Work or home, no say for women in India!

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group

There are just 10.9 per cent households in India headed by women compared to a massive 89.1 per cent of male headed households, according to a Census of India-2011 report. The ‘Houses, household amenities and assets’ report shows men head 21.98 crore households in India while women head just 2.69 crore households. It is, if anything, yet another indicator of glaring gender disparities plaguing India society.

Gender disparities also persist in access to finance and possession of assets with households headed by women fare poor. The data reveals that around 29 per cent of female headed households don’t possess any asset such as radio/ TV/ telephone/bicycle/scooter/car. However, in respect of male headed households, only 16.5 per cent have no assets. Around 18 per cent of female-headed households had to travel more than 500 metres in urban areas and one km in rural areas to fetch drinking water. It shows India has failed to provide safe drinking water at the doorstep of every household.

Poor economic condition and migration has contributed to the growth of single women headed households, Dr Sukant Chaudhury, University of Lucknow said, “in India women can never be accepted as the household head, unless they are widows or deserted by their husbands. It is obvious that after losing the male head of the family, financial crunch is bound to occur.”

Not just Census report but, the issue of less participation of women in decision making has also been raised in the 14th issue of the report named “Women and men in India-2012” released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

The report reveals, 46.1 per cent of women in 15-19 of age group were not involved in any decision-making within the family as compared to 12.8 per cent of women within 40-79 years age bracket. The second least participation in household decision-making was found within women of 20-24 years of age group at 31.1 per cent.

The four categories that were compiled to conclude the decision-making share pertaining to household chores were personal healthcare decision, making major household purchases, purchasing daily household needs, and visits to family and relatives based on the results of National Family Health Survey–III (2005-06).

The report concludes that the participation of married women in household decision-making increases with age but it is usually due to close association with their husbands.

Independent participation of married women was recorded highest only during purchase of daily household needs at 32.4 per cent. Except this particular decision, participation of married women was highly associated and dependent on their husbands.

Involvement of married women along with their husbands was recorded highest during visits to family and relatives at 49.8 per cent.

Ironically, the matter of gender disparity is not just limited to household decision making but the biasness is deep rooted in the workforce participation and remuneration as well.

The 68th Round Survey by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) claims that men are paid more than women. At the national level, average wages earned by regular wage/salaried employees is Rs 396 per day (Rs 299 in rural areas and Rs 450 in urban areas).

Similarly, International Labour Organisation (ILO) report shows that India’s labour force participation rate for women fell from just over 37 per cent in 2004-05 to 29 per cent in 2009-10. What’s even worse, India was ranked 11th from the bottom in female labour force participation among 131 countries for which data was available.

Shaina NC, treasurer of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) - Maharashtra took a different stand on the issue. She said, “Economic disparity alongside gender disparity is rising in the country as despite completing 66 years of independence, Indian women are still subjected to the age-old social stigma.”

Shaina further added, “Deep inside our hearts most of us strongly believe that women can never be equal to men.”

The report released in Februray’2013 further shows not just India but the whole of South Asia is suffering from similar scarcity of women labour force. While 80 per cent of men in the region are either employed or searching for a job, the number for women is much lower at 32 per cent.

Dwelling on the plight of women in the Indian society, Dr. Ushwinder Kaur Popli, Associate professor at the department of social work, Jamia Millia Islamia said, “Across India women have been working all throughout the day as housewives getting either no pay or appreciation for their hard work. If we convert their labour into Gross Development Product (GDP), then we can actually understand the worth of their struggle.”

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