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2012 Report on Gender Equality and Development looks at women's issues in India

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Yesterday, World Bank released its 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development. India was mentioned over 300 times in the report, many more times than more developed countries like Spain which was mentioned 48 times, New Zealand which was mentioned 15 times, and Canada which was mentioned 22 times.

The report mentions the importance of gender equality for national development as it ties into improve productivity, improved outcomes for the next generation, and more representative decision making. Across the board for India, improved gender equality on the local level led to improvements in sanitation, water supplies, irrigation, and schools.

School girls from Mumbai
Image: the opoponax.

Nationally, the report found that a woman's income correlated positively with the number of years her children spent in school. There is no gender gap in male/female school attendance for the richest 20% of Indian families, but males outnumber females by a ratio of 5 to 1 for the poorest 20% of Indian families. Girls in the bottom 20% on average only finish Grade 1 while males finish Grade 6. By age 15, according to Young Lives, Indian parents from Andhra Pradesh prioritize family outcomes for their male children over their female ones.

Indian women earn $0.64 for every $1 earned by their male counterparts. They fare better proportionally than their female German counterparts who earn $0.62 and Georgia who earn $0.60. In the developing world, they lag behind Malawi where women earn $0.90 for every $1 earned by men, Egypt where women earn $0.82, and Benin and Mexico at $0.80. A fifth of married Indian women, including those with their own income, do not make decisions on household spending. The 18% average puts Indian female control of their earnings equal to their counterparts in Mozambique. India is between Nigeria at 14%, and Zambia and Rwanda at 20%.

Female activists from Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh
Image: McKay Savage.

Indian women are having fewer children. The report found that while it took 100 years for the average woman in the United States to go from having six children to having three, it took India only 35 years. Women still have high maternal mortality rates, especially when compared to neighboring Sri Lanka. India's rate is six times as high. Very young females still die at very high rates in India, especially in North India, because of gender preferences for male children. While according to the report this trend is spreading nationally, the overall number of excess females deaths dropped by 8,000 from 265,000 in 1990 to 257,000 in 2008. In China, the total excess female deaths grew by 202,000. The report cites improved access to ultra-sound and similar technologies as a cause for the very high rates in both India and China because it allows parents to select the sex of their child.

In a national exception, the height of North Indian women increased more slowly and they had worse anthropometric outcomes proportional to their male counterparts.

Estimates by the World Bank report writers based on Demographic and Health Surveys suggest 15% of Indian women think it is acceptable for a husband to beat his wife if she refuses to have sex with him, 20% if she burns food and 30% if she argues with him.

Economic well being plays a role in the number of children a woman has. The richest 20% of women average around 1.5 total children. The poorest 20% average about 4 children. India's poorest 20% is comparable to Colombia and the Dominican Republic. The number is much lower than many Afrian countries including Niger, Mali, Zambia, Malawi, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya where the poorest 20% average over 7 children.

The Indian gains highlighted include several local ones. This includes using women's self-help groups focused on taking best practices from research and applying them in farming in the state of Orissa. The Self Employed Women’s Association has assisted women in Gujarat by providing childcare. Quotas for women elected in local governments led to changes in underlying beliefs about the effectiveness of women in government. The creation of an all-women's police force in Tamil Nadu led to increased reporting of crimes against women and general comfort in going to the police to report a problem.

The report offers several pieces of advice for Indian policy makers, including trying to change current role models to include more women who do not follow social norms. It advises laws be created and enforced to prevent sex selection of children. The report also encourages strengthening ownership and land rights, which should also address the agricultural productivity gender-gap.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.