India is again rocked by a wave of protests in the wake of the rape and murder of a 9-year old Dalit girl in New Delhi by a Brahmin priest and crematorium workers. Sexual violence, particularly against women and girls of the oppressed castes, are unfortunately not rare incidences. After 74 years of independence, one of the biggest problems we are still facing is the subordinate status of women in our society. While some progress has been made, they still are struggling to attain equal status with men, and continue to face rampant discrimination and abuse. This day last year we published the Status of Women Report 2020 where we looked at the status of Indian women across different dimensions. A year into the Covid-19 pandemic which has disproportionately impacted women across the globe, we once again take a look at where women stand in 2021.
Gender Gap Index
The Global Gender Gap Index is an index designed by the World Economic Forum to measure gender equality. It ranks countries based on the calculated gender gap between men and women in four different areas: health (life expectancy and sex ratio), economy (salaries, participation level), education, and political representation.
India ranks 140th in the world in the Global Gender Gap Index out of 156 countries. India is the third-worst performer in South Asia. Only Pakistan (153) and Afghanistan (156) ranked lower in South Asia. The country fell 28 places from last year's 112th rank in the Global Gender Gap Index 2020.
Women in Workforce
According to World Bank estimates, India has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world. India's female labour participation rate fell to 16.1% during the July-September 2020 quarter, the lowest among the major economies, a government report said, reflecting the impact of the pandemic and a widening job crisis. The unemployment rate among women touched 15.8%, compared with 12.6% among male workers during three months that ended in September 2020, the latest quarter for which data was released.
Crime against women
Overall, crime against women has increased in India in 2021. As mentioned in our previous report, violence against women in India is systemic and is a common sight in both personal as well as professional spaces. Patriarchy, societal norms, intra-gender structures, power structures, and the caste structure are all responsible for the subjugation of the voices of women. Crimes against women saw over 63% rise in 2021 so far. Rape cases saw an increase of 43% from 580 till June 15 last year to 833 this year; molestation jumped by 39% from 733 to 1,022; kidnapping of women from 1,026 to 1,580, abduction of women from 46 to 159, and dowry deaths from 47 to 56. Dalit women in particular face intersecting forms of gender, caste, and class discrimination. Violence, including rape, has been systematically utilized as weapons by dominant castes to oppress Dalit women and girls and reinforce structural gender and caste hierarchies.
Although the Kerala High court said that Marital rape is a valid ground for divorce, it is still not a crime in India. India is one of the 36 countries in the world where marital rape is not criminalised. This is despite one in every three women in India, between the age of 15 and 49, who have ever been married, stating that they have experienced some form of violence from their spouses.
Women’s Political Representation
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, India ranks 148 out of 193 countries when it comes to representation of women in parliament as on 1st January 2021. This has fallen down 6 spots as compared to last year. With just 14.4% women parliamentarians elected in the recent 2019 Lok Sabha elections, India is still much below the global average of 25.6%. Women continue to be grossly underrepresented in Indian politics.
The above are some of the parameters we, at Femme First Foundation, have tracked this year. As we aim to increase representation of women in politics and normalise feminist leadership, we feel it is imperative to also shed light on the various kinds of oppression women continue to face and initiate conversations on how to address them. Our annual #StatusOfWomen Report series is a step towards that direction.
Note: Updated data for the following parameters that were covered in the previous report were unavailable: a) Gender Inequality Index and b) Trolling of Women in Politics
(This report is prepared by our Student Volunteer, Damini Nair. Damini is a 12th-grade student based in Trivandrum, Kerala. She aspires to be a bio-scientist and also hopes to make contributions for the betterment of society.)