Status of Women in India

Women in India represent 48% of the total population (Census 2011). It is very difficult to traverse the road to development if women are left behind. Thus it seems pertinent to have an appraisal of the status of women in India. 

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS- 5) executed in 2019-20 highlights that the sex ratio at birth now stands at 929 females per thousand males. It is an improvement from the figure of 919 in 2015-16. Sustainable Development Goal 5 too calls for enacting policies that ensure women’s empowerment. Let’s explore the status of women in India concerning specific domains such as health, education, employment etc. 

Health Status of Women in India 

The UN Population Fund 2020 assessed that the sex ratio at birth in India was 910. 70% of adolescent girls are anaemic and the issues faced by them are often ignored. Maternal Mortality Ratio(MMR) in India is estimated to be 113 in 2016-18 and that was 122 in 2015-16. It is also to be taken into account that Maternal Mortality has declined by half in the decade 2001-03 to 2011-13. 

It is also evaluated that around 70% of women are struggling with reproductive issues. The issues seem to have been exacerbated in the pandemic as women frontline health workers were found to lack basic health amenities like PPE kits, etc. 

The Total Fertility Rate(TFR) stands at 2.0 which is below the replacement rate. As per NFHS-5, 31 states and UTs have attained TFR below the replacement level. It is promising for India amidst talks of introducing legislation to decrease the population levels in the country. An increase in the usage of better family planning practices has been recorded. Institutional births have improved as they stand at 88.6% in the period 2019-21. Institutional deliveries in public health establishments are also raised from 52.1% to 61.9%. It is also noticed that there has been significant progress in the right to bodily autonomy. 78% of women are now benefiting from postnatal care. It is an increase from the figures of NFHS-4 (62.4%). 

Educational status of women 

Better literacy rates for females have been registered. 41% of women have acquired ten or more years of schooling. The same was 36% in 2015-16. 

Gender disparity is wide in India. It is seen that there is a general trend of increased dropout ratio among women due to several reasons as- the double burden of household chores and school education, poor nutritional profile, priority to the birth of the male child and lack of toilets in schools. 

The Global Gender Gap (GGG) Report 2023/has released by the World Economic Forum has revealed that India has achieved equality in enrollment across all tiers of education. It reflects an optimistic outlook for India’s prospects. 

Women’s participation in STEM courses (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is at 28.9 and by some estimates, nearly one-third of all certified engineers are women.

NFHS-5 noted that only 12% of girls are having access to Higher Education. Hence, there is a need to address this concern at the earliest. 

Employment status of women 

As per the Periodic Labour Force Survey(PLFS) report, women form twenty per cent of the workforce in India. 

In rural areas, participation in agriculture and allied activities is the dominant activity undertaken by women. 

The Time Use Survey, 2019 conducted by the NSO revealed the time spent by married and unmarried young women vis a vis male counterparts on household care. It disclosed that a married young employed woman spends nearly 5.5 hours on domestic chores while her male counterpart devices only 47 minutes for the same work. 

Gender discrimination in terms of payment of wages is also prevalent in some places despite the presence of specific legislation. 

The political status of women in India –

According to a report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) women account for 14.44% of the 17th Lok Sabha. 

As per a government report, nearly 46% of all elected members at the Panchayat level were women. This reflects the strength of women at the grassroots level. However, in reality, there is a recurrent problem of ‘Sarpanch Pati’ I.e. The men hold actual authority in the name of women. This leads to the whitewashing of women’s empowerment while the issue of women facing the glass ceiling remains. 

The Global Gender Gap Report 2023 presents a rather promising image of women in India in this regard. The parity of women in this regard is muted at 25.3%. Also, women depict slightly above 15% of parliamentarians and are most since the first edition in 2006. An emphasis on the political empowerment of women will help in mainstreaming their respective issues and also serve as role models for the next generation. 

The bill on granting 33%reservation to women in parliament is still on the anvil and the same would assist in furthering the political representation of women. 

Societal and family status of Women in India 

The patriarchal nature of society makes it difficult for women to stand on par with male. The presence of female foeticide, domestic violence, dowry deaths, and child marriage depicts the discriminatory nature of society and family towards women. As per a recent report, it is calculated that nearly 80% of water is gathered by women in the house. This act of domestic drudgery increases the already burdened shoulders of women. 

There are also incidences of gender stereotyping in society in general. Women are still seen as performing supporters and not leader’s role in society. 

The government’s community outreach programmes and initiatives such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, My Daughter My Pride, and Selfie with Daughter are applaudable. 

Financial Inclusion status –

As per NFHS-5, the share of women having personal bank accounts has risen to 78.6%. A rise of 25.6% is witnessed. Also, more than 50% of women have access to their mobile phones and 1 out of 3 women has used the internet too. All these facts are encouraging as there is a rising 

trend of digitalisation of transactions. The trinity of Jan Dan, Aadhar and Mobile (JAM) being promoted by the government alongside PM MUDRA yojana seems to have promising results as well with women accessing banks on the rise. 

UNESCO has listed 5 parameters to angel gender equality and those are- promoting education, natural sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, & Communication and Information. The honourable prime minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi has asserted that ‘No civil society can tolerate any kind of injustice towards women power of the country’. The ‘Nari Shakti’ (women’s power) of India needs to perform at its full potential to realise the goal of Atmanribhar Bharat in time.

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