In the latest gender gap index report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) India keeps company with the worst in the world. Among the 128 countries that have been evaluated by the WEF India ranked 114 followed among others by Yemen, Chad, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Even China, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Botswana fare much better than us.
The survey considers the proportion of resources and opportunities made available to women on educational, economic, political and health parities. It is only in the realm of political empowerment India has done somewhat ok ranking 21st. That is also thanks to a long spell of prime minister ship by Mrs. Indira Gandhi. It raises question as why women are at receiving end if they are politically empowered.
India is still largely a feudal and patriarchal society. In many parts of our country especially in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab women are often treated as if they were a piece of property. In these parts the sex-ratio is most skewed because families often snuff out the lives of girl children before or immediately after they are born. In many parts of India women are viewed as an economic liability despite contributing in several ways to our society and economy.
India's policies and projects for women are woefully inadequate. For instance the literacy rate for females is merely 48% against 73% for males. Public health is another area of failure. Hundreds of women in rural India die every year during child birth for want of medical attention. There are thousands more who do not even have access to a primary health centre. Importantly reforming property laws more vigorously so that gender parity becomes a reality must rank among the government's priorities.
While these changes are necessary they will amount to nothing if we as a society continue to deny our women the dignity, liberty and opportunities that are rightfully theirs. No society will ever prosper as a whole as long as half of it is constantly treated as somehow less than the other half.