Social media fails to bridge the gender divide in India

By ZRG | Updated: Mar 11, 2013, 00:27 AM IST

Siddharth Tak/ZRG

Digital connect is said to be the most potent tool to bridge the gender divide in the country. But India has failed this test as well. Craze to log on to the social media escalated India to the third most user base nation at Facebook. But the number of women users of the world’s largest social media network, Facebook, was among the lowest in the world.

India has clearly emerged as among the fastest growing markets for social media but when it comes to representation of women users it is as low as 25 percent at Facebook. Ironically, while India on last count, had about 62 million users in India, next only to US and Brazil, women users were third lowest in world, marginally better than Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

A Zee Research Group (ZRG) analysis of the data compiled by the social analytics firm, Social bakers revealed that at the end of February 2013, Afghanistan had tumbled to the bottom of the list with only 16 per cent female Facebook users. The second rank from the bottom was shared by Yemen and Bangladesh each having 22 per cent female Facebook users.

Even neighboring countries like China (39 percent), Sri Lanka (32 percent), Nepal (31 percent) and Pakistan (30 percent) have more female Facebook users than India (25 percent). The top five countries in the world where Facebook is widely used overall are the United State of America (US), Brazil, India, Indonesia and Mexico. Interestingly, US ranked first with 55 per cent of female Facebook users, followed by Brazil (54 percent), Mexico (50 percent), and Indonesia (41 percent).

Explaining the rationale behind the poor women count at Facebook, Pavan Duggal, Cyber law expert affirmed, “The usage of social media sites by women in India is relatively low when compared to other nations. The major reason is the predominance of Indian men over women in the country. Furthermore, lack of cyber security mechanism deters females from using social networking site like Facebook.”

In sync with Duggal, Abha Chauhan, Professor at Department of Sociology, University of Jammu, opined, “In India, less exposure is given to women. Women in rural India are completely unaware about the usage of social media sites.”

According to Socialbakers, at the end of February 2013, there were 6, 14, 99, 220 Facebook users in the India which is nearly 5 per cent of the country’s population. Moreover, India is considered as the potential growth market for Facebook.

Experts aver that while social media penetration was primarily an urban phenomenon, many women in big metros were indeed logged in but with fake details to prevent being identified. The social media growth here has coincided with key metros witness to cases where girls were allegedly lured into offline relationships that turned sour leading to enactment of crime.