Passages to India.

Literary and Socio-Political Perspectives on Gender Concepts in India

Why Kali Won't Rage. A Critique of Indian Feminism. — page 2

6However, notwithstanding laws, the constitution, goddess worship and male feminists, the ground reality of women in India today is an outrage. While India has undergone astronomical growth in industry and wealth, and is now geared to become the third largest economy in the world (Sinha, P.), the state of Indian women, when taken as a national stratum that theoretically represents one half of the nation, has been horrendously regressive.

7In 2010, the World Economic Forum released its Global Gender Gap report, in which India ranked at 112 out of a total of 134 countries (Murti). The report measured the difference in how men and women in each country had access to resources and opportunities. It took into consideration economics, education, political participation, health and survival. When countries are ranked according to economic participation and job opportunities for women, India ranks at 128, above just six other countries. Even in India’s booming corporate sector, the country’s highly educated and professional stratum, the average annual income of women is U.S. $1,185, less than a third of the average annual income for men at U.S. $3,698 (Nagrajan). Even among the BRICS nations – Brazil, China, Russia, South Africa and India – the five developing countries that have the fastest growing economies in the world, India lags far behind the others in view of how much of this growth is inclusive of women (Rajadhyaksha). Women occupy only 11% of political offices in India, compared to 21% in China. India also has one of the lowest female literacy rates in the world and in 2006 the World Bank estimated that more than 50% of India’s females above the age of 15 are illiterate (Business Standard). However, even this figure is misleading, since “measuring effective literacy in India means including anyone who can read and write his or her own name, [so if] […] Sita knows how to read and write the four letters of her name [she is counted] […] in the category of effective literates” (Bhaskar). Almost 50% of girls in India are married off by their families before the age of 18, and India singularly also accounts for one-third of the world’s child brides (Sinha K., UNGA).

8What is now amply evident is that this existential disparity faced by India’s women is fueled by an unrestrained misogyny. A misogyny that not only does not permit women an equal life-style but one that does not even permit them the most fundamental of all human rights -- the right to live. A 2011 global poll by Thomson Reuters Foundation identifies India as the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women (Chowdhury).

9In three generations, India has systematically targeted and annihilated more than 50 million women from its population – a number which constitutes the sum total of the populations of Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Portugal put together (Banerji, Female Genocide). In 20 years India will have methodically annihilated 20% of women from its population (Sinha K., In 20 Years). They have been eliminated through the rampant practices of female feticide, female infanticide, killing of girls under 5 years through intentional neglect, dowry murders, “honor” killings, and endangerment of women through multiple and forced female fetal abortions. Between 500,000 to 700,000 girls go “missing” in India every year, eliminated through female feticide and female infanticide. The average life expectancy of Indian women at 66 years is one of the lowest in the world. India has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, and one out of every 140 women in India is at risk of dying due to pregnancy or childbirth (Sinha K., India Slips). The crime of dowry related murders of young married women in India has escalated to epidemic levels. Many of these murders are staged as kitchen accidents or suicides by self-immolation. A study published in the Lancet in 2009 (Sanghavi), that collated hospital records and testimonies, estimated that as many as 136000 women are being killed by fire in India each year, that is one woman is killed every five minutes (Stephey).

10This signifies a misogyny that does not even spare infants and girls. A 2007 UNICEF report shows that the mortality rate of girls under 5 years was abnormally high, about 40% higher than boys the same age, and this was due to intentional neglect, a malicious denial of food and medication, that is tantamount to negligent homicide (UNICEF 12). A 2011 study by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Harvard School of Public Health showed that girls under 5 years were 21% more likely than boys that age, and infant girls one-year or younger were 50% more likely to die than infant boys that age, because of violence inflicted on them at home. They estimated that in the last two decades more than 1800,000 girls under the age of 6 years have been killed by domestic violence. The head researcher Jay Silverman said, "Being born a girl into a family in India in which your mother is abused makes it significantly less likely that you will survive early childhood. Shockingly, this violence does not pose a threat to your life if you are lucky enough to be born a boy" (Sinha K., Violence at Home).