GS1: Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues


What is the issue?

  • The SDG Gender Index, a new index to measure global gender equality, was launched recently.


  • The SDG Gender Index has been developed by Equal Measures 2030, a joint effort of regional and global organisations including:
  • African Women’s Development and Communication Network
  • Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • International Women’s Health Coalition
  • The index accounts for 14 out of 17 SDGs (sustainable development goals).
  • The goals cover aspects such as poverty, health, education, literacy, political representation and equality at the workplace.
  • A score of 100 reflects the achievement of gender equality in relation to the targets set for each indicator.
  • A score of 50 signifies that a country is about halfway to meeting a goal.


Need for gender equality

  • Gender equality has been conclusively shown to stimulate economic growth, which is crucial for so-called developing countries.
  • When women are excluded from working, economies are restricted and poverty continues its cycle.
  • Women and young girls bear the brunt of poverty. Globally, 60 percent of people suffering from chronic hunger are women states the UN.

Reasons for the inequality of Gender in India

  • 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 crucial role in perpetuating gender inequality.
  • 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.
  • Patriarchy is a social system of privilege in which men are the primary authority figures, occupying roles of political leadership, moral authority, control of prosperity and authority over women and children.
  • Extreme poverty and lack of education are also some of the reasons for women’s low status in society.

Legal and constitutional safeguards against gender inequality

  • Indian Constitution provides for positive efforts to eliminate gender inequality.
  • The Preamble to the Constitution talks about goals of achieving social, economic and political justice to everyone and to provide equality of status and of opportunity to all its citizens.
  • Article 15 of the Constitution provides for prohibition of discrimination on grounds ofsex also apart from other grounds such as religion, race, caste or place of birth.
  • Article 15(3) authorizes the Sate to make any special provision for women and children.
  • The Directive Principles of State Policy also provides various provisions which are for the benefit of women and provides safeguards against discrimination.
  • The Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 was enacted to abolish and make punishable the inhuman custom of Sati.
  • The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 to eliminate the practice of dowry.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 to give rightful status to married couples who marry inter-caste or inter-religion.
  • Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Bill (introduced in Parliament in 1991, passed in 1994 to stop female infanticide and many more such Acts.
  • Section 304-B was added to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to make dowry-death or bride-burning a specific offence punishable with maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

Gender equity and Equality

  • Gender equality “does not mean that women and men will become the same, but that women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female.
  • Gender equity means fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs.
  • This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different, but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities.
  • World Economic Forum projects it will take 170 years to reach gender equality globally, and 158 years in North America. That means it will take five more generations for us to see gender equality.
  • It is concerning many as gender equality impacts the economic pie for all.

Key findings of the Index

  • The global average score of the 129 countries (with 95% of the world’s girls and women) is 65.7 out of 100 (“poor” in the index).
  • Nearly 1.4 billion girls and women are living in countries that get a “very poor” grade.
  • Altogether, 2.8 billion girls and women live in countries that get either a “very poor” (59 and below) or “poor” score (60-69).
  • Just 8% of the world’s population of girls and women live in countries that received a “good” gender equality score (80-89).
  • Notably, no country achieved an “excellent” overall score of 90 or above in gender equality.
  • Besides, not all countries’ scores on the index correlate with national income.
  • Some countries perform better than what would be expected based on their GDP per capita, and others underperform.
  • With all these, it was highlighted that the world was far from achieving gender equality.

India’s performance

  • India was ranked at 95th among 129 countries.
  • India’s highest goal scores are on health (79.9), hunger & nutrition (76.2), and energy (71.8).
  • Its lowest goal scores are on partnerships (18.3, in the bottom 10 countries), industry, infrastructure and innovation (38.1), and climate (43.4).
  • On indicators that define the goals, India scored 95.3 on the percentage of female students enrolled in primary education who are overage.
  • In the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament, India scored 23.6; women made up 11.8% of Parliament in 2018.
  • On seats held by women in the Supreme Court (4%), India has a score of 18.2.
  • On gender-based violence, indicators include –
  • Proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union before age 18 (27.3%)
  • Women who agreed that a husband/partner is justified in beating his wife/partner under certain circumstances (47.0%)
  • Women aged 15+ who reported that they feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live (69.1%)
  • Overall, India largely performs as expected based on its GDP per capita.

UNICEF Gender Action Plan, 2018–2021

  • Integrating gender equality in all programme results.
  • Gender equality in care and support for all children
  • Adolescent girls’ well-being and empowerment
  • Gender in programme strategies and institutional systems
  • Capacity and accountability on gender results

Way forwards

  • India is still a lagging when it comes to gender equality, and changing this situation is an urgent task.
  • Need for policy initiatives to empower women as gender disparities in India persist even against the backdrop of economic growth.
  • Improvements in labour market prospects also have the potential to empower women. This will also lead to increase in marriage age and school enrolment of younger girls.
  • Feminism could be a powerful tool that lets children shed stereotypes that they may hold and question those of others.
  • A world free of prejudice and generalisation would be amenable to progress in the truest sense.
  • The need of the hour is to introduce feminism in schools, both in terms of curriculum and practice.
  • Sessions on principles of mutual respect and equality must be made a regular affair in schools.
  • Inculcating gender equality in children could go a long way towards ridding society of regressive mindsets, attitudes, and behaviours.
  • Educating Indian children from an early age about the importance of gender equality could be a meaningful start in that direction.


# Practice Question

  1. “If gender equality is the end, gender equity is the means” Elucidate. (200 words)
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