Gender equality and gender development’s question moves around the ‘power’ women held. Indian women regardless of their caste, religion or class, have never enjoyed equal status in the society even in their families. Although constitutional and legal safeguards and several empowerment programs and policies of their development have improved the status of women, yet they lack power in many fields and hence they are subordinate to men. The meaning of gender equality in true sense is to provide equal or same opportunities for men and women in every walk of life. One should not take wrong meaning to compare gender equality with sex equality, while the sex equality means the number of males and females. Gender equality depicts the level of development among men and women. India is committed towards millennium development goals and special efforts have been taken by Government to attain these goals .This paper is based on the analysis of the outcome of the developmental programs regarding women’s upliftment .In this paper we tried to explore all the factors which determine the gender equality, present status, causes behind their poor performance in the field literacy, health, self–reliance etc.
Future Feasibility for Gender Equality
Government has introduced a number of programs and initiatives for 360 degree societal and economic development of Indian women along with the minority classes. The success of these programs duly depends on the strategic scanning of environment, to formulate the rational policies and their successful implementation.
At present India the growth rate for the female population for the 1991-2001 decade is 21.79 %, which is 0.86% points higher than that of males and 0.45% points more than that of total population, yet the demographic imbalance between men and women continue to exist till date (Govt. of India-2002, pp.237)
In Indian society the inequality between men and women is one of the most crucial disparities, which reflects right from the birth of the girl child up to death of women. Apart from this there exists a strong desire for the son child, often leads towards big family size and hence the increased population. Daughters are accepted reluctantly considered a liability for the family. Technological advancement in the field of gender identification has increased the tendency of female foeticide.
The sex ratio in India, which represents the survival scene of women, has been exceptionally unfavorable to women that are 933 female per thousand male while at world level it is 937 females per thousand males. The present maternal mortality rate is 301 per one lac live birth according to the population census2001-03. The present infant mortality rate is 57 per thousand live births. The child mortality rate (0-4 years), according to 2004 is 17.0 years per thousand children. Life expectancy at the time of birth is 63.2 years.
Contribution of Indian Women in National Income : Women’s work still continues to be the most invisible in the national accounts, despite their high level of contribution to national income. In low income economies like India more than 75% of women’s work is in unpaid activities because much of the non market work performed remains statistically invisible. As a result women who prefer unpaid task neither economically rewarded nor socially valued or recognized as productive members of the society. The 2001 census shows only 25.7% as female workforce. The reason being that women’s work could never get recorded either in the population census or their contribution in the national accounts due to the problem of definitions (Govt. of India, 2001, pp.252). The census of India (2001) has registered 25.60 percent of female population as workers numbering 127.22 million in absolute terms out of a total female population of 496 million. The majority of women workers is working in rural areas. Another dimension of women’s well being is related to the unequal distribution of work and leisure according to gender. Women work longer hours than men and often they get a disproportionate share of wages. Usually women spend on an average 20 percent more time than men in rural areas and 6 percent more in the urban areas as of their reproductive role, their responsibilities relating to rearing of children and serving the old age persons in the family, their greater responsibility for agricultural work in family owned farms and barriers to their entry in urban labour market (UNDP 1995). Total work time in India is 391 minutes per day for men and 457 minutes per day for women. Thus the female work time, as percentage of male work time is 117 percent on an average woman spend about 35% of total work time on market related activities against 92 percent by men.
Men spent only 8 percent in non-market activities while women spent 65 percent in the same. Thus even after doing more work than men women’s is not recorded in estimation of national accounts.
While the female work participation rate increased from 14.22 percent in 1971 to 25.7 percent in 2001, still it is much lower than the male work participation rate in both rural and urban areas.
Level of Education in Males And Females
The most glaring example of discrimination against women in India is literacy rate, in Bihar which is as low as 33.1 percent in women to 54.16 percent for the nation as a whole according to census 2001. Nearly fifty crores of women do not know the reading and writing at all. According to the census 2001 female literacy rate is 54.16 percent as against 75.85 percent for males. In female literacy rate it shows an increase from 29.76 percent in 1981 to 54.16 percent in 2001
Other Concerned Areas
The traditional perspective in India is followed the dominance of the males which has been supported by the females every single moment, but there is no light on their contribution for the success. Regarding gender equality some other areas of concern are as follows:
- Women workers are malnutrited and the victim of over work and they have nutritional inadequacy.
- Women who are working in cities often face the problem of safe and comfortable accommodation.
- Working women are highly involved in non-market activities leaves limited scope for their development.
- Indian women have limited ownership rights and control over economic resources such as land, cattles, looms, plants and machinery.
- Due to wrong beliefs women are considered less efficient and less productive than men.
- Almost working women in unorganized sector and at least half of women in the formal labour force are excluded from social security benefits available to permanent workers.
- Women’s role in the home and family and higher level of involvement in domestic activities is an obstacle in their development.
- Self employed women have to depend on money-lenders or middle-man who charges high rates of interest.
- Working women’s sexual exploitation by employers, contracters, middleman, co-worker and senior boss’s etc.is another serious issue it requires quick redressal.
Conclusions and suggestions
Gender equality and gender development are the key issues for the planners and policy makers .Every issue of gender development viz., Education, health and nutrition, growth and physical development, fair representation in urban local bodies and PRI’s etc.have given due care in various five year plans.However their efforts neither could break the old traditions nor could reduce poverty level among women to a desired level.
Following are the issues which still requires some concrete measures for the upliftment of women.
- There should be compulsory primary education for the girls.
- Organization of women through Self Help Groups with active support of NGO’s.
- Pregnancy test and termination of pregnancy laws more strict and effective.
- There should be the involvement of corporate world for gender sensitization and draw upon their infrastructure and resources for the implementation of women’s development programmes.
- Create an enabling environment for women to exercise their reproductive rights and choices freely.
- Effective enforcement of the Pre-natal Diagnostic techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 with stringent punishment to pregnant women as well as to doctor.
- Government should create a gender sensitive educational system and promote gender sensitization of teachers on a regular basis.
- There should be effective and quick and quick implementation of schemes like ‘SWADHAR’-an innovative intervention forwomen in difficult circumstances with a special focus on the rehabilitation of sex workers, bar dancers, jogins, women /girls in social and moral danger, destitute etc.
- Ensure minimum and equal wages to women workers.
As a commitment towards Millennium Development Goals special efforts should be taken like:
a)removal of the gender gap in education at all levels.
b)increase the proportion of seats held by women in parliament and in state legislations either by reserving more seats for women through constitutional amendment or by consensus among the political parties.
c)for the alleviation of poverty and unemployment among women steps are needed like expansion and diversification of the economy, specially the rural economy and areas of unemployed women’ concentration.
d) enforcement on removal of gender bias in the labour market ,the work place and in skill development.
This article has extracted from the research on Gender Equality and Present Status of Indian Women conducted by Dr. Neeraja Sharma. She is an Associate Professor at Accurate Institute of Management and Technology which is one of the best PGDM College in Greater Noida.