Gender gap divides India from the rest


For a country making strides as an emerging economic power, gender inequality remains an area where it compares poorly with the rest of the world. India is placed 129th among 146 countries in terms of GII, or gender inequality index, far behind neighbouring Sri Lanka at 74 and lagging most other countries in the region.

Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan are ranked 112, 113 and 115 in terms of this index in the Human Development Report of 2011, released by the United Nations Development Programme today. In the South Asia region, Afghanistan is the only country ranked lower than India.

India's GII is 0.617, matching the 0.61 of the Sub-Saharan region, against a global average of 0.492. The GII is calculated using indicators from three broad dimensions health, empowerment and the labour market.

The indicators from health used are maternal mortality ratio and adolescent (age 15 to 19) fertility rate. Those from empowerment are secondary education and representation in Parliament. From the labour market, the calculation uses what proportion of the female population is employed.

On maternal mortality, India does fare better than Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, though it is far behind Sri Lanka. Where India is behind most of its neighbours is the proportion of women in Parliament. Just over a 10th of Indian Parliament's members are women. Only Sri Lanka has an even lower representation.

The way this parameter was used in the calculation, in fact, came under criticism from Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, who released the report in Delhi today. He pointed out that Panchayati Raj institutions across the country have about 40 per cent women members. "Non-inclusion of women representation in the Panchayati Raj institutions pulls us down on the dimension of political empowerment of women," Ramesh said. "This index (GII) is heavily vitiated by the nature of its political representation index."

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