Gender equality, equality between men and women, entails the concept that all human beings, both men and women, are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices. Gender equality means that the different behavior, aspirations and needs of women and men are considered, valued and favored equally. It does not mean that women and men have to become the same, but that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female.
Since 2000 United Nation with their partners and global community has made gender equality central to their work. World has seen remarkable progress since then. More girls are now in school compared to 15 years ago, and most regions have reached gender parity in primary education. Women now make up to 41 percent of paid workers outside of agriculture, compared to 35 percent in 1990. The SDGs aim to build on these achievements to ensure that there is an end to discrimination against women and girls everywhere. Affording women equal rights to economic resources such as land and property are vital targets to realizing this goal. So is ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health. Today there are more women in public office than ever before, but encouraging women leaders will help strengthen policies and legislation for greater gender equality.
WHY GENDER EQUALITY IS IMPORTANT FOR WORLD?
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. The exclusion of women places half of the world’s population outside the realm of opportunity to partner in building prosperous societies and economies. The gender pays gap costs global economy $160 trillion. Equal access to education, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes are not only rights women should have, they benefit humanity at large. By investing in the empowerment of women, we not only make progress on Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, we also make gains on the alleviation of poverty and fuel sustainable economic growth.
Thus, Goal 5 aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women in the public and private spheres and to undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources and access to ownership of property.
FACTS AND FIGURES: –
- Globally, 750 million women and girls were married before the age of 18 and at least 200 million women and girls in 30 countries have undergone Female Genital Mutilation.
- In 18 countries, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working; in 39 countries, daughters and sons do not have equal inheritance rights; and 49 countries lack laws protecting women from domestic violence.
- One in five women and girls, including 19 per cent of women and girls aged 15 to 49, have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner with the last 12 months. Yet, 49 countries have no laws that specifically protect women from such violence.
- While women have made important inroads into political office across the world, their representation in national parliaments at 23.7 per cent is still far from parity.
- Only 52 per cent of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care.
- In positive aspects, more than 100 countries have taken action to track budget allocations for gender equality.
- The proportion of women in paid employment outside the agriculture sector has increased from 35 per cent in 1990 to 41 per cent in 2015, globally.
- In 46 countries, women now hold more than 30 per cent of seats in national parliament in at least one chamber.
- In Southern Asia, a girl’s risk of marrying in childhood has dropped by over 40% since 2000.
- The rates of girls between 15-19 who are subjected to FGM (female genital mutilation) in the 30 countries where the practice is concentrated have dropped from 1 in 2 girls in 2000 to 1 in 3 girls by 2017.
Thus, gender inequality constitutes one of the history’s most persistent and widespread forms of injustice, eliminating it will call for one of history’s biggest movements for change. Women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world. Gaps in gender equality exist in every sector. However, now, the enrollment ratios were almost the same. In 155 countries, at least one law exists which impedes women’s economic opportunities.
GOAL 5 AND INDIA
Although India has achieved gender parity at the primary education level and is on track to achieve parity at all education levels, as of January 2018, the proportion of seats in the Lok Sabha held by women had only reached 5.1% and 9.8% in the Rajya Sabha. India is also confronting the challenge of violence against women. As an example, a baseline study revealed that in New Delhi, 92% of women had experienced some form of sexual violence in public spaces during their lifetime. In 2016, close to a third of total crimes reported against women in India was cruelty or physical violence by her husband or his relative.
FACTS AND FIGURES
· The female literacy levels according to the Literacy Rate 2011 census of India are 65.46% only where the male literacy rate is over 80%.
· 75.5% women are not enrolled in Higher Education in India.
· In 2011, there were 919 girls under age six per 1000 boys, despite sex determination being outlawed in India.
· 48.5% population of India are women but mere 27.4% women are in workforce.
· National Crime Records Bureau statistics for 2012 to 2016 show that approximately 40% of female reported rape victims were minors and 95% knew the rapist.
· Despite the drop, nearly 1.5 million girls in India get married before they turn 18.
India’s progress towards gender equality, measured by its position on rankings such as the Gender Development Index has been disappointing, despite fairly rapid rates of economic growth.
In the past decade, while Indian GDP has grown by around 6%, there has been a large decline in female labor force participation from 34% to 27%. The male-female wage gap has been stagnant at 50% (a recent survey finds a 27% gender pay gap in white-collar jobs).
Crimes against women show an upward trend, in particular brutal crimes such as rapes, dowry deaths, and honor killings. The Government of India has identified ending violence against women as a key national priority, which resonates with the Sustainable Development targets of the United Nations on gender equality. The prime minister’s Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative aims at equal opportunity and education for girls in India. In addition, specific interventions on female employment, programs on the empowerment of adolescent girls, the Sukanya Samridhi Yojana on girl child prosperity and the Janani Suraksha Yojana for mothers advance India’s commitment to gender equality, and the targets of Goal 4. Current literature provides pointers from policy changes that have worked so far. One unique policy experiment in village-level governance that mandated one-third representation for women in positions of local leadership has shown promising results. Evaluations of this affirmative action policy have found that in villages led by women, the preferences of female residents are better represented, and women are more confident in reporting crimes that earlier they may have considered too stigmatizing to bring to attention.
For any developing country to maintain its position as a global growth leader, more concerted efforts at local and national levels, and by the private sector are needed to bring women to parity with men. While increasing representation of women in the public spheres is important and can potentially be attained through some form of affirmative action, an attitudinal shift is essential for women to be considered as equal within their homes and in broader society. Implementing new legal frameworks regarding female equality in the workplace and the eradication of harmful practices targeted at women is crucial to ending the gender-based discrimination prevalent in many countries around the world. Educating children about the importance of gender equality could be a meaningful start in the direction towards achieving gender equality.