Gender Discrimination in India: A treatise

In India, discriminatory attitude towards women has existed for generations and affects the lives of all citizens. Although the Constitution of India has granted men and women equal rights, gender disparity is an everyday struggle. Gender discrimination violates not only human rights but also fundamental rights. There is plenty of research being done on the topic, across the country. Indian laws on rape, dowry and adultery have women’s safety at heart, but the situation on the ground is far from equitable.


Gender inequality in India reflects in the spheres of health, education, economics and politics. A few of the most dangerous manifestations are in India’s skewed sex ratio, women’s deteriorating health, their educational qualifications, and economic conditions. Let’s analyse the causes that drive this discriminatory behavior:



23% of India’s population lies below the poverty line (ie: live on less than $2 per day on PPP). A large percentage of this group are female. Women’s poverty in India is directly related to the absence of economic opportunities and autonomy, lack of access to economic resources including credit , land ownership and inheritance, lack of access to education and support services and their minimal participation in the decision making process. 


Despite the notable efforts by the countries around the globe, there are approximately 960 million illiterate adults of whom two thirds are women. Educational backwardness of the girls has been the resultant cause of gender discrimination.


According to the Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2011, India was ranked 113 on the Gender Gap Index (GGI) among 135 countries polled. Since then, India has improved its rankings on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index (GGI) to 105/136 in 2013. When broken down into components of the GGI, India performs well on political empowerment, but is scored to be as bad as China on sex selective abortion. India also scores poorly on overall female to male literacy and health rankings. India with a 2013 ranking of 101 had an overall score of 0.6551, while Iceland, the nation that topped the list, had an overall score of 0.8731 (no gender gap would yield a score of 1.0).

Alternate measures include OECD‘s Social Institutions Gender Index (SIGI), which ranked India at 56th out of 86 in 2012, which was an improvement from its 2009 rank of 96th out of 102. The SIGI is a measure of discriminatory social institutions that are drivers of inequalities, rather than the unequal outcomes themselves. Similarly, UNDP has published Gender Inequality Index and ranked India at 132 out of 148 countries.


Different states and union territories of India, in cooperation with the central government, have initiated a number of region-specific programs targeted at women to help reduce gender inequality over the 1989-2013 period. Some of these programs include Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana, Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana, Awareness Generation Projects for Rural and Poor women, Condensed Course of Education for Adult Women, Kishori Shakti Yojana, Swayamsidha Mahila Mandal Programme, Rashtriya Mahila Kosh, Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women, Swawalamban Programme, Swashakti Project, Swayamsidha Scheme, Mahila Samakhya Programme, Integrated Child Development Services, Balika Samriddhi Yojana, National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (to encourage rural girls to attend primary school daily), National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level, Sarva Shiksha Abyhiyan, Ladli Laxmi Yojana, Delhi Ladli Scheme and others.


Bombay High Court, recently in March 2016 has ruled out a judgement that “Married daughters are also obligated to take care of their parents”. This is a very bold step towards breaking the traditional norms of the defined roles in the society. Also this shall also motivate women to be more independent not only for themselves but also for their parents. Let’s hope the reverse is also true – that with Responsibility comes Power!




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