Monday, November 9, 2009

Gender Inequality Worst in South Asia

Gender gaps are among the widest in South Asia. Pakistan is ranked at 132, third from the bottom on a list of 134 nations compiled by the World Economic Forum for 2009. The 2009 ranking represents a slip of five places in the Global Gender Gap Index 2009 from 127th spot to 132nd from among 134 countries, showing an "absolute decline relative to its performance in 2008."

The Global Gender Gap Report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four critical areas:

1. Economic participation and opportunity: Outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment

2. Educational attainment: Outcomes on access to basic and higher level education

3. Political empowerment: Outcomes on representation in decision-making structures

4. Health and survival: Outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio

The country profile of Pakistan shows that it is ranked 132 in economic participation and opportunity, 128 in education attainment and health and survival and 55 in political empowerment. Pakistan’s position was 112 in the year 2006 that declined to 126 in 2007 and then 128 in 2008.

Only Chad and Yemen rank worse than Pakistan this year. This is not a surprise considering one of the lowest female literacy rates in Pakistan. Pakistan's gender gap of 27% in literacy is worse than India's 22%. At overall literacy rate of only 52%, and with more than 50 million people illiterate, Pakistan has one of the lowest overall literacy rates in Asia. The literacy rate for males over 15 years is 63% while that for females is 36% in Pakistan. Only Yemen's literacy gender gap is worse than South Asia's.

In spite of the grim picture painted by the WEF, the status of women in Pakistan, and the rest of South Asia, continues to vary considerably across different classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and urban social customs on women's lives. While some women are soaring in the skies as pilots of passenger jets and supersonic fighter planes, others are being buried or burned alive for defying traditions. Girls account for 53% of all college students in Pakistan, according to the 2005 Education Census.

Sri Lanka, ranked at 16 ahead of the United States at 31, is the shining exception to the rest of South Asia in terms of gender parity.

Ranked 114, India has fared better than Pakistan. But the WEF survey indicates that India is behind Bangladesh (94) and Nepal (110) - affirming that women in these countries share resources with men more equally than in India. Echoing concerns of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen over female infanticide and 25 million "missing women" in India, the WEF rankings bring out the gender gap on health and survival issues. India's gender gap of 22% in literacy is also among the worst in the world.

India ranks 24 for women's political participation. It stands at 121st position in education gap and 127th place on economic participation gap. On its health gender gap, India ranks dead last at 134th.

"While India, Iran and Pakistan perform very poorly on the economic, education and health subindexes, their overall scores are partially bolstered by relatively good performances on political empowerment," the WEF said.

WEF said close to 300 Indian women die every day during childbirth or of pregnancy-related causes, and the country has the worst sex ratios at birth in the world, ranking 131st on this variable. India holds last place among the BRIC countries on the the WEF gender Index, behind Russia (51), China (60) and Brazil (82).

Of the 25 Muslim nations included in the survey, fourteen rank above India and eleven rank below. Most of the Islamic countries ranking higher than India are located in Central and East Asia.

Overall, Nordic nations offer women the most equal treatment compared to men, with Iceland ranking number one, followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden. Ranked ninth, the Philippines is the only Asian country in the top 10. It has “closed the gender gap on both education and health”, according to the WEF. The UK ranks 15 and the United States at 31.

Clearly, South Asians in general, and Pakistanis in particular, have a long way to go toward achieving any semblance of gender parity. They can definitely look to Sri Lanka for inspiration to close the gender gap.

Here's a video about women literacy in South Asia:



Here's another video on Pakistan Air Force Female Pilots:



Related Link:

WEF Gender Gap Rankings 2009

Dalit Victims of Indian Apartheid

Global Gender Gap Rankings 2008

India at Bottom in Gender Equality

Sex Ratios at Birth

Female Literacy Lags Far Behind in India and Pakistan

Female Genocide Unfolding in India

Status of Women in Pakistan

40 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Women's salary in India, less than a third of men's

By siliconindia news bureau
Monday,09 November 2009, 18:57 hrs

New Delhi: There is a large difference in the salary structure of men and women in corporate India. The average annual income of a woman is $1,185, which is less than one-third of a man's $3,698, employed in Indian companies.

According to the survey done by World Economic Forum (WEF), there is a yawning gender gap in corporate India in the employment of women from the entry level to the top management of companies. As reported by Financial Chronicle, the survey, based on responses of 60 of the 100 best employers in India, showed that women employees held only 10 percent of the senior management positions in two-thirds of the surveyed companies. None of the companies had women chief executive officers (CEOs) and almost 40 percent of the respondents had only 10 percent women work force.



Only four percent of the companies surveyed monitor salary gaps. However, 84 percent of the companies surveyed don't believe there is a wage gap, while the remaining 12 percent do not track wage gaps at all. "It's not okay in India if a woman brandishes a whiskey bottle and sells it," said Vijay Mallya, Chairman, UB Group, implying that cultural and social norms prevented some work environments to be naturally women-unfriendly.

Saadia Zahidi, the Co-author of the study said, "Women will need to be more efficiently integrated into the economy in order to boost India's long-term competitive potential. The WEF's survey of some of the largest companies in India shows that to achieve this integration, Indian companies will need to set targets, improve policies to close salary gaps and promote work-life balance."

PepsiCo Chairman and CEO, Indra Nooyi said that there was a need to educate the male population about women empowerment, besides educating the female population. "If you do not treat the women well, society will not progress," added Indra.

India ranks 114th among 134 countries in the WEF's India gender gap review 2009. It has closed 93 percent of its health gender gap, ranking 134th out of as many economies. It stands at 121st position in education gap with 84 percent and is at 127th place with 41 percent of economic participation gap. Besides, it is ranked 24th with 27 percent of the political empowerment gender gap, according to the study.

"The issues are all very critical. They are importantly integrated in terms of moving a country forward. The common ingredient in most studies is the recognition that investment in women and girls correlates positively to economic growth and poverty alleviation," said Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-large for global women's issues.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report from Indian Express today:

Two days after he said women could be recruited as fighter pilots only if they did not become mothers till a certain age, Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal P K Barbora on Thursday took a swipe at the political class, saying politics over defence purchases impinged “very badly” on the country’s military requirements.

“As far as defence goes, we don’t even match up with Pakistan,” Barbora, while referring to Defence exports, told an aerospace seminar organised in New Delhi by the CII.

“The internal politics over the years is such that whatever defence requirements are cleared by the government, they are opposed by the opposition parties and the same happens when roles change and the opposition sits in government. That impinges very badly on our defence requirements.”

He asked the private defence industry to take note of the China example on reverse engineering of defence technologies. “Forget about ethics. China has done reverse engineering. Has anyone ever had the courage to ask China why are you doing it? No one cares a hoot. If you can’t do it yourself, you should know how to do reverse engineering.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Haaretz report about high unemployment of Arab women in Israel:

Nearly 11,000 Arab women with college degrees are unemployed, according to a study carried out by Yaser Awad of Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel, on Arab women in the employment market. Some 58 percent of these unemployed women place the blame for this on a shortage of work, while only 29 percent attribute it to cultural reasons, according to a study conducted by Dr. Yousef Jabareen of the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.

To underscore Steinitz's point, the finance minister added that the low rate of participation of Arab women in the labor market was characteristic of societies in Arab countries. But here too, he was not being precise.

The number of Arab women employed in Israel is very low compared to the total number of women who are employed in Israel - 21.1 percent compared with 51.3 percent. On the other hand, the rate of female employment in Saudi Arabia and Oman - two countries generally considered to have low female employment rates - is 29 percent and 27 percent, respectively. The rate in Morocco is 41.9 percent, and as high as 63.3 percent in Mauritania.

These figures are inconsistent with Steinitz's explanations about the "cultural obstacles, traditional frameworks and the belief that Arab women have to remain in their hometowns" that he says "hold back this population's integration in the work force."

It is not difficult to find strong-willed and capable women among the large number of unemployed Arab college graduates whose very decision to leave the house to pursue their studies, with the intention of working in one profession or another, shatter the minister's claims of "cultural" and "traditional" barriers to employment. On the other hand, the poor infrastructure and almost total absence of public transit to and from the Arab villages play a central role in the women's social exclusion and have a negative effect on their ability - though not their desire - to join the work force.

A 2007 survey by the Kayan feminist organization for Arab women in Israel found that the public transit to and from 11 Arab communities in the Galilee and the Triangle region was less developed than the transportation in other parts of the country. The buses do not usually enter the Arab villages, forcing passengers to get on and off the bus at junctions leading to the villages. In addition, the buses only come in the early morning and at the end of the work day. For the most part, the buses run on main thoroughfares and through Jewish towns, and there is only one bus that serves a number of Arab villages, making the ride slow and tedious.

To this must be added the shortage of government employment assistance - there are only 14 Employment Service branches in Arab communities - and the lack of suitable employment training programs. Other factors that contribute to the low employment rate include the shortage of day-care centers in Arab towns (of 1,600 day-care centers for children under 3 that receive government assistance, only 25 operate in Arab communities) and government-supported industrial zones (only 3.2 percent are in Arab areas). In addition, Arab women constitute a mere 3 percent of civil servants, even though the civil service is the largest employer of women in Israel.

The so-called social characteristics the finance minister spoke about therefore only partially explain the low participation rate of Arab women in the work force. The minister has placed the burden of proof on the Arab women while he frees his ministry and the government of all responsibility and ignores the disparity in government assistance cited here, which stems from a government policy of deliberate and consistent discrimination against Arab citizens.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a report in the Indian media with an Indian official Syeda Hameed admitting that India is doing worse than Pakistan and Bangladesh on nutrition:

New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) India is worse than Bangladesh and Pakistan when it comes to nourishment and is showing little improvement in the area despite big money being spent on it, says Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed.


'There has been an enormous infusion of funds. But the National Family Health Survey gives a different story on malnourishment in the country. We don't know, something is just not clicking,' Hameed said.


Speaking at a conference on 'Malnutrition an emergency: what it costs the nation', she said even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during interactions with the Planning Commission has described malnourishment as the 'blackest mark'.


'I should not compare. But countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are better,' she said. The conference was organised Monday by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Ministry of Development of Northeastern Region.


According to India's National Family Health Survey, almost 46 percent of children under the age of three are undernourished - an improvement of just one percent in the last seven years. This is only a shade better than Sub-Saharan Africa where about 35 percent of children are malnourished.


Hameed said the government's Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme, which is a flagship programme to improve the health of women and children, had not shown results despite a lot of money being spent on it in the past few years.


'We have not been successful in improving the status of health of our women and children,' she added.


The annual budget for women and child development (WCD) ministry in 2008-9 is Rs.72 billion. Of this, Rs.63 billion is for ICDS.


According to Unicef, every year 2.1 million children in India die before celebrating their fifth birthday. While malnutrition is the primary reason behind it, other factors like lack of health facilities, hygiene and good nutrition compound the problem.


Narrating her experiences while travelling the length and breadth of the country, Hameed said in many areas women were still starving and finding it difficult to feed their children.


She said emphasis should be given on inclusive breast-feeding for six months after a child's birth, maternity benefits for pregnant women and food fortification of ready to eat mid-day meals.


'We are concerned and worried that we are losing human beings in such a manner. It is a disappointment and a blot. We have just improved a fraction and we are determined that we do not let it get worse,' she said.


'It is frustrating to see this dark and dismal picture of undernourishment in the country. We have to learn the experiences from other South Asian countries,' she added.


The NFHS survey found that levels of anaemia in children and women had worsened compared to seven years ago -- around 56 percent of women and 79 percent of children below three years are anaemic.


Vinita Bali, managing director of Britannia Industries, said the problem was very critical and action was needed from both the government and the industry.


She said their 'Tiger' biscuits had been fortified with iron and had shown amazing results. These biscuits have been provided to children in Hyderabad with a midday meal.


'We conducted a study and found that in six months of taking these biscuits, the haemoglobin increased. The biscuits are not only healthy but also fortified,' she said.


'There should be a balance between prevention and treatment. Our focus should be to target the most vulnerable and then only we will have a much healthier future for India,' he added.

http://newshopper.sulekha.com/india-worse-than-pakistan-bangladesh-on-nourishment_news_927008.htm

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report about healthcare for mothers giving birth in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD- Pakistan ranks 72 among 75 less-developed countries as the best places to be a mother, in the same list, Sri Lanka ranks 54 and India ranks 70.
These facts were revealed on Saturday in the 10th annual Mothers’ Index issued by “Save the Children”.The global ranking is highlighted in the organization’s State of the World’s Mothers 2009 report, which focuses on the link between investing in early learning opportunities for young children and success in school. The Mothers’ Index was based on an analysis of indicators of women and children’s health educational, economic status and well being.
The top-10 countries, in general, have very high scores for mothers and children’s health, while the 10 bottom-ranked countries are a reverse image, performing poorly on all indicators. The report intensely presented comparisons of countries in the Mothers Index. In the overall global Mothers Index, Sweden ranks first in the world and Nigeria the last. According to report a typical woman in Pakistan has less than six years of schooling versus a typical woman in India who receives nine years and 12 years in Sri Lanka of formal education.
It also stated that 1 child in 10 does not reach his or her 5th birthday in Pakistan and in Sweden, only 1 child in 333 dies before age of 5.
“Fewer than 39 percent of births are attended by skilled health personnel in Pakistan; 99 percent of births are attended by skilled health personnel in Sri Lanka”, the report further noted. It also informed that female life expectancy in Pakistan is 66, 44 in Afghanistan, 67 in India and 76 in Sri Lanka. While addressing at the occasion Charles MacCormack, President and CEO of “Save the Children” gave detailed description regarding key findings of report.

Masadi said...

Some would argue convincingly that the oppression of women in advanced capitalistic societies is greater than that in classical patriarchal (agricultural) societies. Not only have the roles of women based on sexuality and motherhood been retained in advanced capitalism, marriage has been weakened and sexuality cheapened (thereby logically reducing the status of women in such societies) and equal opportunity has not been created in the job sphere to compensate for that (Hochschild 1983).

Further, women’s oppressors are hidden (unlike patriarchal societies) leading to self blame and invisibility of targets of resistance (Marcuse 1964:32). Also, added to this mix of ultra oppression is the fact of objectification of women (Kilbourne 1999, Marcuse 1964), something unique to capitalist modes of production. The physical veil has been replaced by an implicit personality veil where women are valued based upon sexuality and motherhood only, making everything else about them effectively invisible.

Hochschild, Arlie. 1983 (2003). The Managed Heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kilbourne, Jean. 1999. Deadly Persuasion. New York: The Free Press.

Marcuse, Herbert. 1964. One-Dimensional Man. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.


Marcuse writes "Hatred and Frustration are deprived of their specific target, and the technological veil conceals the reproduction of inequality and enslavement...the slaves of developed industrial civilization are sublimated slaves but they are slaves, for slavery is determined. This is the pure form of servitude: to exist as an instrument, as a thing" (page320)

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a novel use of cell phones in Pakistan to improve literacy:

A literacy programme delivered through the mobile phone to disadvantaged female learners in Punjab showed improved literacy skills.

The five-month programme, initiated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), targeted 250 females aged 15 to 24 years old in three districts.

Pakistan, with half its population illiterate, is the fourth largest contributor to the world illiterate population. The literacy rate for males is 63 per cent, compared to only 36 per cent for females, making the country with one of the widest gap in this region.

One of the main challenges in promoting literacy in the country is the lack of interest, Ichiro Miyazawa of UNESCO Islamabad, told FutureGov. “Many youths, after attending the basic literacy course, often relapse into illiteracy because the available reading materials are either too difficult or not interesting enough.”

In this pilot project which ended last month, these learners who have just completed the basic literacy course, were given a mobile phone each. They receive three text messages a day in the local language. They are required to practise reading and writing the messages in their work book and reply to their teachers by text.

Monthly assessments held at the learning centres showed improvement in literacy skills. While results varied in the three districts – Lahore, Sialkot and Hafizabad – learners who scored C reduced from an average of 52 per cent to 12 per cent.

UNESCO invested US$57 per learner to run this trial programme. Miyazawa expected that cost could be lowered to US$33 if the mobile phones were reused by at least three learners.

“We want the programme to be sustainable. If the learner wishes to continue after completing the programme, he or she can pay US$6 to keep the phone and continue receiving the messages,” he added.

While it will take some time to create awareness and gain acceptance, Miyazawa is confident that the benefits will quickly win the population. “56 per cent of learners and their family members were initially negative about the programme. The parents, in particularly, disapproved of their children carrying mobile phones and doubted that the phones would be used for learning. However, 87 per cent of them were satisfied with the effectiveness of the programme at the end.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent Bloomberg report on sanitation in India:

Until May 2007, Meera Devi rose before dawn each day and walked a half mile to a vegetable patch outside the village of Kachpura to find a secluded place.

Dodging leering men and stick-wielding farmers and avoiding spots that her neighbors had soiled, the mother of three pulled up her sari and defecated with the Taj Mahal in plain view.

With that act, she added to the estimated 100,000 tons of human excrement that Indians leave each day in fields of potatoes, carrots and spinach, on banks that line rivers used for drinking and bathing and along roads jammed with scooters, trucks and pedestrians. Devi looks back on her routine with pain and embarrassment.

“As a woman, I would have to check where the males were going to the toilet and then go in a different direction,” says Devi, 37, standing outside her one-room mud-brick home. “We used to avoid the daytimes, but if we were really pressured, we would have to go any time of the day, even if it was raining. During the harvest season, people would have sticks in the fields. If somebody had to go, people would beat them up or chase them.”

In the shadow of its new suburbs, torrid growth and 300- ­million-plus-strong middle class, India is struggling with a sanitation emergency. From the stream in Devi’s village to the nation’s holiest river, the Ganges, 75 percent of the country’s surface water is contaminated by human and agricultural waste and industrial effluent. Everyone in Indian cities is at risk of consuming human feces, if they’re not already, the Ministry of Urban Development concluded in September.

Economic Drain

Illness, lost productivity and other consequences of fouled water and inadequate sewage treatment trimmed 1.4-7.2 percent from the gross domestic product of Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam in 2005, according to a study last year by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program.

Sanitation and hygiene-related issues may have a similar if not greater impact on India’s $1.2 trillion economy, says Guy Hutton, a senior water and sanitation economist with the program in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Snarled transportation and unreliable power further damp the nation’s growth. Companies that locate in India pay hardship wages and ensconce employees in self- sufficient compounds.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some interesting revelations about Gandhi's attitude toward women, as published in the Guardian newspaper:

During Gandhi's time as a dissident in South Africa, he discovered a male youth had been harassing two of his female followers. Gandhi responded by personally cutting the girls' hair off, to ensure the "sinner's eye" was "sterilised". Gandhi boasted of the incident in his writings, pushing the message to all Indians that women should carry responsibility for sexual attacks upon them. Such a legacy still lingers. In the summer of 2009, colleges in north India reacted to a spate of sexual harassment cases by banning women from wearing jeans, as western-style dress was too "provocative" for the males on campus.

Gandhi believed Indian women who were raped lost their value as human beings. He argued that fathers could be justified in killing daughters who had been sexually assaulted for the sake of family and community honour. He moderated his views towards the end of his life. But the damage was done, and the legacy lingers in every present-day Indian press report of a rape victim who commits suicide out of "shame". Gandhi also waged a war against contraceptives, labelling Indian women who used them as whores.

Like all men who wage a doomed war with their own sexual desires, Gandhi's behaviour around females would eventually become very, very odd. He took to sleeping with naked young women, including his own great-niece, in order to "test" his commitment to celibacy. The habit caused shock and outrage among his supporters. God knows how his wife felt.

Gandhi cemented, for another generation, the attitude that women were simply creatures that could bring either pride or shame to the men who owned them. Again, the legacy lingers. India today, according to the World Economic Forum, finds itself towards the very bottom of the gender equality index. Indian social campaigners battle heroically against such patriarchy. They battle dowry deaths. They battle the honour killings of teenage lovers. They battle Aids. They battle female foeticide and the abandonment of new-born girls.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report about Indian police brutality against a Dalit woman in UP:

A policeman in India has been suspended after television channels broadcast images of him beating a woman.

In the footage, the officer is seen slapping the woman and pushing her to the ground as he continues to punch and kick her in a police station.

The woman is a suspect in her husband's murder.

The incident took place in Amethi town in the northern Uttar Pradesh state. The area is represented in Parliament by Congress Party's Rahul Gandhi.

Correspondents say that the beating highlights the widespread problem of police brutality in India.

'Brutal attack'

The footage appears to show an inspector assaulting the 26-year-old woman in full public view.

The woman, a member of the low-caste Dalit community, is accused of murdering her husband, whose body was found in their house on Tuesday.

Reports said the inspector was trying to "force a confession out of her".

A woman constable stood nearby as the suspect was beaten up.

Human rights activists are "appalled by this brutal attack on a woman".

According to Indian law, there are strict guidelines on the arrest of a woman.

A woman suspect can only be handled by a woman police officer and male policemen are not allowed to touch her.

A policewoman has to be present at all times, including during interrogations.

But most of these guidelines are regularly flouted by policemen in India.

There have been thousands of incidents of police brutality recorded in India in recent years, and in many cases, the victims are low caste and poor.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story from Dawn on the eve of International Women's Day:

ISLAMABAD: Ambreen made Pakistani history by becoming one of the country’s first female fighter pilots, but on Sunday she was due to swap her flight schedule for an arranged marriage.

“It’s all set and planned, but I haven’t talked to him,” she admits, her face scrubbed clean and wearing a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jumpsuit – a far cry from the make-up and ornate gown she’ll wear for the wedding.

The wedding between Flight Lieutenant Ambreen Gul, 25, and an engineer from Islamabad has been arranged by their families in the best Pakistani tradition.

When she wakes up on Monday – International Women’s Day – she’ll be married to a man she has only seen once before and with whom she has barely exchanged a word.

Pakistan is a conservative Muslim country, where the United Nations says only 40 per cent of adult women are literate. Women are victims of violence and abuse, and the country still lacks a law against domestic violence.

But in 2006, seven women broke into one of Pakistan’s most exclusive male clubs to graduate as fighter pilots – perhaps the most prestigious job in the military and for six decades closed to the fairer sex.

Ambreen’s company manager father was delighted. Ironically it was her housewife mother who initially feared her daughter would bring shame on the family.

“It was because of our eastern culture. She thought people would say, ‘Why are you letting your daughter go out of the home?’

She and 26-year-old Flight Lieutenant Nadia Gul say PAF is a trailblazer for women’s rights. As respected officers with a 60,000-rupee-a-month salary, they are living out their dreams.

“It’s a profession of passion. One has to be extremely motivated. I love flying. I love to fly fighter jets, to do something for my country that is very unique,” smiled Ambreen, her hair stuffed into a pony tail.

Signing up aged 18, only a handful of girls beat homesickness and stiff competition to pass a six-month selection process and graduate after three-and-a-half years of training.

“It was the toughest time we’ve ever faced,” Ambreen remembers.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Dawn story today that, in addition to Squash sensation Maria Toor of South Waziristan, talks about Naseem Hameed of Pakistan, the winner of women's 100 meter race at South Asian Games Dhaka:

Before February 2010, Naseem Hameed did not exist in the hearts and minds of Pakistanis. On February 8, while we were mourning our cricket team’s performance she created history by sprinting her way to becoming the fastest woman in South Asia at the South Asian Games.

And, let’s not forget Pakistan’s favorite past time, cricket. Innovations like the reverse swing and doosra are home grown. Fastest century, fastest ball… we seem to grow fast bowlers like road side weed, while our neighboring countries, have not to this date produced a single express bowler.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report of Haryana protests against inter-caste marriages in India:

“Social life and moral dignity are not legal matters, they are domestic issues which are best resolved by elders,” Mahinder Singh Tikait, former Bhartiya Kisan Union president and prominent Jat leader told the gathering.

In a clear warning to political parties, he said, “We are giving the government one month's time to make the necessary changes [to the Hindu Marriage Act]. Also if any political party or leader, local or national, condemns our resolution or creates any hurdle, we will boycott him forever.”

Denying that khap panchayats have ever issued diktats against couples who marry against gotra norms, Dr. Santosh Dahiya said, “The parents kill their children due to the shame they were bringing on the home by incest. What can a khap do?”

Questioning the authority of courts, she said: “The law is meant to protect society. How can it be superior to social norms and traditions? From Manu smriti to the latest medical findings, it is said children born of inter-gotra marriages are deformed or mentally weak. We will make sure that the scientific tradition is alive.”

The mahapanchayat decided to set up a committee here to protect marriage traditions.

In between the meeting of over 36 khaps from Haryana, parts of U.P., Rajasthan and Delhi, a few leaders blocked a road here in protest saying that the Haryana government would have to assure them that it would write to the Centre seeking an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It sought a ban on marriages within a three-gotra distance (one cannot marry within one's own gotra, one's mother's gotra and one's father's mother's gotra), in the same village or in any of the adjoining villages.

Conspiracy angle

Some leaders who stated that caste honour was bigger than law, saw the recent court rulings as a conspiracy to curb panchayat rule. “There is a conspiracy to crush them [panchayats] because their fast and fair justice is superior. The media don't even know the meaning of terms like khap or gotra, they just hype a case, completely ignoring the larger concept,” a 28-year-old lecturer of political science in Kurukshetra University said. “Even if the alleged decision to kill them was wrong, it was not for the court to step in, panchayats could have solved it amongst themselves,” he added.

The authority of the Constitution was challenged by virtually every speaker. “We don't want a Constitution or a law that goes against our age-old tradition,” Dada Baljeet Singh Gadhwala, one prominent leader said. “Khaps have been called unconstitutional, but the preamble starts by saying — we the people — and we are the people who firmly believe that a colonial rule cannot be given social sanction. The law should abide by the traditional norms and hence be amended immediately,” he added.

Khaps or traditional caste councils have come under the public scanner over their Taliban-style functioning amid an outcry over their diktats against marriages in the same sub-castes.

Meanwhile, the All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and the Students Federation of India (SFI) gave a joint statement which condemned the “unnecessary hue and cry being raised about a potential threat to the culture of Haryana in the wake of the court verdict in the Manoj-Babli murder case.”

These organisations claimed that most of the marital disputes were not over marriages within a gotra or within the village. Yet the couples were thrown out of their villages and their parents were publicly humiliated.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent BBC report about fetus dumping in Gujarat:

Authorities in the western Indian state of Gujarat say they have recovered more than a dozen human foetuses from a rubbish bin in the city of Ahmedabad.

They suspect the foetuses could have been dumped by local abortion clinics which have been conducting illegal sex determination tests.

The unborn babies' bodies have been sent for post-mortem examinations.

It is thought millions of female foetuses may have been aborted in India over the past 20 years.

India, where boys have traditionally been favoured over girls, banned gender selection and selective abortion in 1994.

Ante-natal tests to determine the sex of babies is banned in India but the practice carries on despite the law.

The BBC's Rathin Das in Ahmedabad says the foetuses were found in the east of the city on Monday morning. Some were in broken jars which have been sent for forensic examination.

Our correspondent says the recovery of so many foetuses has raised fears that they could be the result of illegal abortions conducted after sex determination tests confirmed the unborn babies were female.

Female foeticide has led to an unbalanced sex ratio in many northern districts of Gujarat, and in other states in India.

Ahmedabad's chief medical officer said some of the foetuses could have originated from legitimate abortions but that the clinics would then still be guilty of negligently dumping bio-medical waste.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent piece on atrocities against Dalit women in India:

New Delhi, March 5

India's leading feminist Dalit novelist-cum-politician P. Sivakami feels that most gender atrocities in the country are committed against Dalit women.

The former senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer gave up her job to become a full-time writer in 2008.

"In the society that is known as mainstream, the problems of Dalit women are considered separatist. They face the worst expressions of male chauvinistic society - atrocities like raping, profiling, physical assault and murder," Chennai-based Sivakami, who has just completed her new novel "The New People" in Tamil told IANS.

"But, I don't think the problems are separatist at all. They reflect the general bias at the grassroots against women as in tribal societies," she said.

Sivakami, who has often made headlines with her radical views, contested the Lok Sabha election on a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket from Kanyakumari in 2009, but lost. The same year in December, she floated her own political party, Samuga Samathuva Padai (Forum for Social Equality).

"When we talk of women's empowerment, we give priority to those who live below the poverty line -- malnourished and poor women. Even in that respect, Dalit women are the worst affected," she argued.

Stressing that incidence of domestic violence is highest among Dalit women, she said more men drink and assault women at home because they do not make enough money.

As far as their health statistics is concerned, nearly 100,000 women die at childbirth every year and a large number of them are Dalit women, the writer said.

Sivakami feels that the concept of education for Dalit women is yet to take root in the society.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Soutik Biswas of BBC on gender discrimination in India:

Are the lives of housewives cheaper than those of their husbands in India? Going by the evidence, yes.

Families of housewives who die in road accidents end up receiving less compensation than those of working men. In a recent case, the Motor Accidents' Tribunal more than halved the compensation the family of a deceased homemaker was entitled to.
This, despite the husband's plea that she was earning money by working from home, and that her death had led to the family losing emotional support, love and affection.

Last week, the Supreme Court ordered higher compensation, after the husband challenged the appeal. In an emphatic and sensitive judgement it said:

The gratuitous services rendered by the wife with true love and affection to the children and her husband and managing the household affairs cannot be equated with the services rendered by others.

A wife/mother does not work by the clock. She is in constant attendance of the family throughout the day and night unless she is employed and is required to attend the employer's work for particular hours.

She takes care of all the requirements of husband and children including cooking of food, washing of clothes, etc. She teaches small children and provides invaluable guidance to them for their future life.

The odds are heavily stacked against women in India anyway. It remains a nation of stay-at-home wives, though more women are going out to work. Housewives play a key role in keeping families together in a country with virtually no government-aided social security. A 2008 study showed barely 13% of women - between 18 and 59 years - work.

Only 18% of women work in the organised sector, the majority in farms. Just 10% of seats in parliament are held by women. Only 9% of companies have any participation by women in ownership. No wonder India ranked a lowly 116 in the 179-country Gender Development Index in 2006.

Riaz Haq said...

The hunger and poverty among women and children in India is much worse than in Pakistan and worse than the poorest of the poor in sub-Saharan Africa.

Here's a summary of the situation of women India by the World Hunger Project:

Executive Summary

The persistence of hunger and abject poverty in India and other parts of the world is due in large measure to the subjugation, marginalization and disempowerment of women. Women suffer from hunger and poverty in greater numbers and to a great degree then men. At the same time, it is women who bear the primary responsibility for actions needed to end hunger: education, nutrition, health and family income.

Looking through the lens of hunger and poverty, there are seven major areas of discrimination against women in India:

Malnutrition: India has exceptionally high rates of child malnutrition, because tradition in India requires that women eat last and least throughout their lives, even when pregnant and lactating. Malnourished women give birth to malnourished children, perpetuating the cycle.

Poor Health: Females receive less health care than males. Many women die in childbirth of easily prevented complications. Working conditions and environmental pollution further impairs women's health.

Lack of education: Families are far less likely to educate girls than boys, and far more likely to pull them out of school, either to help out at home or from fear of violence.

Overwork: Women work longer hours and their work is more arduous than men's, yet their work is unrecognized. Men report that "women, like children, eat and do nothing." Technological progress in agriculture has had a negative impact on women.

Unskilled: In women's primary employment sector - agriculture - extension services overlook women.

Mistreatment: In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in atrocities against women in India, in terms of rapes, assaults and dowry-related murders. Fear of violence suppresses the aspirations of all women. Female infanticide and sex-selective abortions are additional forms of violence that reflect the devaluing of females in Indian society.

Powerlessness: While women are guaranteed equality under the constitution, legal protection has little effect in the face of prevailing patriarchal traditions. Women lack power to decide who they will marry, and are often married off as children. Legal loopholes are used to deny women inheritance rights.

India has a long history of activism for women's welfare and rights, which has increasingly focused on women's economic rights. A range of government programs have been launched to increase economic opportunity for women, although there appear to be no existing programs to address the cultural and traditional discrimination against women that leads to her abject conditions.


http://www.thp.org/where_we_work/south_asia/india/research_reports/chronic_hunger_and_status_of_women

Anonymous said...

Of course, USA is no where near the top 10 on the gender equal countries list because it is a divided culture between traditional and progressive.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times report titled "Necessity Pushes Pakistani Women Into Jobs and Peril":

KARACHI, Pakistan — Dinner at Rabia Sultana’s house is now served over a cold silence. Her family has not spoken to her since May, when Ms. Sultana, 21, swapped her home life for a cashier’s job at McDonald’s.

Her conservative brother berated Ms. Sultana for damaging the family’s honor by taking a job in which she interacts with men — and especially one that requires her to shed her burqa in favor of a short-sleeved McDonald’s uniform.

Then he confiscated her uniform, slapped her across the face and threatened to break her legs if he saw her outside the home.

Her family may be outraged, but they are also in need. Ms. Sultana donates her $100 monthly salary to supplement the household budget for expenses that the men in her family can no longer pay for, including school fees for her younger sisters.

Ms. Sultana is part of a small but growing generation of lower-class young women here who are entering service-sector jobs to support their families, and by extension, pitting their religious and cultural traditions against economic desperation.
--------
“It’s not just the economic need, but need of the nation,” said Rafiq Rangoonwala, the chief executive officer of KFC Pakistan, who has challenged his managers to double the number of women in his work force by next year. “Otherwise, Pakistan will never progress. We’ll always remain a third-world country because 15 percent of the people cannot feed 85 percent of the population.”

Female employment at KFC in Pakistan has risen 125 percent in the past five years.

Several chains like McDonald’s and the supermarket behemoth Makro, where the number of women has quadrupled since 2006, have introduced free transit services for female employees to protect them from harassment and to help persuade them take jobs where they may face hostility. “We’re a society in transition,” said Zeenat Hisam, a senior researcher at the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research. “Men in Pakistan haven’t changed, and they’re not changing as fast as our women. Men want to keep their power in their hand.

“The majority of the people here believe in the traditional interpretation of Islam, and they get very upset because religious leaders tell them it’s not proper for women to go out and to work and to serve strange men.”

More than 100 young women who recently entered service jobs told of continual harassment.
--------
So far, the movement of women into the service sector has been largely limited to Karachi. Elsewhere across Pakistan, women are still mostly relegated to their homes, or they take jobs in traditional labor settings like women-only stitching factories or girls’ schools, where salaries can be half of those in the service industry. Even the most trailblazing of companies, like KFC, still employ 90 percent men.

Pakistan ranked 133rd out of the 134 countries on the 2010 Global Gender Gap Report’s list of women’s economic participation.

While there is no reliable data on the number of women who specifically enter the service sector, Pakistan’s female work force hovers around 20 percent, among the lowest of any Muslim country.

Some women, like Saima, 22, are forced to lead secret lives to earn $175 a month. Her father’s shopkeeper’s salary does not cover the family’s expenses. Without a university degree, the only job Saima could find was at a call center of a major restaurant’s delivery department. But she impressed the manger so much that he offered her a higher-paying waitress job at a branch near her home.
--------
But the employed women are also approached by admiring young women who want to follow their lead.

“Girls envy us,” said Bushra, a KFC worker. “We are considered the men of the house, and that feels good.”

Mayraj said...

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/8135/

The End of Men
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences

Anonymous said...

World Economic Forum gender parity index is misleading because it emphasizes just one stat over all others...womens' participation in formal employment.

WEF does not adequately weigh the fact that rural women in Pakistan actively participate in farming, and they suffer much less than their Indian counterparts in terms of disease, maternal mortality, genocide of girl fetuses, underage marriages, etc.

On the UNDP's gender parity HDI sub-undex for 2010, Pakistan ranks 112, ten places ahead of India at 122

Anonymous said...

World Economic Forum gender parity index is misleading because it emphasizes just one stat over all others...womens' participation in formal employment.

WEF does not adequately weigh the fact that rural women in Pakistan actively participate in farming, and they suffer much less than their Indian counterparts in terms of disease, maternal mortality, genocide of girl fetuses, underage marriages, etc.

On the UNDP's gender parity HDI sub-undex for 2010, Pakistan ranks 112, ten places ahead of India at 122

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian story of women's abuse in the name of Hindu religion in India:

Parvatamma is a devadasi, or servant of god, as shown by the red-and-white beaded necklace around her neck. Dedicated to the goddess Yellamma when she was 10 at the temple in Saundatti, southern India, she cannot marry a mortal. When she reached puberty, the devadasi tradition dictated that her virginity was sold to the highest bidder and when she had a daughter at 14 she was sent to work in the red light district in Mumbai.

Parvatamma regularly sent money home, but saw her child only a few times in the following decade. Now 26 and diagnosed with Aids, she has returned to her village, Mudhol in southern India, weak and unable to work. "We are a cursed community. Men use us and throw us away," she says. Applying talcum powder to her daughter's face and tying ribbons to her hair, she says: "I am going to die soon and then who will look after her?" The daughter of a devadasi, Parvatamma plans to dedicate her own daughter to Yellamma, a practice that is now outlawed in India.

Each January, nearly half a million people visit the small town of Saundatti for a jatre or festival, to be blessed by Yellamma, the Hindu goddess of fertility. The streets leading to the temple are lined with shops selling sacred paraphernalia – glass bangles, garlands, coconuts and heaped red and yellow kunkuma, a dye that devotees smear on their foreheads. The older women are called jogathis and are said to be intermediaries between the goddess and the people. They all start their working lives as devadasis and most of them would have been initiated at this temple.

Girls from poor families of the "untouchable", or lower, caste are "married" to Yellamma as young as four. No longer allowed to marry a mortal, they are expected to bestow their entire lives to the service of the goddess.

The devadasi system has been part of southern Indian life for many centuries. A veneer of religion covers the supply of concubines to wealthy men. Trained in classical music and dance, the devadasis lived in comfortable houses provided by a patron, usually a prominent man in the village. Their situation changed as the tradition was made illegal across India in 1988, and the temple itself has publicly distanced itself from their plight.
---------
Chennawa, now 65 and blind, is forced to live on morsels of food given by devotees. "I was first forced to sleep with a man when I was 12," she says. "I was happy that I was with Yellamma. I supported my mother, sisters and brother. But look at my fate now." She touches her begging bowl to check if people have thrown her anything. "My mother, a devadasi herself, dedicated me to Yellamma and left me on the streets to be kicked, beaten and raped. I don't want this goddess any more, just let me die."

Riaz Haq said...

Zahida Kazmi has been hailed as Pakistan's first female taxi driver, reports the BBC:

She has driven from the crowded markets of Islamabad to the remote tribal country in the north. Here she tells Nosheen Abbas about her two decades in a male-dominated world.

In 1992 at the age of 33, newly widowed Zahida Kazmi decided to take her fate in her own hands and become a taxi driver.

Born into a conservative and patriarchal Pakistani family, she flew in the face of her family's wishes but with six children to support, she felt she had no choice.

She took advantage of a government scheme in which anybody could buy a brand new taxi in affordable instalments. She bought herself a yellow cab and drove to Islamabad airport every morning to pick up passengers.

In a perilous and unpredictable world, Zahida at first kept a gun in the car for her own protection and she even started off by driving her passengers around wearing a burqa, a garment that covers the entire body.

Her initial fears soon dissipated.

"I realised that I would scare passengers away," she said. "So then I only wore a hijab [head covering]. Eventually I stopped covering my head because I got older and was well-established by then."

Exposing herself to the hot, bustling city streets of Islamabad and by driving to the rocky and remote districts adjoining Pakistan's tribal areas, Zahida says she learned a lot about the country she lived in and its people.

The Pathans of the tribal north-west, despite a reputation for fierce male pride and inflexibility, treated her with immense courtesy on her journeys.

Eventually she became the chairperson of Pakistan's yellow cab association. Once she was established, she offered to teach young women how to drive taxis, but there was little interest. Even her daughters didn't express enthusiasm....
----------
"Even the policemen who stopped us at security checkpoints also knew her... we were so happy to see a woman driving a taxi."

Although Zahida has been feted for being Pakistan's first female taxi-driver, she still has many bitter memories of her struggles as a single mother working hard on the road.

Her own mother disapproved of her career choice and only resentfully accepted it when the media gave her positive coverage.

And she is estranged from her children now.

"I am old now and I get tired. It's hard for me to drive all the time but what can I do? My sons don't help," she said.

"If I had a chance I would have become a doctor."

Just as she said that to me, a passing taxi driver stopped his car and got out to reverentially greet Zahida.

Despite her travails, she is clearly a respected presence on the streets of Islamabad.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some interesting revelations about Gandhi's attitude toward women, as published in the Guardian newspaper:

During Gandhi's time as a dissident in South Africa, he discovered a male youth had been harassing two of his female followers. Gandhi responded by personally cutting the girls' hair off, to ensure the "sinner's eye" was "sterilised". Gandhi boasted of the incident in his writings, pushing the message to all Indians that women should carry responsibility for sexual attacks upon them. Such a legacy still lingers. In the summer of 2009, colleges in north India reacted to a spate of sexual harassment cases by banning women from wearing jeans, as western-style dress was too "provocative" for the males on campus.

Gandhi believed Indian women who were raped lost their value as human beings. He argued that fathers could be justified in killing daughters who had been sexually assaulted for the sake of family and community honour. He moderated his views towards the end of his life. But the damage was done, and the legacy lingers in every present-day Indian press report of a rape victim who commits suicide out of "shame". Gandhi also waged a war against contraceptives, labelling Indian women who used them as whores.

Like all men who wage a doomed war with their own sexual desires, Gandhi's behaviour around females would eventually become very, very odd. He took to sleeping with naked young women, including his own great-niece, in order to "test" his commitment to celibacy. The habit caused shock and outrage among his supporters. God knows how his wife felt.

Gandhi cemented, for another generation, the attitude that women were simply creatures that could bring either pride or shame to the men who owned them. Again, the legacy lingers. India today, according to the World Economic Forum, finds itself towards the very bottom of the gender equality index. Indian social campaigners battle heroically against such patriarchy. They battle dowry deaths. They battle the honour killings of teenage lovers. They battle Aids. They battle female foeticide and the abandonment of new-born girls.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/27/mohandas-gandhi-women-india

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an article from Peacework magazine about Mohandas K. Gandhi's misogyny and racism:

To make a hero out of someone dehumanizes them almost as much as demonizing them does. It serves no one to turn Mohandas Gandhi into a plaster saint (or a stone Ganesh).

Many of Gandhi’s statements and actions were reprehensible, some of which are mentioned elsewhere in this issue (such as the treatment of his children [5], see page 10). There isn’t space for a full critique, but a few themes are important to mention. One of Gandhi’s contributions to nonviolent thought is the idea that a true dedication to nonviolence requires striving for the complicated truth. As we appreciate Mohandas Gandhi’s many contributions to the development of nonviolent struggle, we can’t, if we are to appraise his legacy honestly, ignore his faults as well.

Gandhi campaigned vigorously to include women in every non-cooperation campaign, and organized against purdah. Yet, Gandhi, in his old age, regularly slept naked next to young girls, including his nieces, in order, he said, to test his commitment to brahmacharya, or celibacy. No matter how some try to contextualize these actions, from my perspective, he was abusing these girls.
Editor's Note: The following additional paragraph was edited from the printed version for reasons of space:

---------
His views about rape were misogynist. Gandhi wrote in Harijan, for example, that women “must develop courage enough to die rather than yield to the brute in man.” Gandhi claimed, if women are fearless, “However beastly the man, he will bow in shame before the flame of her dazzling purity.”

Gandhi opposed contraception (he had a famous debate with Margaret Sanger [6] on the subject). His “idealization” of women as being superior at self-sacrifice, a quality he saw as being required of satyagrahis, is another form of stereotyping (See also Starhawk's trenchant feminist critique of Gandhian self-sacrifice [7] in this issue).

Gandhi often utilized racist arguments to advance the cause of Indians in South Africa. For example, addressing a public meeting in Bombay on September 26, 1896, following his return from South Africa, Gandhi said, “Ours is one continued struggle against degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the European, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw kaffir [8], whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness.” (Collected Works, Volume II, page 74). The word kaffir (or keffir) is a derogatory term used in South Africa for native Africans. Gandhi never, as far as I’ve read, publicly opposed the racist oppression of black Africans in South Africa.

Pacifism?

Gandhi was, at best, an inconsistent pacifist, in the sense of opposing all wars, a fact pointed out by pacifists such as Bart de Ligt in the 1930s. Gandhi supported the British war effort in several wars, including the Boer War, the Zulu Rebellion (though he later came to believe the British were wrong in that struggle), and World War I. His role was mainly to organize and participate in ambulance corps, but his personal participation earned him the British Empire’s War Medal. Even after he proclaimed “war is wrong, is an unmitigated evil,” he defended his participation based on his perceived “duty as a citizen of the British Empire.” He acknowledged that he was “guilty of the crime of war,” and eventually repudiated the Empire, but didn’t repudiate his actions. (See Gandhi on War and Peace, by Rashmi-Sudha Puri).

While Gandhi undeniably campaigned vigorously against untouchability, Dalit leaders such as Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar opposed the use of Gandhi’s term for “untouchables” (“harijan,” or “children of god”) as condescending, and claimed Gandhi never fully renounced a caste-based worldview.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story of Pakistan's 100,000 ladies health workers reaching out to rural communities:

KARACHI, Mar 16, 2011 (IPS) - At eight in the morning 30-year-old Sultana Solangi steps out of her house ready for her day’s work. Wearing a black gown that shows only her eyes, she is shod in comfortable slippers and lugs a large black bag.

She will walk through this city’s poorest communities, visiting as many as 10 homes everyday, helping to raise awareness and improve maternal and child health.

In her bag is an assortment of medical supplies: Paracetamol tablets and oral rehydration salts, bandages, condoms, contraceptive pills, iron and folic acid tablets, eye ointments, and antiseptic lotion.

Solangi, the sole breadwinner in her family of four, works as a lady health worker (LHW), employed by the government’s National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care.

Launched in 1994, the programme now has a veritable army of 100,000 LHWs covering 60 percent of the population - the biggest outreach intervention in South Asia.

These women venture where few doctors dare to go, from congested cities to far-flung and underdeveloped rural areas, acting as the link between communities and the public health system.

Over the years, their work has expanded to include health campaigns like administering polio drops to children under five, plus neonatal tetanus, measles, tuberculosis, and malaria control.

LHWs are particularly important in the rural areas where three-quarters of Pakistan’s population live, and where a trip to a health centre may require a hike of a couple of hours to as much as a day. Illiteracy is widespread in these areas and often customs prevent women from seeking health services without being chaperoned by a male family member.

Solangi cited the case of Zahida Sanghi, a woman Solangi’s age but already a mother of seven. Sanghi lives in People’s Colony, a community in Larkana city in Sindh province, some 322 kilometres from the southern port city of Karachi, which is part of Solangi’s coverage area.

"Zahida Sanghi was very weak and would not have survived another pregnancy. The husband is jobless. It took close to two months to convince her mother-in-law that it was all right for her to get a tubal ligation done since her family was complete. This is all part of my job," she said.

Every day, Solangi and her colleagues cover between five to 10 houses and talk to women like Sanghi about the importance of antenatal check-ups, vaccinations, safe delivery, the use and making of oral rehydration salts, and modern methods of family planning.

They also hold about eight group sessions each month where they discuss with local women issues related to mother and child health.

Yet despite the LHW programme, Pakistan remains a maternal and infant health hotspot.

The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS), conducted from 2006 to 2007, shows an infant mortality rate of 78 deaths per 1,000 live births. It also shows a mortality rate of children under five years old of 94 deaths per 1,000 live births. This means one in every 11 children born in Pakistan dies before reaching his or her fifth birthday.

The maternal mortality rate of 276 per 100,000 live births is also far too high, and has remained virtually unchanged since 1991.

Sadiqa Jaffery, president of the National Committee on Maternal and Neonatal Health, said the statistics would be much worse without the LHWs on the ground.

"It’s been established that where LHWs are present family planning services and routine immunisation is better. The problem is that the coverage is not blanket," Jaffery said.

But Farid Midhet, founder of the Safe Motherhood Pakistan Alliance, remains unconvinced of the impact of LHWs. "Family planning is the cornerstone of women’s health services and it still eludes millions," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

It's ludicrous to talk about human freedom in India, a country at the center of slave trade in the 21st century, according to NY Times.

Unfortunately, brains and personality aren’t always enough, and India is the center of the 21st-century slave trade. This country almost certainly has the largest number of human-trafficking victims in the world today.

If M. is sold to a brothel, she will have no defense against H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. Decisions about using a condom are made by the customer or the brothel owner, not by the girl. In one brothel I slipped into to conduct some interviews, there was not a single condom available.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/02/opinion/02kristof.html?adxnnl=1&ref=humantrafficking&adxnnlx=1307247056-dZg98kIHqVnNASeZiOw1Rg

Riaz Haq said...

As if female genocide and world's most child marriages weren't enough, here's yet another example of rampant misogyny in India:

A 17-year-old Indian girl who was allegedly forced by her father to have sex for money with up to 200 men has described her ordeal to the media.

Police in the southern Indian state of Kerala arrested her father and 29 other people two weeks ago.

The girl said she was raped by her father, starved and forced by him to have sex with other men.

Her father has not made any public comment. Police have vowed to hunt down the men alleged to have paid for sex.

They have despatched special police teams to find up to 70 men she has named and accused of paying to have sex with her. These are said to include contractors, film producers and policemen.

"My father first raped me when my mum was not home. Later he started taking me out to different locations, saying I'll get a chance to act in movies," the girl told a local television channel.

She says that when her mother found out, her father threatened to kill the entire family unless her mother kept silent. Police have arrested the mother for not disclosing a crime.

"The government will not allow anyone to escape the law," Chief Minister Oomen Chandy said.

The girl was finally rescued when other relatives discovered what was going on and informed the police. She is currently in a shelter where she is undergoing treatment for depression, police say.

"We will do whatever we can to bring her back to normal life. She wants to complete schooling and lead a good life," said Dr MK Muneer, the minister for social welfare in the provincial government.

"She says she was raped by 200 men. It is shocking and it freezes your conscience," he said.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/13904670

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excepts from a recent Businessweek story titled "On the job in Pakistan: Women":

When Naz Khan became Pakistan’s first female money-market trader 19 years ago, KASB Securities, the Merrill Lynch (BAC) affiliate that had hired her, needed to build a women’s restroom in its Karachi office. By the time Khan left last year to become chief financial officer at Engro Fertilizer, KASB had so many women on staff that “we had to get in line” to use the restroom, she says.
----------
More of them than ever are finding employment, doing everything from pumping gasoline and serving burgers at McDonald’s (MCD) to running major corporations. About 22 percent of Pakistani females over the age of 10 now work, up from 14 percent a decade ago, government statistics show. Women now hold 78 of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, and in July, Hina Rabbani Khar, 34, became Pakistan’s first female Foreign Minister. “The cultural norms regarding women in the workplace have changed,” says Maheen Rahman, 34, chief executive officer at IGI Funds, which manages some $400 million in assets. Rahman says she plans to keep recruiting more women for her company.

Much of the progress has come because women stay in school longer. More than 42 percent of Pakistan’s 2.6 million high school students last year were girls, up from 30 percent 18 years ago. Women made up about 22 percent of the 68,000 students in Pakistani universities in 1993; today, 47 percent of Pakistan’s 1.1 million university students are women, according to the Higher Education Commission. Half of all MBA graduates hired by Habib Bank, Pakistan’s largest lender, are now women. “Parents are realizing how much better a lifestyle a family can have if girls work,” says Sima Kamil, 54, who oversees 1,400 branches as head of retail banking at Habib. “Every branch I visit has one or two girls from conservative backgrounds,” she says.

There’s still a long way to go. The employment rate for men is triple that for women, and Pakistan’s female literacy rate is just 45 percent, vs. 70 percent for men. In agriculture, where women account for three-fourths of all workers, female laborers such as cotton and chili pickers earn less than 50¢ a day. In the informal manufacturing sector—companies that make, say, blouses, bedsheets, or soccer balls—women make up 57 percent of the workforce, but they spend more hours on the job and receive lower pay than their male counterparts, according to the Pakistan Institute of Labour and Economic Research. In 2009, the agency says, women in light manufacturing earned an average of 2,912 rupees ($34) monthly, about 40 percent of the average earnings for men.
---------
Some companies believe hiring women gives them a competitive advantage. Habib Bank says adding female tellers has helped improve customer service at the formerly state-owned lender because the men on staff don’t want to appear rude in front of women. And makers of household products say female staffers help them better understand the needs of their customers. “The buyers for almost all our product ranges are women,” says Fariyha Subhani, 46, CEO of Unilever Pakistan Foods, where 106 of the 872 employees are women. “Having women selling those products makes sense because they themselves are the consumers,” she says.

To attract more women, Unilever last year offered some employees the option to work from home, and the company has run an on-site day-care center since 2003. Engro, which has 100 women in management positions, last year introduced flexible working hours, a day-care center, and a support group where female employees can discuss challenges they encounter. “Today there is more of a focus at companies on diversity,” says Engro Fertilizer CFO Khan, 42. The next step, she says, is ensuring that “more women can reach senior management levels.”

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/now-on-the-job-in-pakistan-women-09082011.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an inspiring story of a brave woman beekeeper in Pakistan:

SWAT: Shahi Bakhta has single-handedly steered her life and those of her children out from the depths of poverty and managed to economically stabilise her family.

Bakhta, 38, lives with her five children in Nehrabad village in Swat’s Kabal town. She was widowed in May 2009 at the peak of the Swat insurgency when her husband, Mohammad Rashid, was hit by a stray bullet in crossfire between the security forces and militants.

In that one moment, Bakhta’s life changed and she was left to provide for her three sons and two daughters alone. “I have seen some tough and very bitter days in life. My children would ask for bread and I had nothing to offer to them. Sorely disappointed, I made many suicide attempts. But my children’s innocent faces stopped me.”

Rashid worked as a labourer but also operated a business on the side, where he bred honeybees. After his death, desperate for financial assistance, Bakhta decided to take over the business.

“I had to sell all the equipment of honeybee keeping to arrange for money for my children. I also sold poultry and other things one by one for survival,” she told The Express Tribune, adding that she would do odd jobs from dawn till dusk but not earn enough money to make ends meet.

Almost disillusioned with life, Bakhta was on the verge of giving up when the Sarhad Rural Support Programme, under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), reached out to her.

“I got detailed training of honeybee keeping for productive and sustainable use of it and learnt basic tools and techniques of honeybee keeping with proper nourishment of boxes,” she said. She was also paid Rs33,000 to start her own business.

The UNDP, with support from the Japanese government, has implemented a Peace and Development Programme in conflict-hit areas, such as Swat, in which cash grants are given to entrepreneurs for small businesses.

With this training, Bakhta now runs her business with scientific methods. “I have better knowledge of how to extract honey from the bees and my business seems to be improving day by day,” she says, happily. “My children’s future will now be bright.”


http://tribune.com.pk/story/260475/how-beekeeping-pulled-a-woman-from-the-edge-national/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Economic Times story on promoting women entrepreneurs:

Prominent leaders from India and Pakistan today called for concrete steps to empower women in South Asia by enabling them to assert their economic independence through entrepreneurship as a means of eradicating poverty, illiteracy, disease and crime.

Providing women with networking platforms is essential in the current globalised world, said Member of Parliament Najma Heptullah at a seminar organised by industry chamber Assocham here.

The seminar, titled, 'Fostering Women Entrepreneurship - The Way Forward for South Asia', was organised ahead of the visit of an Assocham delegation of business leaders to Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi from January 9 to 14, 2012.

Expressing her views, Pakistan Minister of Social Welfare Nargis Khan said women can play an important role in developing societies and nations.

"The country is exploring new channels to promote entrepreneurship with micro loans. Pakistani women are more empowered now after a prolonged dictatorship in a male-dominated society," Khan said.

Speaking at the seminar, Creative Living Organisation Founder and Chief Executive Officer Harbeen Arora said the formation of women associations and support groups should be encouraged to provide them bandwidth for both critical thinking and also critical mass.

"There is need more than ever for having more examples of successful entrepreneurship by women and inspiring role models," she said.

Qadim Moosarat, the Executive Director of the Paiman Trust in Pakistan, said space for women in economic and political spheres is essential for equitable development and peace in South Asia.

National Youth Congress leader Alka Lamba said both countries have many commonalities and traditional linkages. Indian and Pakistani business leaders should pursue their entrepreneurial ambition by forging economic partnerships with the neighbouring nation to promote core values of unity and peace, she said.


http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/india-pakistan-leaders-for-steps-to-encourage-women-entrepreneurs/articleshow/11155918.cms

Riaz Haq said...

India is the deadliest country for girl child, according to a report published by the Times of India:

NEW DELHI: It's official - India is the most dangerous place in the world to be a baby girl. Newly released data shows that an Indian girl child aged 1-5 years is 75% more likely to die than an Indian boy, making this the worst gender differential in child mortality for any country in the world.

Newly released United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs ( UN-DESA) data for 150 countries over 40 years shows that India and China are the only two countries in the world where female infant mortality is higher than male infant mortality in the 2000s. In China, there are 76 male infant deaths for every 100 female infant deaths compared with 122 male infant deaths for every 100 female infant deaths in the developing world as a whole.

The released data has found that India has a better infant mortality sex ratio than China, with 97 male infant deaths for every 100 female, but this is still not in tune with the global trend, or with its neighbours Sri Lanka (125) or Pakistan (120).

When it comes to the child mortality sex ratio, however, India is far and away the world's worst. In the 2000s, there were 56 male child deaths for every 100 female, compared with 111 in the developing world. This ratio has got progressively worse since the 1970s in India, even as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Iraq improved.

The UN report is clear that high girl child mortality is explained by socio-cultural values. So strong is the biological advantage for girls in early childhood that higher mortality among girls should be seen as "a powerful warning that differential treatment or access to resources is putting girls at a disadvantage", the report says.

"Higher female mortality from age 1 onwards clearly indicated sustained discrimination," says P Arokiasamy, professor of development studies at Mumbai's International Institute for Population Studies, who has studied gender differentials in child mortality in India. "Such neglect and discrimination can be in three areas: food and nutrition, healthcare and emotional wellbeing. Of these, neglect of the healthcare of the girl child is the most direct determinant of mortality," says Arokisamy. Studies have shown that health-related neglect may involve waiting longer before taking a sick girl to a doctor than a sick boy, and is also reflected in lower rates of immunization for girls than boys.

Moreover, since the outrage over India's poor child sex ratio came out of census data for children aged 0-6 years, the UN data on child mortality indicates that a campaign against female foeticide alone is not a complete solution. "Pre-natal and post-natal discrimination are complementarily contributing to gender imbalance," agrees Dr Arokiasamy. While pre-natal discrimination in the form of sex-selective abortions is more common among better educated upper income households, post-natal discrimination or neglect is more common among poorer, less educated rural households, he adds.


http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-02-01/india/31012468_1_child-mortality-infant-mortality-infant-deaths

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on Benazir Income Support program in Pakistan:

Clutching photocopied ID cards in bony fingers, a roomful of Pakistan's poorest women sit on gray plastic chairs and wait in silence for something many have never experienced: a little bit of help from the government.

It comes in the form of a debit card that is topped up with the equivalent of $30 every three months, enough to put an extra daily meal on the table, buy a school uniform or pay for medical treatment in a country where soaring food and fuel costs are hurting millions who already live hand-to-mouth.

The program is something of a success story for a government widely seen as corrupt and inefficient, as well as for international donors that help implement and fund it. But the very need for the scheme highlights the poverty stalking a country whose stability is seen as key to the fight against Islamist extremism.

Other cash-transfer programs in Pakistan have been plagued by graft and allegations that only supporters of the party in power received the funds. Many feared this program, named after Benazir Bhutto, the late wife of President Asif Ali Zardari, would go the same way.

But that hasn't happened, at least not significantly. The Benazir Income Support Programme is modeled on similar efforts in Africa and South America, part of a quiet revolution in the way countries and development agencies are helping the poor. Initial concerns that recipients would fritter away the money have proven unfounded, and giving cash is now accepted as a vital and cost-effective aid tool.

"I spend the money on my kids, what else would I do?" said Rifat Parveen, a mother of five who sometimes has to serve only bread and boiled chili peppers for the evening meal. "Even if a poor person gets 10 rupees (5 cents), he or she will be grateful."

When a woman is called, she goes to a room where her identity is checked against an electronic database and her thumb print taken electronically. A bank employee then gives her the card — and a crash course in how to use it — before she returns to her village.

As they do elsewhere in the world, women in Pakistan must receive the money on behalf of their families because research shows they spend it more responsibly than men do. They must also first obtain a valid identity card to be eligible. Both requirements have been credited with pushing women, discriminated against in Pakistan, a little into the mainstream.


http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/04/17/in-pakistan-welfare-scheme-shows-signs-success/

Riaz Haq said...

57% adolescent boys, 53% girls think wife beating is justified, reports Times of India:

NEW DELHI: It's a shocking revelation in this day and age. Not just Indian men, but even adolescents - in the 15-19 age group - feel that wife beating is justified.

Unicef's " Global Report Card on Adolescents 2012", says that 57% of adolescent boys in India think a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife.

Over half of the Indian adolescent girls, or around 53% think that a husband is justified in beating his wife. In comparison, 41% women in Bangladesh and 54% in Sri Lanka harbour a similar feeling . In Nepal, however, the prevalence of both men and women justifying domestic violence is inordinately high at 88% and 80%, respectively.

According to the report, societal attitudes that convey acceptance or justification of domestic violence are making girls and women more vulnerable to abuse. It says, "Available data for developing countries show that nearly 50% of girls and women aged 15-49 believe that wifebeating is justified... girls aged between 15 and 19 years hold the same views as women in the 45-49 age group."

The report explains that because of reporting bias, this may be an under-estimation of the actual size of the problem in several countries. Many factors contribute to the incidence of domestic violence . For instance, in many places, child marriage, gender-based power relations, women's low economic status and traditional practices or social norms perpetuate it.

Mission director for India's National Rural Health Mission Anuradha Gupta said spousal violence takes place both in developed and developing countries "though the degree would vary" . She said, "When girls are brought up with the message that a woman's status in a family is inferior, she starts to accept whatever behaviour is meted out by her husband or in-laws ." She added, "When a boy grows up seeing his father assault his mother, he starts to accept such a behavior and repeats it."

Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, said, "Most women think this is their fate. Education or economic prosperity alone can't improve the situation."

Times View

These findings on youth attitudes towards marital violence should not just be seen as shocking. They should also teach us the limitations of laws on domestic violence. Such laws may be important to help minimize violence against women. But they are clearly not enough, especially when the victim herself does not perceive any wrong in being beaten up. A strong legal framework to deal with domestic attacks must be backed up, therefore, by a sustained and intensive campaign to raise awareness on the issue among men and women. Steps to raise the levels of female education would play an important role.


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/57-of-boys-53-of-girls-think-wife-beating-is-justified/articleshow/12862006.cms

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Rediff report on violence against women in India:

The latest available statistics compiled by the home ministry's National Crime Records Bureau show that between 1953 and 2011, the incidence of rape rose by 873 per cent, or three times faster than all cognisable crimes put together, and three-and-a-half times faster than murder.

In India, a woman is raped every 22 minutes, and a bride burnt for dowry every 58 minutes. The police last year registered 42,968 cases of molestation of women -- a figure that's about 80 percent higher than the number of rapes. The number of crimes recorded against women, including sexual harassment, cruelty by the husband or his relatives, kidnapping or abduction, and human trafficking, exceeds 2,61,000.

Separate numbers are not available for that South Asia barbarian speciality called acid attacks, which disfigure a woman for life as a punishment for rejecting a man's love or, more usually, lust. Nor does the NCRB go into the harassment faced by women for not bearing a son.

The gangster-style grievous assault on the young woman outside a bar in Guwahati is a particularly obnoxious instance of sexual violence. The allegation that a journalist instigated youths to strip her so a TV channel could scoop the story and play it to a voyeuristic audience is now all but established. This further aggravates matters. At any rate, many of those present continued to shoot the incident on their phone cameras for many minutes, ignoring a public-spirited citizen's pleas.

The police's failure to respond in time to distress calls from the bar owner is a shameful but familiar part of the story, as is their trivialisation of the incident and lethargy in arresting all the molesters. Even more deplorable is the manner in which the victim's identity was disclosed by the media, by a member of the National Commission for Women, and worse, the Chief Minister's Office -- against all elementary ethical norms.
Even worse, a Unicef report this year on adolescents finds that not just 57 per cent of Indian males but also 53 per cent of females in the 15-19 age-group believe that wife beating is justified. (Even in Bangladesh, only 41 percent of females justify wife beating.) Such acceptance and sanctification of domestic violence does not speak of a civilised society.

Girls under ten being have been raped while on their way to use a public toilet, say women living in Delhi’s slums. In one slum, boys hid in toilet cubicles at night waiting to rape those who entered. These are some of the incidents mentioned in a recent briefing note [1] based on research supported by WaterAid and the DFID-funded SHARE (Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity).
The link between a lack of access to water and sanitation facilities and sexual violence against women is not well known and to date has received insufficient attention. The briefing note highlights this link within the context of urban slums in Delhi, and suggests how this problem can be addressed.


http://www.rediff.com/news/column/violence-against-women-blame-our-prejudices-not-the-victim/20120720.htm

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times blog post on brutal rape and death of a woman on a New Delhi bus:


The woman, who has not been identified, has become of a symbol for the treatment of women in India, where rape is common and conviction rates for the crime are low. She boarded a bus with a male friend after watching a movie at a mall, and was raped and attacked with an iron rod by the men on the bus, who the police later said had been drinking and were on a “joy ride.”

She died Saturday morning in Singapore, where she had been flown for treatment after suffering severe internal injuries during the assault. She had an infection in her lungs and abdomen, liver damage and a brain injury, the Singapore hospital said, and died from organ failure. Her body was flown back to India on Saturday.

As news of her death spread Saturday, India’s young, social-network-savvy population began to organize protests and candlelight vigils from Cochin in Kerala to the outsourcing hub of Bangalore to the country’s capital. Just a tiny sliver of India’s population can afford a computer or has access to the Internet, but the young, educated part of this group has become increasingly galvanized over the Delhi rape case. ...


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/30/world/asia/india-rape-delhi.html?_r=0
------
Here's Reuters' story on the rape incident:

India is angry. India is protesting. Rallies continue in New Delhi after the gang rape of a 23-year-old girl on Dec. 16. The rapes continue too. On Wednesday night, three men reportedly raped a 42-year-old woman and dumped her in South Delhi. There are more cases being reported every day.

The biggest story in India, however, is Abhijit Mukherjee’s comment about the Delhi protests — “These pretty women, dented and painted, who come for protests are not students. I have seen them speak on television, usually women of this age are not students”. He added that students, who go to discotheques, think it is a fashion statement to hold candles and protest.
---------
Are such comments by lawmakers rare? Why are we so sensitive to something that anyone, anywhere in India says? There were similar reactions when Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi called Human Resource Development Minister Shashi Tharoor’s wife a 50-crore-rupee girlfriend. A few days ago, Sanjay Nirupam’s comment about a fellow politician — Till some time ago you were dancing on the TV screens and now you have become a psephologist — freaked people out. And let’s not forget the case of the impromptu “theek hai?” on the part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this week. It threatened to become bigger than “mission accomplished.”


http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2012/12/27/abhijit-mukherjees-foot-in-mukh-moment-steals-spotlight-from-rape-cases/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of news stories ad stats of rape in South Asia:

1. India Tribune:

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India’s major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures.

•South Africa – It has one of the highest rates, with 277,000 reported cases. The same year a survey by the Medical Research Council found that one in four men admitted to raping someone.

•United States – More than 89,241 rape cases were reported. Criminals face life behind bars, and in some states, castration is an option.

•India – Reported a little more than 21,397 cases.

•United Kingdom – 15,084 cases were reported. A suspect found guilty, faces a maximum conviction of life in prison.

•Mexico – Nearly 14,078 cases were reported. In some parts of the country, penalties may consist of a few hours in jail, or minor fines.

•Germany – Counts the highest number of reported rape cases in Europe, just under 8,000.

•Russia – Almost 5,000 cases were reported, and the crime holds a punishment of 4-10 years in jail.


http://www.indiatribune.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10195:rape-statistics-around-the-world-&catid=107:coverpage&Itemid=471

2. Express Tribune:

Violence against women makes up 95 per cent of cases of violence reported in Pakistan. These statistics are even more chilling, bearing in mind that 70 per cent of cases of violence against women do not get registered. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimates that a rape occurs in Pakistan every two hours and a gang rape every eight hours.

Aurat Foundation’s report titled Situation of Violence against Women in Pakistan 2010 discloses that Punjab dominates with 2,690 registered cases out of a total of 4,069 incidents in various parts of Pakistan.

Interior Ministry documents placed before the National Assembly in 2008 revealed that a staggering 7,546 women were raped in a mere 24-month span between 2007-2009, a rate of 314 rapes every month.

According to War Against Rape, data released by 103 police stations in Karachi show an eight per cent rise in registered cases and seven per cent more medico-legal examinations in 2010 from 2009.

Since courts do not place restraining orders on all the accused released on bail, they often continue to harass the survivors. Whither justice when 31 per cent of cases reported against a family member have resulted in the family shifting away from their home, and removing themselves from the legal system to avoid social persecution?


http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/4479/why-the-deafening-silence-after-rape/

Riaz Haq said...

An excerpt from the HDR 2013 report summary mentioning Pakistan is as follows:

More than four-fifths of these developing countries increased their trade to output ratio between 1990 and 2012. Among the exceptions in the subgroup that also made substantial improvement in HDI value are Indonesia, Pakistan and Venezuela, three large countries that are considered global players in world markets, exporting or importing from at least 80 economies. Two smaller countries whose trade
to output ratio declined (Mauritius and Panama) continue to trade at levels much higher than would be expected for countries at comparable income levels.

Here's a Business Standard report on HDI 2013 in South Asia:

Of 187 countries, India's Human Development Index (HDI), essentially a composite measure of health, education and income, rank stands at 136, on a par with Africa's Equatorial Guinea and just above Cambodia and Laos in Southeast Asia. Even over a longer period (between 2000 and 2012), it registered average annual HDI growth of 1.50 per cent, lower than Pakistan's (1.74 per cent).

Viewed in the context of the BRICs grouping (Brazil, Russia, India and China), India's standing is much below its peers - China is ranked 101st, Russia 55th and Brazil 85th. In fact, India remains squarely stuck at the bottom end of the second-lowest category in the report -Medium Human Development - even as neighbour Sri Lanka (99) moves a step higher towards becoming a "high human development" nation.

A closer look at India's performance reveals more inadequacies, especially in education. Though the country's life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling and per capita GNI are comparable to peers, India's "expected years of schooling" is significantly below others, including Vietnam, Bhutan and even Swaziland.

Gender inequality
India is no easy country for women. The Human Development Report's Gender Inequality Index, which assesses gender-based inequalities based on reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity, ranks India 132nd out of 148 countries, below Bangladesh (111) and Pakistan (123).

"26.6 per cent of adult women have a secondary or higher level of education, compared to 50.4 per cent of their male counterparts (in India)," said an explanatory note. "Female participation in the labour market is 29 per cent, compared with 80.7 per cent for men."

Difficult future?
Though the report recognises key initiatives undertaken in India in recent years - particularly reforms in the education system, the direct cash transfer programme, a rise in social sector spending, public-private-partnerships across sectors and growing connectivity -vital concerns remain.

"India has the most projected child deaths over 2010-2015, about 7.9 million, accounting for nearly half the deaths among children under five in Asia," the report said. "China has more people than India, but is projected to have less than a quarter (1.7 million) the number of child deaths over 2010-2015."

India also has to contend with a substantial, uneducated population, possibly partly counteracting the country's feted demographic dividend. "Despite the recent expansion in basic schooling and impressive growth in better educated Indians, the proportion of the adult population with no education will decline only slowly," the report predicted.

"Even under an optimistic fast-track scenario, which assumes education expansion similar to Korea's, India's education distribution in 2050 will still be highly unequal, with a sizeable group of uneducated (mostly elderly) adults."


http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/un-report-belies-india-s-claims-of-inclusive-growth-113031500034_1.html

Riaz Haq said...

REMINDS ME OF "BANDIT QUEEN" movie BASED ON LIFE OF PHOOLAN DEVI
A woman in northern India has been stripped naked and paraded on a donkey on the orders of village elders after being accused of killing her nephew.
The village council in Rajsamand district in Rajasthan state also ordered the 45-year-old woman's face to be blackened.
Her nephew's family say she killed him. Police have arrested 39 people.
Orders given by village councils - panchayats - carry no legal weight but are widely respected in rural areas.
Rajasthan's principal secretary for rural development, Shreemat Pandey, told the BBC it was "completely illegal" for the panchayat to hand down such a punishment.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-29983752