Indian Women’s pathetic lot

Almost a decade ago, the World Economic Forum had conducted a study measuring gender equality around the world. India was placed 113th out of 130 countries involved in the study, shockingly, behind Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates. Although, we don’t need any international study to learn how badly women in this country are treated, we are consciously aware of it; but it seems that even that shameful findings didn’t have even the slightest effect in our polity. Our society at large, chose to remain blissfully ignorant about it. Such is the deplorable state of affairs here when it comes to Indian women. The entire world knows, so what? Is there any upheaval, any social unrest? What bothers you- seems to be the attitude of the authorities, the law makers.  But in reality, it’s not the fact of the matter.

These studies were based on how much progress nations have made in the areas of jobs, education, politics and health as a measure of gender parity. As far as women’s political participation is concerned, there has been some progress in the village panchayat level. But it’s a sad story again, in the context of women’s participation in the higher level of legislation, whether in the parliament or the State Assemblies. The Women’s Reservation Bill is stuck for decades. It is not clear if the bill would see the light of day in the impending future except that the real intentions of political parties are exposed like the day- light. And given the present situation, it is highly doubtful if it’ll be pursued in all earnestness.

India has achieved abysmal ranking in health and survival category. One has only to examine maternal mortality rate (calculated per 100000 live births) to see where India has performed so dismally. This rate, 450, is amongst the highest in the world, clearly an evidence of just how limited access to quality health care is for women. An Indian woman can expect to live healthily for as long or even a year longer than a man whereas in most parts in the world women outlive men by as much as 5-7 years. It is interesting that the WEF study measured the incidence of paternal versus maternal authority. Unsurprisingly, India was awarded the worst possible score on that account, cementing our reputation as an extremely patriarchal society. That such a score was warranted was indisputable in the light of the so-called honour killing (which even today continues unabated). Sex ratios are most skewed in favour of males in some of the richest parts of the country. This proves that economic growth alone cannot result in better lives for Indian women. What a pity! What mind-set!

A country’s productivity, economy and health increases when both men and women are involved in equal participation. There’s no scope for gender gap. Women health should also be a prime concern of the state authority. Women, being a large part of the society cannot be left behind, let alone maltreated. Investment in public health care and education must be made a primary state-policy. Beside, putting an absolute end to female foeticide, we must ensure more and more of our girl children are sent to school. The female to male enrolment ratio in secondary education is a dismal 0.79- is it a sign of progress? The present government’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is a laudable effort toward this and let’s hope and pray for its success. As long as Indian society continues to regard women as essentially appendages to men in a patriarchal society, we will find it difficult to achieve the global power status to which we so aspire.

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