New Delhi: India is struggling to meet the goals of gender equality, according to the Niti Aayog’s latest Sustainable Development Goals-India Index report.
According to the report, released last week, gender equality and zero hunger remain the two goals under the SDG-India index that require “special attention” as the overall country score for these two goals is below 50 for the second consecutive year.
The index divided states and UTs into the following four categories on the basis of scores: aspirants (0-49), performer (50-64), front-runner (65-99) and achiever (100).
No state bagged a position in the front-runner category. Only two UTs — Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry — could make it to this segment.
Chhattisgarh was the top performer among states with a score of 64.
A total of 18 states and UTs made it to the performer category: Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Karnataka, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Chandigarh, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli & Daman and Diu
Others remained in the aspirants category: Gujarat, Bihar, Nagaland, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Manipur, Telangana, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Delhi.
The scores were arrived at based on parameters including sex ratio at birth, ratio of female to male average wage/salary earnings received among regular wage/ salaried employees, rate of crimes against women per 1,00,000 female population, etc.
Crime against women
For every 1 lakh female population in India, about 62 cases of crime were reported.
Like in 2019, the highest rate of crime against women was witnessed in Assam at 178 and Delhi at 144. The lowest rate was in Nagaland at 4, and Puducherry at 12.
The report cited National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports to note that for every 1 lakh female population, 20 experienced domestic violence. Here too, Assam and Delhi have recorded the highest number of victims at 71 and 41, respectively.
Sex ratio, representation of women, closing wage gap
While sex ratio at birth in India is 899 females per 1,000 males, the report said that the target is to achieve at least 950 females for 1,000 males.
Chhattisgarh and Kerala surpassed this target with a sex ratio at birth of 958 and 957, respectively, in 2019-20. Chhattisgarh reported a sex ratio of 961 in the previous index as well.
The country noted a marginal improvement in women in leadership, moving from 8.32 per cent to 8.46 per cent seats in the state legislative assemblies.
However, the report noted that the target is to have 50 per cent of the seats to be held by men and women each. No state/UT has achieved this target yet. Chhattisgarh and West Bengal have the highest women in legislatures while Mizoram and Nagaland are the worst performers with no women representation.
While the aim is to achieve equal pay for men and women, the average wage/salary earned by women is only three-fourth that of men. In addition only 190 women are in managerial positions for every 1,000 persons, against the target of at least 245 women.
In terms of operational land holding too, while there has been a marginal increase, it isn’t enough.
“According to the Agriculture Census (2015-16), the percentage share of female operational landholders has increased from 12.79 percent in 2010-11 to 13.96 percent in 2015-16, which is still far from desirable,” the report said.
Need to move beyond specific SDG, say activists
Activists told ThePrint that while India’s gender equality performance needs attention, there is a need to look at every SDG goal from a gender lens.
“Not just India, we have seen through the Equal Measures 2030 initiative that no country globally has achieved the SDG goal of 100 in gender equality,” said Renu Khanna, who runs the NGO Sahaj that works on SDGs.
“Having said that, while India’s gender equality SDG includes important parameters and indicators but the point is every SDG has an implication on women’s life so we need to look at every SDG from a gender perspective and see how those are affecting women and girls and non binaries to assess progress on gender equality,” said Khanna.
In addition, activists also said that there is a need to move to sex disaggregated data on all parameters to understand progress in SDG goals.
“This index relies heavily on quantitative data and much of this data is not sex disaggregated. We need more and more sex disaggregated data in order for us to be able to assess how we are progressing towards SDGs,” Khanna added.
Poonam Muttreja, executive director, Population Foundation of India, said it is important going forward to apply a gender lens while designing programmes to address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
“We must prioritise social and behaviour change communication strategies to not only fight stigma, myths and misconceptions surrounding Covid-19 but also to change false notions of masculinity and ensure greater agency and autonomy to women in order to reduce persistent gender inequalities,” she said.
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