part of the Human development report (HDR ). The HDR (2020) has calculated India’s GII to be of the order of .488, with 123rd place out of 162 countries. It means India is behind 122 countries out of 162 countries in regard to reducing gender inequality. In 2018, India was ranked at 122.
This is largely because of poor Parliamentary representation (11.6%), abnormally high maternal mortality rate (174 out of one lakh) and very low women participation in the workforce (23.5%) as against 81.6% for men as per a report in that time. In contrast, China has reduced gender inequality to .16, largely because 61% of women participate in the labour workforce and the mortality rate is 27 per lakh.
Other reasons behind the poor ranking are a combination of factors including cultural preferences, lack of budget allocation for key schemes involving the betterment of women and disinterest at government-level in spending the allocated money.
The latest NFHS data (2019-2021) show that 57% of women (15-49 age bracket) are anaemic, up from 53% in 2015-16; though 88.7% of married women participate in key household decisions, only 25.4% of women, aged 15-49 years, who worked in the last 12 months (2019-2021), were paid in cash.
The proportion of population that seeks employment, i.e. the labour participation rate, rises rapidly with age.. Labour force participation rates (LFPR) by women, was 33.1% in 2011-12 and slipped to 25.3% in 2017-18 coinciding with a 45-year high in unemployment and further to 20% now, among the lowest in the world.
Declining Female Labour Force Participation Rate
According to International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates, India’s female labour force participation rate (FLFP) dropped from 32% in 2005 to 21% in 2019 – the lowest rate in South Asia, and among the lowest in the world, even not half the global average (47%).
In other words, 79% of Indian women (aged 15 years and above) do not even seek work. This is substantiated by the Periodic Labour Force Survey’s 2020-21 annual report which reveals that the labour force participation rate among Indian women is just 23.15%, in contrast to 57.75% in men.
According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report, now, more than half of the 90 crore Indians of legal working age — roughly the population of the US and Russia combined — don’t want a job. Between 2016-17 and 2021- 22, the overall labour participation rate dropped from 46 per cent to 40 % .
In 2016-17, about 15% of women were employed or looking for jobs; this metric dipped to 9.2% in 2021-22. Among women, the data is even starker. The fact that women constitute 48% of the population but remain mostly excluded from access to economic opportunities was clear after the lockdown was lifted in 2020.
Global Gender Gap Index
The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 to compare countries’ gender gaps across four dimensions: economic opportunities, education, health and political leadership. In 2006, when the gender gap report was first released, India had ranked 114 among 142 countries in 2014.
The Global Gender Gap Index for 2022 ranks India at 135 out of 146 countries. In 2021, India was ranked 140 out of 156 countries. It means India occupies abysmal position in above index.
What is a matter of concern is that only 11 countries are ranked below India on the index of 146 nations – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo, Iran and Chad. 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. As per the index, India has closed only 68 .6% of the gender gap and in the present speed, India requires 200 years to close the gender gap.
Gender Pay Gap
Women in India also suffer from the gender pay gap. According to Global Gender Gap Report 2021, the gender pay gap in India is among the widest in the world. Women, on average, earn 21% of the income of men.
However, In India, where the gender ratio is almost as equal, men earn 82 per cent of the labour income whereas women earn just 18% of it, lower than the average for Asia, which was at 27% in 2019, according to the first estimates of gender inequality in global earnings presented in the World Inequality Report 2022.
In a country with perfect equality between women and men, the female labour income share would be equal to 50%. But the report finds that it is below 50% around the world, with significant variations across countries, ranging from below 10% to 45%.
Labour income is the amount that employed people earn by working. Economists use this concept to distinguish it from capital income. Owners of assets earn a capital income due to their property.
Unequal pay refers to situations where women are paid less than men for doing the same work. To counter this, equal pay is legally enforced in most organized sectors. The gender pay gap, on the other hand, is a measure of the gap in the overall earnings of men and women.
In other words, the gender pay gap or gender wage gap is the average difference between the salary or remuneration for men and women in the professional arena. As per the reports, women professionals are generally considered to be paid less than men.
It is calculated by considering several parameters applied to the total number of employed members of both genders. This means that it does not account for women who have voluntarily stayed out of the workforce or have taken a sabbatical.
While the gender pay gap is essentially the average difference between the remuneration received by working men and women, there is more nuance here. There are two distinct numbers: the unadjusted pay gap and the adjusted pay gap.
The former simply differentiates between mean and median wages of the two genders, the latter takes into account differences in factors such as occupation, education and job experience. So the difference is starker if you consider the unadjusted figure.
In India, therefore, the gender pay gap is still quite wide. According to the Monster Salary Index (MSI) published in March 2019, women in the country earn 19% less than men. The survey revealed that the median gross hourly salary for men in India in 2018 was Rs 242.49, while Rs 196.3 for women, meaning men earned Rs 46.19 more than women.
Where Is Women’s Reservation Bill ?
Despite the share of women legislators in the Lok Sabha peaking at 14.39% as of June 2019, India is still worse than 140 countries in the representation of women in Parliament.
The global proportion of women parliamentarians has increased by 0.6 percentage points to reach 26.1 per cent according to the IPU’s latest Women in Parliament in 2021 report. This is in line with progress seen in the past two years.
The increase can be largely attributed to the critical role played by well-designed quotas. Mexico made history by reaching gender parity in Parliament for the first time in 2021. When Prime Minister is talking of women’s empowerment, why reservation bill is not enacted into law? Who denies politicians to give a higher representation of women while giving party tickets to contest election?
Poor Gender Budgeting
In such a situation, the government should spend more on the development of women, but it is not happening. The finance minister had said in a budget speech that the government has announced many schemes and revamped the schemes of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
But while the allocation of the Ministry of Women and Child Development was Rs. 24,435 crore in the revised budget of 2021-22, it has increased to Rs. 25, 172.28 crores in 2022-23. But this increase is 3%. This rise is negative considering inflation.
Gender budgeting which was 4.7% of the total budget expenditure in 2020-21 has decreased to 4.4% in 2021-22 and 4.32% in 2012-23. Between 2016 and 2019, 78.91% of the expenditure under the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme has been spent on mass media.
Men Should Not Alone Be Blamed
However, men should not be blamed alone for the deplorable state of women which is a societal problem. Further in our patriarchal society, the girl child is not welcomed nor given equal preference to a male child in regard to access to health, education facilities and other opportunities.
However, it is not only men but both men and women are to blame who having the patriarchal mindset. For example, in many cases, women prefer a son ahead of a daughter. Sometimes mother-in-law being women torture daughter-in-law and vice versa. It is an woman who welcomed 11 rapists too.
Sometimes women don’t take proper care of in-laws. This is a societal problem. The rise of mistrust and social upheaval in the last 8 years have worsened the situation.
It is an emulation of western culture, rampant consumerism and hedonism, and sexual perversion spawned by neo-liberalism have lowered the dignity of women as big companies are using the semi-nude image of women as instruments of advertisement.
What should be confined to the four walls of a house has been shown in public in a market economy to spur hedonism, lust and greed of people. The internet has been flooded with pornography which has an adverse effect on the image of women in society.
However, gender equality does not mean both men and women in a family will do the same work. One should do the work where one is best suited. But both men and women should have equal power in decision-making and equal access to opportunities and facilities.
The author is an Odisha-based eminent columnist/economist and social thinker. He can be reached through e-mail 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.