Gender Gap In India Essay Topics

ender discrimination in India means health, education, economic and political discrimination between men and women. Today our country offers a lot of opportunities to women with women having a voice in everyday life, the business world as well as in political life.

Nevertheless India is still a male dominated country, where women are often seen as subordinate and inferior to men. Even though India is moving away from the male dominated culture, discrimination
is still highly visible in rural as well as in urban areas, throughout each and every strata of society. While women are guaranteed equality under the Constitution, legal protection has a limited effect where patriarchal traditions prevail.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2015, India was ranked 108 on the Gender Gap scale among 145 countries. When broken down into components of gender gap, India performs well on political empowerment, but it scored bad on sex selective abortion.

India also scored poorly on overall literary and health rankings of female. India with a 2015 ranking of 108 had an overall score of 0.664 while Iceland topped the list with an overall score 0.887.

The Constitution of India has tried to provide equality status to women.
  • Article 15 says that no woman can be discriminated against on the ground of sex and Article 39(a) emphasis that the citizens men and women equally have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. 
There are many spheres of life where women are denied opportunities. Discrimination against females starts with their birth and continues through their lives. This is evident from the declined child sex ratio of India. According to 2011 census, the child sex ratio in India was 919 females to 1000 males which declined from 927 females to 1000 males in the previous decade. The important factor for the declined sex ratio is female foeticide. Extreme poverty, dowry and preference of son in the society are few reasons for female foeticide.

Gender Discrimination on Economic Front 

The economic gender discrimination can be viewed in the labour participation of women. As per census 2011, the workforce participation rate for females is 25.51% against 53.26% for males. Females are stereotyped in various advertisements like that of washing machine, cooking utensils, perfume etc. 

Inequality in Education

Another major factor of discrimination lies in the right to education. According the the census 2011, the literacy rate of females is 65.46% compared to males which is 82.14%. Only states like Kerala and Mizoram have a high female literacy rate. The main reason behind the low female literacy rate is the mindest of the parents for whom girl's marriage is more important than her education. 

Gender Discrimination in Healthcare Sector

The Gender discrimination is evident in the healthcare sector as well. It is the male child who gets all the nutritions and choicest foods while the girl child gets whatever is left behind. One of the main reasons for the high incidences of difficult births and anemia in women is the poor quality of food which a girl always gets either in her paternal home or in her in-laws.

Discrimination in Politics

Gender discrimination is witnessed in the political participation of women in India as well. Women's participation in politics is not very impressive. The number of women politicians is small as compared to men. The majority of women are indifferent to politics, this is clear in their low participation in voting in public demonstrations and in public debates. Women turnout during India's 2014 Parliamentary general elections was 65.63%, compared to 67.09% turnout of men. The bill to provide 33% reservation of seats for women in Lok Sabha is still pending in Parliament.

Gender Discrimination in Career Choices

One such field where gender discrimination in India is rampant is sports. Although India boasts of several female athletes like PT Usha, Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal, PB Sindhu, Sakshi Malik, Deepa Karmakar and so on, who have achieved accolades and made India proud. In Rio Olympics, only the female athletetes won medals for own country. Female discrimination is far more common in the field of sports than in other field.

Major problems faced by female sportspersons are social, psychological, financial and family constraints.

Government Initiative to Ensure Gender Equality 

Various protective legislations have been passed by the Parliament to eliminate exploitation of women and to give them equal status in society. The Government of India has taken steps and passed various acts to 1 ensure gender equality in the country.

Hindu Succession Act (1956), The Dowry Prohibition Act (1961), The DC and PNDT Act (2002), 33% of seats in Panchayat for women. The sexual harrasment of women at work place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 are some laws to protect the interest of women in our society.

Further government has launched some schemes like, `Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao"Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya"Mother and Child Tracking System', The Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana etc to lessen the gender discrimination.

Apart from these initiatives taken by the government of India, many organisation are working against gender discrimintion. These includes; All India Democratic Women's Association, National Commission on Women, Ministry of Women Children and Development.

So, there are varied legislative safeguards and protection mechanisms for women but the ground reality is very different. Despite all these provisions, women are still being treated as second rate citizens in our country. Therefore, what is needed is the movement for women's empowerment. We hope that our democratic government would be able to find solutions to the problem of gender discrimination and would take us all towards the cherished dream of a truly modern society in both thought and action.

Difficult Words with Meanings :

  • Strata a level or grade of people or population with reference to social position, education etc; 
  • Foeticide the act of destroying a foetus or causing an abortion
  • Combat a fight or contend against; oppose vigourously
  • Anemia a lack of power, vigor, vitality or colourfulness
  • Turnout the gathering of persons for something; the act of turning or out
  • Elite persons of the highest class
  • Rampant violent in action or spirit; raging; furious
  • Counterparts a person or thing closely resembling another
  • Redressal a setting right of what is wrong; relief from wrong or injury.

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Discrimination against women and girls is a pervasive and long-running phenomenon that characterises Indian society at every level.

India’s progress towards gender equality, measured by its position on rankings such as the Gender Development Index has been disappointing, despite fairly rapid rates of economic growth.

In the past decade, while Indian GDP has grown by around 6%, there has been a large decline in female labour force participation from 34% to 27%. The male-female wage gap has been stagnant at 50% (a recent survey finds a 27% gender pay gap in white-collar jobs).

Crimes against women show an upward trend, in particular brutal crimes such as rapes, dowry deaths, and honour killings. These trends are disturbing as a natural prediction would be that with growth comes education and prosperity, and a possible decline in adherence to traditional institutions and socially prescribed gender roles that hold women back.

A preference for sons

Cultural institutions in India, particularly those of patrilineality (inheritance through male descendants) and patrilocality (married couples living with or near the husband’s parents), play a central role in perpetuating gender inequality and ideas about gender-appropriate behaviour.

A culturally ingrained parental preference for sons - emanating from their importance as caregivers for parents in old age - is linked to poorer consequences for daughters.

The dowry system, involving a cash or in-kind payment from the bride’s family to the groom’s at the time of marriage, is another institution that disempowers women. The incidence of dowry payment, which is often a substantial part of a household’s income, has been steadily rising over time across all regions and socioeconomic classes.

This often results in dowry-related violence against women by their husbands and in-laws if the dowry is considered insufficient or as a way to demand more payments.

These practices create incentives for parents not to have girl children or to invest less in girls’ health and education. Such parental preferences are reflected in increasingly masculine sex ratios in India. In 2011, there were 919 girls under age six per 1000 boys, despite sex determination being outlawed in India.

This reinforces the inferior status of Indian women and puts them at risk of violence in their marital households. According to the National Family and Health Survey of 2005-06, 37% of married women have been victims of physical or sexual violence perpetrated by their spouse.

Affirmative action

There is clearly a need for policy initiatives to empower women as gender disparities in India persist even against the backdrop of economic growth.

Current literature provides pointers from policy changes that have worked so far. One unique policy experiment in village-level governance that mandated one-third representation for women in positions of local leadership has shown promising results.

Evaluations of this affirmative action policy have found that in villages led by women, the preferences of female residents are better represented, and women are more confident in reporting crimes that earlier they may have considered too stigmatising to bring to attention.

Female leaders also serve as role models and raise educational and career aspirations for adolescent girls and their parents.

Behavioural studies find that while in the short run there is backlash by men as traditional gender roles are being challenged, the negative stereotype eventually disappears. This underscores the importance of sustained affirmative action as a way to reduce gender bias.

Another policy change aimed at equalising land inheritance rights between sons and daughters has been met with a more mixed response. While on the one hand, it led to an increase in educational attainment and age at marriage for daughters, on the other hand, it increased spousal conflict leading to more domestic violence.

Improvements in labour market prospects also have the potential to empower women. An influential randomisation study found that job recruiter visits to villages to provide information to young women led to positive effects on their labour market participation and enrolment in professional training.

This also led to an increase in age at marriage and childbearing, a drop in desired number of children, and an increase in school enrolment of younger girls not exposed to the programme.

Recent initiatives on training and recruiting young women from rural areas for factory-based jobs in cities provide economic independence and social autonomy that they were unaccustomed to in their parental homes.

Getting to parity

For India to maintain its position as a global growth leader, more concerted efforts at local and national levels, and by the private sector are needed to bring women to parity with men.

While increasing representation of women in the public spheres is important and can potentially be attained through some form of affirmative action, an attitudinal shift is essential for women to be considered as equal within their homes and in broader society.

Educating Indian children from an early age about the importance of gender equality could be a meaningful start in that direction.

This is the first of a series of articles in partnership with UNU-WIDER and EconFilms on responding to crises worldwide.

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