Gender Inequality and Empowerment of Women in India

Pre-University Paper, 2012

24 Pages, Grade: 15,00



1. Introduction

2. Gender Inequality
2.1. Reasons for Gender Inequality
2.2. Sectors of Distinction
2.2.1. Economy
2.2.2. Education
2.2.3. Health and Survival
2.3. Female Foeticide as a Practice of Gender Inequality
2.4. Ultra-Sonography as a Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique
2.5. Consequences of Gender Inequality
2.5.1. Bride Shortage
2.5.2. Mental Disorders

3. Empowerment of Women
3.1. Political Empowerment
3.2. Social Empowerment
3.2.1. The Swayam Shikshan Prayog
3.2.2. Childline Foundation India
3.3. Economic Empowerment

4. Conclusion

Works Cited



“Thank god I’m a woman” was the famous slogan of the fashion store “Orsay”. This sentence might fit in commercials but to me it seems like it would not be true in real live. It does not only happen in India, where girls and women have to be grateful that their parents “let them be born and educated” (o.s. 1), but also in Germany, where women earn around one fourth less than men for the same work (c.f. o.s. 2). Furthermore, the reputation of German women compared to German men is also not too good. The overall opinion about them is that they are complicated and difficult to understand, but also that they are fascinating and beautiful (see table 1). What was surprising to me is that almost every woman feels disadvantaged compared with males but all men feel disadvantaged in comparison with women, too. According to the opinion of a female backpacker who travelled through India for almost two years, in India it seems to be the case that almost all women see themselves as deprived or even disadvantaged by men and that men often feel “superior” compared with women. This results from the basic expectations women have to fulfil: working hard and being obedient (FWU 0:91) whereas they themselves don’t expect too much from their husbands (FWU 1:28). The phenomenon of gender inequality has reasons and origins that are deeply rooted in the Indian society. Many people from western countries do not know much about India. All they have in mind about this country is that in India there is “dowry” and “curry” and that they don’t have many women. With my work, I want to explain the phenomenon, outline the reasons for gender inequality and I am going to show that the Indian society is on its way to improve the situation for women in India.



According to the Polity-Social Science and Humanities Glossary, gender inequality is the “difference in status, power and prestige women and men have […]” (o .s. 3). In India, this phenomenon reaches far more areas of life and is firmly entrenched in people’s minds than it is mentioned in this definition. There are many reasons for gender inequality which show up more some in families than in others. In rather tradition-bound families, parents are very proud about the reputation of their name. Thus, they won’t relinquish the social status they reach when the wife is conceiving a boy-child (c.f. o.s. 4). The tradition they invoke is Dharma, the inheritance of family property. In addition, it is determined that only the father in his function as the head of the family can perform Sraddha, a ritual for dead relatives. These sacramental values of a boy child go beyond the female gift of Kanyadan, her virginity (c.f. Moghadam 166). Furthermore, traditional Hindu parents attach value to their sons performing their last rites whereas the economic aspect of having a girl child counts for all families. In case of having a girl child, parents have to consider the amount of money they have to pay for the girl’s dowry (or since the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 so called “wedding gifts” (c.f. o.s. 5)) and the fact that a female child won’t earn any money for her family because she will marry and leave her kinfolk (c.f. Moghadam 166). Sons however are the providers of the family and function as a kind of retirement provision for their parents, as only 10% of the Indian population has health insurance (c.f. o.s. 6). Another argument for not bringing up a girl child is that girls need extra care in order to portray an interesting bride for rich grooms which includes the maintenance of the girl’s virginity for her future husband. This gets more difficult if the girl attends a school or is at least to some extent independent. Among the Indian people there is the pervasive metaphor that “raising a girl child is like watering your neighbour’s garden” (o.s. 7). This illustrates how deep the prejudices and the rejection for girls are rooted in people’s mind. The fact that the metaphor is still being used in the 21st century shows that the anticipation of girls leaving their family is still usual and not meant to change. Thus, it is deductive logic that families prefer having boys and take measures to avoid having girls.


“Women do two thirds of the world’s work. Yet they earn only one tenth of the world’s income and own less than one per cent of the world’s property. They are among the poorest of the world’s poor.” (Calvert 19)

This is also shown by the UNDP’s human development report which reveals that 70% of all people living on less than one $ per day are women (o.s. 8). This is caused by the distinction between men and women which is extending into certain parts of life.

2.1.1. ECONOMY

For women, it is way harder to gain ground in economy. As a result of the double burden of “productive and reproductive activities” (Purushothaman 49), a women’s work is often invisible and her contribution to the survival of the family is often unrecognised, because their wages often go to their husbands and his family, or are seen as family income. Another problem is that women are isolated from cash economy. Either they have jobs in the subsistence sector or in cash crop productions. If women produce goods, their husbands sell these. In case the husband is not involved in the woman’s business, there is a middle man between her and her customers. This leads to low wages which cannot be invested (c.f. Purushothaman 49). Thus, those primary producers at the grassroots level “have little control over the means of production or distribution of their goods” (Padmavati 331). This fact determines the banks not to give loans as frequent to women as to men, also because women are considered to be less reliable and too poor (c.f. Padmavati 332). This vicious circle of low wages, isolation from cash economy and unemployment finally leads to the phenomenon of the “Feminization of Poverty” (Tibos 1). It’s defined as “the phenomenon in which women experience poverty at far higher rates than men” (Tibos 1). There are several other aspects which lead to this problem. One of them is the gender distinction in education.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

In India, there are about 6.500.000 primary schools but only round 15.000 of them are girls’ schools. Furthermore, the primary school net enrolment of boys was 97%, that of girls only 94% and the net attendance of males 85% and that of girls 81% (c.f. o.s. 9). These differences in registration numbers are caused by poverty which leads to the fact that parents cannot or do not want to pay the fees. In addition, older girls who have to take care of their siblings are not allowed to go to school because their parents often have the consciousness that the subject materials are unnecessary to know for the girls because they are expected to marry and leave the family. Another reason for the difference in school enrolment is that there’s a lack of female teachers, girl schools, facilities like separated toilets for boys and girls and a lack of means of transport that bring children to school. Hence, sons are more likely to be sent to a school (c.f. o.s. 10). What we have to bear in mind is that what happens in schools is just the extension of what happens at home of these girls and in society as a whole (c.f. o.s. 10).


“In India, approximately 1.72 million children die each year before reaching their first birthday” (o.s. 11). Worldwide, there are 9.7 mio child deaths annually and one third of them occur in India (c.f. o.s. 11). The most obvious reasons for those numbers might be poverty, diseases or a lack of access to health care in India. But countries with a similar GDP per capita (Table 2) like e.g. Ghana with 1,570 US$ have (India has 1,489 US$) an infant mortality rate which is 7,37 deaths per 1,000 live births lower than the infant mortality rate in India (c.f. o.s. 12). Furthermore, according to a UNICEF survey of 2007, India has an abnormal high infant mortality rate for girls: their infant mortality rate is 40% higher than for boys of the same age (c.f. o.s. 9). Thus there have to be other reasons in India. The reasons for the elevated infant mortality rate are called female foeticide and female infanticide. Approximately 1 million foetuses are aborted every year in India (c.f. o.s. 13), a phenomenon called female foeticide. There are interviews with mid-wives from the state of Bihar admitting that they are being paid for killing almost 50% of the baby girls they delivered (c. f. Aravamudan 157-159). Female infanticide describes the phenomenon of deliberately killing female children. As there’s no “legislative compulsory” (o.s. 13) of registrating children after their birth, there are hardly any statistics about female infanticide in India.


“Female foeticide is defined as aborting a female foetus after sex determination test or pre-natal diagnostic test which includes Ultra- Sonography, Foetoscopy, Placental tissue sampling [and] Amniocentesis.” (o.s. 14)


An ultrasound device transmits high frequency sound waves through the woman’s uterus. These waves are reflected by the baby. The returning sound waves are translated by a computer so that a picture of the baby’s position and movement can be seen on the screen. Usually, an Ultra-Sonography examination is carried out in order to check e.g. the position of the placenta or the development and number of babies and also to indetify the gender of the foetus (c.f. o.s. 15). Unfortunately, this function of gender determination is often misused in India. There’s NFHS-3 proving that due to the usage of ultrasound, there are on average 72,2 girls less on 1,000 boys (Table 5).

Extremely conspicuous is the gap arising in the highest wealth quintile: without an ultrasound test during pregnancy, there are 935 completed pregnancies with a girl on 1,000 completed pregnancies with boys and with an ultrasoundtest during pregnancy, there are only 818. This is a difference of 117 girls. These numbers show, that ultrasound technology is severely used to practice female foeticide, even though you cannot determine the sex of the foetus with a certainty of 100% (c.f. o.s. 15).



The worst consequence of gender inequality might be the bride shortage. A typical example for that issue is Nachhatta Singh from Punjab (sex ratio: 839 females per 1,000 males), who bought his bride for around 1,000 rupees. He said: “Punjab’s sex ratio left me no alternative but to shop for a bride from wherever I could. At this rate there will be no Punjab brides left for my sons” (o.s. 16). Thus, it happens more often that men pay for their brides and not the other way round with the women’s families paying dowry for their daughters. Again, money is playing a big role in the search for a suitable partner. Even though only ten per cent of the Indian population have access to Internet (S. Kumar), there are pages like (o.s. 17), on which you can delve your future partner for age, mother tongue, marital status, religion, country and even caste. Furthermore, a black market is on the rise in India. Human traffickers supply wives from states with a rather equal gender balance, often states where many families are too poor to afford abortion, to states with sex ratios in favour of males (c.f. o.s. 18,6).


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Gender Inequality and Empowerment of Women in India
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gender, inequality, empowerment, women, india
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Veronika Eder (Author), 2012, Gender Inequality and Empowerment of Women in India, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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