It is three years Wednesday, since the brutal Delhi gang-rape seared the country’s conscience. The outrage that followed led many to believe that this could be the catalyst that would bring about radical change in India’s endemic gender disparity. However, the recently-released Gender Inequality Index tells a sorry tale of how, on a majority of parameters, India lags behind not only world averages but is also way below the South Asian averages.
Neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar, that rank way lower than India on the overall Human Development Index (HDI), have performed much better when it comes to achieving gender equality. In fact, in the entire South Asia, only war-torn Afghanistan has a worse ranking than India.
The United Nations Development Programme’s GII measures the human development costs of gender inequality. A higher GII value — 0.563 in the case of India — indicates a greater disparity between men and women. India ranks 130 of 155 countries on GII.
It is a composite index of the reproductive health for women (Maternal mortality rate + adolescent birth rate), their empowerment (based on the share of parliamentary seats held by them + the per cent of 25 year plus population with secondary education) and their economic status (labour force participation).India ranks 130 of 155 countries on GII.
India’s record is particularly distressing when it comes to representation of women in Parliament and their labour force participation. Even Afghanistan does better than India when it comes to having more women legislators. In India, merely 12.2 percent of the seats are held by women as against 27.6 percent in Afghanistan with a record of violations against women’s rights.
While India still debates whether or not it should reserve a third of its seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women, some of the poorest nations such as Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Uganda, Mozambique have over a third to half of their parliament seats occupied by women.
A majority of the countries worldwide show a positive trend in female workforce participation, which is the proportion of working-age population in paid employment or looking for paid work. The sharp reduction in India and China has been held responsible for the drop in global averages. Yet China, where the percent for female labour participation is 63.9 as against the male rate of 78.3 percent, comes out smelling of roses when compared to India’s dismal figures of 27 percent for women versus 79.9 percent for men.