The recent National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-20) report revealed there has been an improvement in the sex ratio. As per the report, India has 1,020 females per 1000 males. While this is certainly good news, we need to ponder more on its implications. If the women’s population has increased, is there a change in how they are being brought up? Is there an improvement in the literacy rate of the country? Is there an improvement in the female labour force participation? Has gender inequality changed even if the population of the two genders is equal?
Why it is a good news
It is for the first time that women’s sex ratio at birth is higher than men. Just last year, the UN reported that India accounts for 45.8 missing females. Female feticide and infanticide are some of the most glaring realities of the country. Even today, girl children in our country are killed or discriminated against. Movies on these subjects show us that we are somehow far from the corners of India where girl child is a bane. Amidst this reality, the increased female sex ratio is indeed a positive sign.
But then, is it enough to just increase the number of women in our country to make them empowered? Is empowerment of women-only about increasing the number of women in a house? Or is there a whole new chapter that is left to be covered?
But has gender inequality changed?
Women still raised as paraya dhan
Even if the number of women in our country has increased, it cannot be ignored that their unequal treatment plagues their life. In our society, women are not raised as individuals but as paraya dhan who needs to be married off as soon as possible. Daughters are still a burden on families and this is proved by the fact that female foeticide has not stopped. Women’s education and employment are still not given priority over their excellence in housework. Women are raised to be good daughters, bahus and mothers and not as good leaders, employees or CEOs.
The gender gap in literacy rate
This is the reason why there is a gender gap in the literacy rate. According to the 2011 census, the male literacy rate stands at 82.14 per cent, the female literacy figure was a dismal 65.46 per cent. Women are forced to drop out of school even today for marriage. According to the Women and Child Development Ministry, the dropout rate of girls in secondary school is 17.3 per cent and in elementary school is 4.74 per cent.
The gender gap in the economy
Moreover, the increase in the number of women in the country still doesn’t mean that there will be an increase in the female labour force. The female labour force in our country is one of the lowest in the entire world. Despite the increasing sex ratio, the labour force participation rate (LFPR) of females has been decreasing in the last 15 years. From 38 per cent in 2001, the LFPR of females has slipped to 26 per cent in 2020.
Increasing crime against women
We cannot forget about the rising crime against women in India. If on one side the sex ratio is increasing, crime against women is also increasing on the other side. Every 16 minutes a woman is raped in India. And every 4 minutes a woman is subjected to domestic violence.
Until the rate of crime against women is decreased, how will we ensure the safety of the increasing number of women in our country? How is it fair that every new woman coming into this world must face the fear and danger of being harassed?
Do more women mean more oppression?
So if women are not being encouraged to take up education or employment, how will the increasing sex ratio be a boon for our country? Wouldn’t it rather be an increase in the number of women being raped, married off early, dropping out of schools and being pregnant as a teenager? Wouldn’t it be an increase in the number of women being subjects of patriarchy?
How is it fair that every woman must go through the tribulations of discrimination at every stage of their lives? For the record, I am not being pessimistic. I am just stating the facts. If women’s position would have improved just like their population, the data wouldn’t have shown otherwise.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao movement has shown results by skewing the sex ratio towards women. But now it is high time that government starts focusing on other issues that make the lives of women difficult. As efforts have been made to skew the sex ratio towards women, efforts are needed to make India a better place for women to live, explore and grow.
Because even if more apples are added to the basket, the foul smell of the rotten ones won’t disappear.
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