Study Material | Test Series
Drishti IAS
call1800-121-6260 / 011-47532596
Drishti The Vision Foundation
(A unit of VDK Eduventures Pvt. Ltd.)
Gender Equality
Dec 14, 2015

1. Barriers to Gender Equality in India

A. Violence against Women

B. Economic Barrier

C. Educational Disadvantage

D. Health Issues

E. Governance and Institutional Barriers

According to UNDP Gender equality does not imply that all women and men must be the same. Instead, it entails equipping both with equal access to capabilities; so that they have the freedom to choose opportunities that improve their lives. It means that women have equal access to resources and rights as men, and vice versa

A. Barriers to Gender Equality in India

Empowerment of women is closely linked to the opportunities they have in education, health, employment and for political participation. Over the years, significant advancements have been made in India on many of these counts literacy rates, enrolment and drop rates in primary education, life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality rates, etc, However, other parameters that reflect the status and position of women in society such as work participation rates, sex ratio in the age group of 0-6 years and gender based violence continue to be heavily skewed against women.

A. Violence against Women:
Deep-rooted ideologies of gender bias and discrimination - the confinement of women to the private domestic realm, restrictions on their mobility and exclusion from the public political sphere continue to daunt the majority; and the entitlements and public services, which constitute the poor women's life line, do not reach them. Such social and structural barriers to women’s empowerment manifest themselves in various ways. Major amongst these is :

  • Violence against women- in the home and outside. 

  • Violence against a woman affects her sense of self esteem, demolishes her self confidence and is often used as a potent tool of subjugation and disempowerment.

  • The 2005-06 National Family Health Survey (NFHS- III) reported that one-third of women aged 15 to 49 had experienced physical violence

  • Approximately one in 10 had been a victim of sexual violence. The survey also found that that only one in four abused women had ever sought help, and that 54% of women believed it was justified for a husband to beat his wife

  • According to the total number of crimes against women increased by 29.6 per cent between 2006 and 2010. Further, these numbers have to be viewed keeping in mind that not all crimes against women are reported. The actual numbers may give even greater cause for concern.

  • What is more disturbing is that conviction rates remained low, reflecting, inter alia, that many of these cases are not being prosecuted properly and inadequate proof is tendered before the courts

  • Early marriage is another area of concern which makes women more vulnerable to domestic violence. There is evidence that marriage before the age of 18 constrains adolescent girls’ opportunities to obtain higher education, and severely restricts their autonomy. Further, the decline of this “early marriage rate” has been slow, of only 5 percent points from 50 percent of all women in 1993 to 45 percent in 2006. Marital abuse is also a common problem in such marriages

  • Declining Sex Ratio: This phenomenon has spread across States. The census data has revealed that the worst child sex ratios have been found in States with high per capita incomes, while, States with low per capita incomes like Bihar, Rajasthan and UP continue to suffer from adverse sex ratios due to persisting gender discrimination. The declining child sex ratio is a silent demographic disaster in the making which will have adverse implications on women in the form of increased trafficking for sexual exploitation, honour killings, ‘bought’ brides, rapes, etc. Already, States such as Haryana and Punjab which have acutely adverse child sex ratios are displaying disturbing trends.

  • Trafficking of women and children: It is another gross form of human rights violation. It deprives humans of their right to fundamental freedoms. Trafficked women and children, and those vulnerable to trafficking have a greater tendency to face risks, with fewer opportunities to avoid abusive situations, with marginalized access to justice and other resources for redress. Trafficking is often hidden in the veil of migration and so the abuse of rights is very difficult to identify in time. Therefore, a significant number of trafficked women end up in prostitution and multiple conditions of exploitation as a consequence of coercion, deception and economic enslavement. Forced/bonded labour, domestic servitude, are among other major consequences of trafficking.

  • In the current scenario, what is more disturbing is that the age of trafficked victims is going down. A study by the Ministry of Women and Child Development commissioned in 2004 had estimated that around 2.8 million women are victims of trafficking, out of which 36% are children

women and children

Response to This: Since trafficking is such a nuanced area of work the kinds of responses needed require multidisciplinary skills and multiple partnerships. Besides working on changing mind sets of communities and using communities as watchdogs and agencies of change the work on trafficking requires that rescue and rehabilitation be done with a human rights approach through interventions that address the issues at all levels – at the level of the individual, at the level of the community, at the level of the state.

Measures taken o deal this: Various legal mechanisms have been put in place for addressing violence against women in the Indian Penal Code as well as through enactment of Special laws like the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act and Dowry Prohibition Act (DPA). However, enactment of law, though necessary as a first step to address violence against women and also to give them substantive equality, is not enough. It has to be effectively implemented and enforced. Further, victims and survivors of violence need services and support from the police, health, service providers, including legal aid and a sensitive judiciary.

Some steps to be taken to overcome Violence:

  • Focus shall be on - strengthening the existing legislations that address violence and discrimination against women; making their implementation more effective; facilitating the speedy delivery of justice to women; putting in place adequate infrastructure and support services; and sensitization and capacity building of key actors.

  • Stricter monitoring of response of enforcement agencies to violence against women would also need to be put in place. 

  • The justice delivery mechanisms would be strengthened by improving access of women to legal aid and setting up of fast track courts to ensure speedy justice. 

  • Prompt action would send a strong message to the society and act as a deterrent to violence

  • To combat trafficking provide alternative livelihoods options to women particularly from marginalised sections of the society. This would entail enhancing their employability through effective skill training, linking with poverty alleviation schemes and programmes of all Ministries and Departments in the Government, providing access to resources and credit facilities. The law enforcement response to trafficking will be strengthened so that those who are victims of trafficking are rescued and rehabilitated.

  • Victims of violence should have an adequate support structure like shelter homes, medical facilities, counselling services for their effective rehabilitation. 

  • Shelter homes would be established in every district of the country with standards of care to ensure quality services. 

  • There should be  a “Women’s Helpline” to respond to emergent needs. A One Stop Crisis Centres providing shelter, police desks, legal, medical and counselling services

  • For increased awareness and knowledge dissemination on the legal rights of women, effective use of ICT will be explored through creation of a national women’s information portal.

B. Economic Barrier: The participation of women in the workforce, the quality of work allotted to them and their contribution to the GDP are indicators of the extent of their being mainstreamed into the economy. On all these parameters women in India fare worse than men and the challenge is to bridge the inequality. Opening up of the economy and rapid economic growth have escalated some of the existing structural barriers faced by women and new challenges in the form of dismantling of traditional support structures, displacement due to migration, obsolescence of traditional skill sets have emerged.

Low quality of Work: Over 90 percent of women are in informal employment where they are poorly paid, have unsatisfactory conditions of work, do not enjoy the protection of labour laws, have no control on the terms and conditions of their employment and are subject to great insecurity of employment. A little under four-fifths (about 79 per cent) of the rural women workers are employed in the agriculture sector , a sector that is marked by shortage of paid jobs, decelerating and differential wages on basis of gender and degradation of resources.

  • Taken together, the decrease in workforce participation rates, large presence in the unorganised sector and increasing stake in agriculture is leading to the feminization of poverty and low levels of asset building by women. This is recognized as an extremely “troubling” trend, resulting in “capabilities failure”

  • Women’s economic participation is hindered by low skills, capacities as well as lack of ownership and control over assets. One of the major concerns is the gender gap in educational level of the labour force.

  • Many activities in which women are engaged which are not taken into account in the workforce as well as GDP estimates. For example activities like processing of primary products (eg dehusking of paddy, preparation of jaggery, making of baskets and mats, preparation of cow dung cake etc) undertaken mostly by women are not classified as economic activities in India.3 It is necessary that these activities be recognised and women in these activities be provided the necessary support mechanisms to improve their working conditions and productivity.

  • Marginalised financial inclusion: According to RBI Women remain inadequately covered by the banking system as they own only 20.8 percent of the total deposit accounts in scheduled commercial banks and 11.3 percent of the total deposits. The situation is equally bad when one looks at the credit scenario. Women had access to only 19.8 percent of the small borrowal accounts of scheduled banks with an outstanding credit share of 16.8 %

Some steps to be taken to economically Empower:

  • On enhancing employability of women through skill development

  • Considering that women are largely concentrated in the agriculture sector, a number of reforms would be necessary to improve their productivity as well as their control and access to land resources. Some suggestions being giving women rights over land, credit, common property resources and equitable wages as also enhancing their access to technology, education and skill training.

  • Emphasing increasing self employment opportunities through skill up gradation and improving access to credit and markets

  • Exploiting the collective power of the women to make use of economic opportunities by achieving economies of scale.

  • Skill development should be seen as a vehicle to improve lives not just livelihoods and so the curriculum should include inputs that help women to assert individually and collectively, run them through experiential exercises that enable them to recognise the oppression in their lives and help them to challenge the existing gender ideologies.

  • Skill development initiatives should move from traditional skills to emerging skills, which help women break the gender stereotypes and also help them move into higher skilled tasks. Training of women as auto drivers, taxi drivers, women masons, etc should be incorporated in the skill development programmes.

  • Capacity building in marketing and administration for self and collective managed enterprises should also included

C. Educational Disadvantage: Education of women is a critical input for improving nutrition levels, raising the age at marriage, acceptance of family planning, improvement in self-image, and their empowerment. Education provides women greater access to information and resources and enables them to challenge various forms of discrimination and engage with the development process.

Way Forward:

Creating a gender-sensitive educational system is another priority. This would entail addressing sexual stereotyping, changing the attitudes and perceptions of school teachers, providing a safe and secure environment for the girl child, provision of schools within easy reach, transport and separate girl’s toilets. These measures would go a long way in enhancing enrollment of girls at primary and secondary levels

D. Health Issues: Because of gender discrimination, the health conditions of females generally tend to lag behind those of males, and therefore absolute improvement in these conditions is a reasonable indicator that the overall health conditions of that society are also getting better. In terms of female infant mortality rates, India is, by far, the worst performer in this group, with the slowest rate of decline.

Way forward:

A holistic approach
would be adopted so that the health needs of women and girls, at all stages of the life cycle, are addressed. The focus of health interventions would need to be extended to address ailments which women are especially prone to such as post menopausal problems, osteoporosis, breast and cervical cancer, etc. Special measures will also be undertaken so as to take into account issues of older women and those affected by HIV/AIDS.

E. Governance and Institutional Barriers: The Constitutional amendments for reservation for women in Panchayats and urban local bodies has brought more than 1 million women into positions of leadership and governance at the grassroots. Some States have proactively increased the one-third reservation in Panchayats to 50 percent further bolstering the presence of women in decision making roles. The number of women in the upper echelons of power, however, continues to be very low.

⇒ 
Despite the reservation at PRI levels women’s political power has not been fully harnessed as their presence has not always translated into meaningful political participation and involvement.

 Institutional barriers to political participation of women include the :

  • Inadequate devolution of functions

  • lack of financial and planning autonomy

  • Bureaucratic influence

  • The policy of rotation of seats

⇒ Amongst the social barriers to their full and effective participation are :

  • lack of education

  • Oppressive patriarchal and caste structures

  • Lack of respect of women in PRIs

  • Physical violence in public and domestic spheres

  • Local politics spawned by caste/class/religious dynamics etc

⇒ Women also face a number of invisible barriers when they enter the public institutions of democratic governance in rural and urban local bodies. Amongst these are the introduction of new conditions for entry and performance of elected women, like the condition of two-child norm which makes persons ineligible to contest Panchayat election or to continue as representatives if they have more than two children after a stipulated date. The effect of this new condition was seen in disqualifying sitting elected representatives, neglect of girl children as well as other practices adverse to women

⇒ Women face social, economic and various other forms of institutional barriers to entering PRIs and even in performing their duties as elected representatives. Important limitations to women’s participation include the terms of inclusion, the rules of decentralization, gender-based division of labour, the policy of rotation of seats etc. Social barriers such as lack of education, oppressive patriarchal and caste structures, lack of respect of women in PRIs, physical violence in public and domestic spheres, local politics based on caste/class/religious dynamics also affects the participation of women adversely. Further, uneven and limited devolution of powers and resources in the States, with no untied funds also adds to the constraints.

Way Forward:

  • GoI should focus on promotion of Elected  women representative(EWR) alliances, federations across women in PRIs and SHGs; pre-election preparation of women candidates and voters; training and capacity building of EWRs as well as of government functionaries and officers. This would enhance their ability to raise critical questions about inequity, collectivize without fear and pressure and ensure gains from the services.

  • Greater efforts will also be made to include poor and other excluded women in governance.

  • Gender Resource Centres by providing information on legal, social and economic issues can enable women to perform their duties better. Setting up of such Centres will be taken forward

  • Women’s collectives such as Self-Help Groups have been found to play a catalytic role in enabling women to organize and articulate their interests better and engage in decision-making in the family and community. Women belonging to such groups are more likely to undertake a leadership role and develop the skills, confidence and support base required for entering PRIs as elected representatives. Formation of SHGs would thus be encouraged and their capacity will be developed to play this role

  • Panchayats play an important role in effective delivery of services. It would, therefore, be the endeavour to equip EWRs to play this role and work for gender sensitive good governance in their panchayats by ensuring gender specific interventions. Capacity of EWRs would also be developed

  • There should be push for establishing Gender Focal Points within various organisations like the Ministries/Departments of the Central Government and Urban and Rural Local Bodies.

  • The process of engendering institutions would require that National Women’s Machineries are engaged in a gender analysis of not only programmes and projects but also of institutions like the Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs,) judiciary, the enforcement machineries etc

  • Focus on Gender Budgeting: Delivery of gender equality outcomes, to a large extent, would depend upon the adequacy of budgetary allocations. Gender Responsive Budgeting or Gender Budgeting as it is more commonly known, is a means of ensuring that public resources are allocated in an equitable way so that the most pressing needs of specific gender groups are satisfied. It translates stated gender commitments into budgetary commitments.

  • Planning and budget approval systems need to be modified to make gender clearance and specific approvals of Gender Budget Cells  mandatory to ensure that Policies/Programmes/Schemes are engendered

  • Pre-budget consultations should be undertaken by Ministry of Finance with women’s groups as is the practice in several countries

Source: Planning commission


Helpline Number : 87501 87501
To Subscribe Newsletter and Get Updates.