Geneva-based World Economic Forum has sounded the alarm on India’s falling gender parity, suggesting the country not only ranks low globally on gender divide, but its record is the worst among BRICS economies. Placing India at 114 out of 142 nations vis-à-vis removing gender-based disparities, the survey, however, puts the country at 15 on the scorecard for political empowerment. India also tops the list of countries on the years with a woman head of state over the past 50 years. The warning comes at a time when much of the rest of the world has moved ahead to bridge the gap in the past decade. This shows that political empowerment alone is not enough to reduce gender parity and measures like reservation for women in central and state legislatures will have a marginal impact on the condition of women unless they are accompanied by social and economic empowerment.
The lopsided nature of India’s development has been emphasised by the saying that the country lives in several centuries at the same time. While it is capable of sending rockets to the moon and to Mars, there are elements in the rural badlands who issue diktats prohibiting women from carrying mobiles or marrying a person of their choice. The social clout which they wield gives legitimacy to the age-old view that boys are more desirable than girls and that the place of women is in the kitchen.
But, it isn’t only in rural areas that such antediluvian views prevail, for a majority of the clandestine medical “clinics” which conduct female foeticide are based in towns and patronised by supposedly educated middle class families. Since legal bars against such abominations have not proved to be effective, an intensive educative campaign on radio, television, newspapers and magazines has to be carried out about the immorality of such practices and about the rights of women to live their own lives. Besides, the penalties for anti-women crimes have to be raised manifold to eradicate the menace.