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Gender Discrimination in India


Gender disparity still subsists in India. Being born as a woman in Indian society, one has to face gender prejudices at all levels. At the family level – females are circumscribed to the bounds of their household errands, raising children and looking after families, irrespective of their education degrees or job profiles. At her workplace, women have confined access to job opportunities and are rewarded less for the same work.

Education and learning opportunities: Gender-wise literacy rates in India showcase the broad gap separating men and women. As per the 2011 census data, effective literacy rates were 82.14% for men and 65.46% for women. The main reason parents are reluctant to spend on girls’ education is the mindset that educating women is of no value as in the future; they will only serve their husbands and in-laws. The Indian constitution provides same rights and privileges for both men and women, but the majority of women across India don’t enjoy these prerogatives and opportunities guaranteed to them.

Gender Discrimination in India

The Gender gap index for India as opposed to other countries. The gender gap index is one of many multidimensional estimates of gender disparity. India was reckoned at 0.66 by the World Economic Forum and placed 101 out of 136 countries in 2013.

Study shows gender discrimination chiefly in favor of men in many realms, including the workplace. This bigotry affects many aspects of the lives of women from career improvement and progress to mental health complications. While Indian laws on rape, adultery and dowry have women’s security at pith, these highly inequitable practices are still taking place at an distressing rate, influencing today’s lives. Across India, gender inequality results in unequal opportunities, and while it reshapes the lives of both genders, statistically, it is women that are the most vulnerable. Globally, girls have higher survival rates at childbirth, are more likely to be developmentally on track, and just as likely to engage in a preschool. However, India is the only vast country where more girls succumb to death than boys. Girls are also more prone to drop out of school. In India, girls and boys experience adolescence discordantly. While boys tend to experience greater autonomy, girls tend to face extensive restrictions on their ability to move deliberately and make decisions influencing their  education, marriage, work and social relationships. As girls’ and boys’ age, gender barriers continue to increase and extend into adulthood, where only a fourth of women are in the formal workplace. Some Indian women are global masters and prominent voices in diverse fields. Still, most women and girls in India do not fully enjoy many of their rights due to deeply rooted patriarchal norms and traditions.

The following table contrasts the population extensive data for the two genders on various inequality statistical patterns, and according to The World Bank’s Gender Statistics database for 2012:

Gender Statistic Measure Females








Infant mortality rate, (per 1,000 live births) 44.3 43.5 32.6 37
Life expectancy at birth (years) 68 64.5 72.9 68.7
Expected years of schooling 11.3 11.8 11.7 12.0
Primary school completion rate, (%) 96.6 96.3
Lower secondary school completion rate, (%) 76.0 77.9 70.2 70.5
Secondary school education, pupils (%) 46 54 47.6 52.4
The ratio of females to males in primary and secondary education (%) 0.98 1.0 0.97 1.0
Secondary school education, the gender of teachers (% ) 41.1 58.9 51.9 48.1
Account at a formal financial institution, (% of each gender, age 15+) 26.5 43.7 46.6 54.5
Deposits in a typical month, (% with an account, age 15+) 11.2 13.4 13.0 12.8
Withdrawals in an average month, (% with an account, age 15+) 18.6 12.7 15.5 12.8
The loan from a financial institution in the past year, (% age 15+) 6.7 8.6 8.1 10.0
The outstanding loan from banks for health or emergencies, (% age 15+) 12.6 15.7 10.3 11.6
The outstanding loan from banks to purchase a home, (% age 15+) 2.26 2.35 6.6 7.4
Unemployment, (% of the labour force, ILO method) 4 3.1
Unemployment, youth (% of labour force ages 15–24, ILO method) 10.6 9.4 15.1 13.0
The ratio of females to males youth unemployment rate (% ages 15–24, ILO method) 1.13 1.0 1.14 1.0
Employees in agriculture, (% of total labor) 59.8 43
Employees in industry, (% of total labor) 20.7 26
Self-employed, (% employed) 85.5 80.6
Cause of death, by non-communicable diseases, ages 15–34, (%) 32.3 33.0 29.5 27.5

According to the Global Gender Gap Report issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2011, India was placed 113 on the Gender Gap Index (GGI) among 135 countries surveyed. Since then, India has improved its rankings on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index (GGI) to 105/136 in 2013. When cut down into components of the GGI, India performs well on political empowerment but is scored bad on sex-selective abortion. India also scores poorly on overall female to male Global rankings of India India’s Global Rank on various Gender Inequality Indices. These indices are contentious literacy and health rankings. India, with a 2013 ranking of 101, had an overall score of 0.6551, while Iceland, the nation that surpassed the list, had an overall score of 0.8731 (no gender gap would yield a rating of 1.0). Other measures include OECD’s Social Institutions Gender Index (SIGI), which ranked India at 56th out of 86 in 2012, which was an advancement from its 2009 rank of 96th out of 102. The SIGI is a measure of prejudicial social institutions that are drivers of disparities, rather than the unequal outcomes themselves. Similarly, UNDP has published the Gender Inequality Index and ranked India at 132 out of 148 nations.

It is crucial to enhance girls’ value by investing in and empowering them, with education, skills, sport, and much more.

By raising the amount of girls we can collectively add to the achievement of particular results, some short-term (increasing access to education, reducing health problems like Anaemia), others medium-term (ending child marriage) and others long-term (excluding gender-biased sex selection).

Improving the value of girls has to involve men, women and boys. It has to mobilize many sectors in community. Only when society’s attitude changes, will the rights of all the girls and all the boys in India be fulfilled.

Empowering girls demands directed investment and collaboration. Providing girls with the assistance and security, education and skills they need in daily life can reduce the hazards they face and enable them to develop and contribute to India’s growth wholly.

Girls have an especially tricky time accessing life-saving resources, information and social networks in their daily life.  Access to programmes specifically tailored to the necessities of girls – with a focus on education and developing life skills, ending violence and incorporating the demands and contribution of girls from vulnerable groups, including those with incapacities, can strengthen the resilience of lakhs of girls. Long-term solutions devised with and for girls can further buttress this resilience and be a pathway of transformational and lifetime opportunity for women.

All girls, especially adolescent ones, need platforms to express the challenges they face in daily life and explore the solutions that work for them so they can build more solid futures for themselves and their neighborhoods.

UNICEF India’s 2018-2022 Country Programme has been developed in rejoinder to the identification of deprivations that Indian children face, including gender based denials. Each programmatic outcome is committed to a gender priority that is noted explicitly in its programme, budget and results. These include:

  • Health: Reducing excess female mortality under five and supporting equal care-seeking behaviour for girls and boys. (Example: front-line workers encourage families to take sick baby girls to the hospital immediately)
  • Nutrition: Improving nutrition of women and girls, especially by promoting more equitable eating practices (Example: women cooperatives develop and implement their own micro-plans for improved nutrition in their villages)
  • Education: Gender responsive support to enable out-of-school girls and boys to learn and enabling more gender-responsive curricula and pedagogy (Example: implementing new strategies for identifying vulnerable out of school girls and boys, overhaul of textbooks so that the language, images and messages do not perpetuate gender stereotypes)
  • Child protection: Ending child and early marriage (Example: supporting panchayats to become “child-marriage free”, facilitating girls and boys clubs that teach girls sports, photography, journalism and other non-traditional activities)
  • WASH: Improving girls’ access to menstrual hygiene management, including through well-equipped separate toilets in schools (Example: developing gender guidelines from Swachh Bharat Mission, supporting states implementing MHM policy)
  • Social policy: Supporting state governments to establish gender-responsive cash transfer programmes and supporting women’s leadership in local governance (Example: cash transfer programme in West Bengal to enable girls to stay in school, a Resource Centre for women panchayat leaders in Jharkhand)
  • Disaster risk reduction: Enabling greater gender disaggregation of information management for disaster risk reduction and more leadership and participation of women and girls (Example: greater women’s leadership and participation in Village Disaster Management Committees)

Besides, three cross-cutting themes will support all outcomes: Joint C4D-Gender strategy: UNICEF’s Communication for Development (C4D) team develops social and behaviour change communication to support each finding. These communications prioritize efforts to change harmful gender norms like unequal feeding, unequal investment in young girls and boys, harmful MHM practices, and perpetuation of girls’ lower value than boys through wedding dowry.

  • Advocating for and promoting equal value of girls: UNICEF’s Communications, Advocacy and Partnerships team works with media, influencers and gamechangers to advocate for UNICEF priorities, which, in the 2018-2022 programme, includes Equal Value of Girls and Boys.
  • Increasing and improving girls’ and women’s safe mobility: UNICEF India has begun work in some states to work on new programmes with new partners to enhance the ability and freedom of women and girls, including to access government services like schools and hospitals.

Strategic Partnerships

Key partners include the Ministry of Women and Child Development, especially its leadership of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Programme, which UNICEF India supports at the national and state level. UNICEF India works closely with other UN agencies to promote gender equality, especially with the United Nations Population Fund and UN Women. Civil society organizations, including gender experts and activities, are also key partners.

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