Gender Gap in India with the Girl Child in Focus
The Global Gender Gap Report is an annual report that uses the Gender Gap Index to rank countries based on their levels of gender equality. The report uses various parameters which examine the extent of equality in different fields. These are- Health, education, economic participation and political involvement.
The Global Gender Gap Report of 2021 ranks India 140th among 156 countries which means that it moved 28 places down from its rank in 2020. The report this year is significant due to the Covid-19 pandemic which was an inevitable influence on all things in 2020 including the gender gap. However, India’s placing in the report cannot be divorced from the practices and beliefs that threaten an entire sex. This article looks into the condition of female children in India and how this has influenced the gender gap.
Gender Gap in health and education
Under the parameter of health, India finds itself among the bottom 5 countries. There are various reasons for this and most of them involve young female children. Being a female person in India is proven a challenge as early as at birth or even before that. As per the report, India is one of the many countries that experience a “skewed gender ratio” at birth. This means that more males in comparison to females are born. In India, the reason for this is the high incidence of female foeticide.
Due to the bias towards a male child, many female foetuses are aborted in the womb. While determining the sex of the baby has been illegalised in India, the practice continues.
Further, the menstrual health situation in India is precarious. Many young girls in India are not aware about menstruation before their first period. Many people do not have access to period products. Less than 20% of people who menstruate in India use sanitary napkins. Due to the pandemic, many more were left without these products due to shortages or lack of access. The absence of safe products and hygienic practices is the root of infection and ill health.
In the case of education, the report states that India has closed 96.2% of its gap. While considerable progress has been made, there is still scope for improvement. 1/3rd of the women in India continue to be illiterate. As per schools, they still lack toilets for female children. This results in an alarming number of students quitting their education after attaining puberty.
Why do offices and parliaments fit only men?
The gender gap in economic and political involvement is also rooted in gender beliefs and practices. Despite women increasingly pursuing higher education, they are seldom encouraged to work. While male children are asked to focus on their careers, parents begin talking about marrying off their girl children. In fact India has had a shocking statistic when it comes to child marriage.
With an obvious gender bias and an alarming crime rate against them, Indian women lead the life of secondary citizens. For the same reason, they lack political representation. Female children are missing from schools and sports stadiums. For the same reason, women are missing from workspaces, championships and the Parliament. The report points out the lack of female ministers and even a decrease in the number in 2020 as compared to 2019.
The last year (2020) featured a rise in the cases of domestic abuse and child marriages in India. Since the country was locked down, women and young girls were also reported to have had a larger share of domestic work. Regardless of whether this was the root of the increased gender gap India has a large problem at hand. Gender bias is rooted in how women are treated from the beginning. The narrative surrounding female children has to be corrected. Regardless of whether the WEF hands us a better rank, we need to build a safe and equal world for one half of the population.
Shalabha Sarath is a student of International Relations at Shiv Nadar University. She enjoys writing for blogs and acrylic painting. She currently works as an Intern at Kanyaka Foundation.