Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools


You are here: Home / News / Desai: Overall Stagnation in India's Progress Toward Gender Equality

Desai: Overall Stagnation in India's Progress Toward Gender Equality

Remarkable achievements in school enrollment and hospital delivery options canceled out by backsliding in employment rates and declining sex ratios

For many women in India gender equality is still a long way from reality. According to an Op Ed article by MPRC Faculty Associate Sonalde Desai, the gender equity scorecard recently released by the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) reflects a mixed bag of success, failure, and stagnation in the effort to achieve gender equality in India. The scorecard touts a number of remarkable successes in the years between 2005 and 2012, most notably a dramatic closure in the school enrollment gap between boys and girls (for both boys and girls, the percentage who enroll in school is now 96%). Between 2005 and 2012, hospital delivery of babies rose from 50% to 70%, and the proportion of women with a bank account in their own name more than doubled from 18% to 38%.

But, says Desai, these achievements are not enough to offset the effects of the gender inequity that is still so pervasive in India. Many women still lack the autonomy to make their own choices about such important life decisions as marriage and healthcare. Only 25% of women had met their husbands before marriage, and only 25% of women have the power to make decisions about what to do when they are sick. 50% of women still say they do not travel alone by train or by bus, even for a short distance. And women’s participation in the workforce is actually dropping.

Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that parents’ preferences to have boy babies rather than girls are becoming even stronger. In 2001, the Census recorded only 927 girls under age six for every 1,000 boys. Ten years later, the number of girls per 1,000 boys had dropped to only 919.

“IHDS records a story of both progress and disappointments,” writes Desai. “The scorecard on gender reflects a broad stagnation in social mores where some achievements are cancelled out by backsliding in other areas; broader economic impacts on gendered outcomes are by and large negative; and some remarkably successful policy initiatives have been overlooked in an era of overall disenchantment with public policies.”

 The India Human Development Survey (IHDS) is a nationally representative survey of 42,000 households conducted by researchers from the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the University of Maryland. Data for the gender scorecard came from Census 2005 and 2012.

Read the story in The Hindu

Read a related story, also in The Hindu

Learn more about the India Human Development Survey