Let Us Continue To Talk About Women Even If Their Day Is Over
Making our country safe for women and loving and letting the girl child live should be a key goal for the country today. Let us make all days about women and change the world for the better
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Many people do not like the idea of celebrating one day as International Women's day. Why not all days, they argue? In congratulatory messages of happy women's day, innumerable celebrations in workplaces and organisations; freebies doled out by gyms and restaurants, at least this one day in the whole year is dedicated to look at serious issues about womanhood.
Now that the day has come and gone for the year, let us not forget that women need more than a day to solve the various fundamental problems affecting their ilk. Let us only look at three major indicators of how 'fair' is the country for its other sex, and we will agree that there is a long road ahead.
India is one of the few countries in the world with lowest female participation in the workforce. The 'pink' Economic Survey of India 2017-18 tabled in Parliament last month had a special chapter on 'Gender and Son meta-preference' that provided an assessment of India's performance on gender outcomes relative to other economies. Significantly, the survey pointed out that the percentage of women who work has actually declined over time (from 36 percent of women being employed in 2005-06 to 24 percent of women being employed in 2015-16).
Of course the problem of the gender gap is not of India's alone. The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2017 shows that given the continued widening of the economic gender gap, it will now not be closed for another 217 years. It also highlights that even though qualified women are coming out of the education system, many industries are failing to hire, retain and promote them, losing out on a wealth of capacity.
Dishearteningly, India saw a decline in its overall Global Gender Gap Index ranking - placed at 108 out of a total 144 countries. This is largely attributable to "a widening of its gender gaps in political empowerment" as well as healthy life expectancy and basic literacy.
In research collaboration with LinkedIn, the report also found that women are strongly under-represented in Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction and Information, Communications and Technology. This is visible in India as IITs admitted nearly 11,000 students in 2017, but the percentage of women at some of the institutes fell even below 10%. As part of a cure for this, the Ministry of Human Resources Development earlier this year directed all 23 IITs to ensure that at least 14% of their seats went to women in the 2018 batch and to create supernumerary seats by then if that is needed to achieve the target.
Another huge challenge for India has been its son preference and a continuous decline of the sex ratio at birth (SRB). A Niti Aayog report in February 2018 stated that the SRB saw a decline in 17 out of 21 large states of the country with a substantial drop of 10 points or more. In Gujarat the SRB fell to 854 females from 907 females per 1,000 males born registering a drop of 53 points from 2014-15.
The Economic Survey 2018 recommended that India must confront the societal meta-preference for a son. "The skewed sex ratio in favor of males led to the identification of 'missing' women. But there may be a meta-preference manifesting itself in fertility stopping rules contingent on the sex of the last child, which notionally creates "unwanted" girls", estimated at about 21 million," adds the Survey.
Despite the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act of 1999, the girl child remains unwanted in many families across the country.
Government's Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Sukanya Samridhi Yojana schemes, and mandatory maternity leave rules are all steps in the right direction but there is a huge distance to be covered in this gender gap and even the government realizes that while "India has committed to moving up the ranks in ease of doing business indicators, a similar commitment should be endeavored on the gender front."
India continues to be a scary place for women. In every household, families continue to be worried about the safety of its women. And there is reason for such paranoia. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), crimes against women have gone up, including cases of rape. Cyber-crimes have registered a sharp increase of 6.3 per cent, from 11,592 in 2015 to 12,317 in 2016.
NCRB data for the year 2016 (released in late 2017) shows that while overall crimes against women have risen by just about 3%, incidents of rape have gone up by 12%. While 2015 saw the registration of 34,651 cases of rape, this increased to 38,947 in 2016. Conversely, overall crimes against women rose from 3,29,243 in 2015 to 3,38,954 in 2016.
As many as 39 crimes against women were reported every hour in India, up from 21 in 2007, according to the report.
And while crime remains unchecked, at 18.9%, the conviction rate for crimes against women in 2016 was the lowest since 2007. Only one in four rape cases in India ended in conviction.
These figures add to the grim picture of safety and security of women and are a contributory factor to low representation of women in the workforce. While women continue to feel unsafe in big and small towns of India, families still fail to overcome the son preference making it even more difficult for younger women to go out and work and contribute to family and national economy.
Making our country safe for women and loving and letting the girl child live should be a key goal for the country today. Let us make all days about women and change the world for the better.
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