At a quiet venue in south Delhi’s India International Centre and to a select audience of many more women than men, an independent think-tank based in Delhi released India’s first ever gender scorecard. Triggered by the Delhi gangrape of 16 December last year, the group, headed by Radha Kumar decided to examine the status of women in India on 29 broad parameters. Kumar, a political scientist known recently for being one of the three interlocutors on Kashmir, decided to compile nationally available statistics on crimes against women, health indices, political participation and representation, employment and decision-making and prepare a national scorecard for each, as well as state wise cards.
The grim picture thrown up has a few already known and some less known ugly truths. That the sex ratio – of women to men in the country has declined by 6 points since Independence. And that the the number of women MPs in the Indian Parliament is almost half that of Pakistan’s. The scoring for India as a whole is based on how India fares versus the rest of the world on these parameters and whether there has been a change in these indicators in the last decade from 2001 to 2011. For India to have passed the gender exam as a whole, it needed to have a C, but the grade is a dismal D+. For instance, crimes against women have been on a steady rise – from 195,856 cases in 2008 to 244,270 in 2012. And the Delhi Policy Group analyses this to mean actual figures could have gone up because there is no indicator available to show that if crimes against women were under-reported in the past, that they aren’t still being just as squarely under-reported now. So the comparative figures can be seen as a barometer for the worse. 10 percent of these crimes are rape cases and 98% percent of all rape cases are by people known to the woman – her family and friends.
On the health front, 55% of all Indian women are anaemic. On the roles women play in decision making in the country, the score is just as poor. There are only two women judges in the Supreme court. Only 14.14% women IAS officers, 15.64% IFS officers and 13.89 in the IPS. However, taken together, the representation of women in the Central government was once far worse at 2.51% in 1971 from where it now averages out to 10.04% at last count in 2009.
On the employment in areas such as labour – both rural and urban, India scores an overall C grade. Education is back to a D+ even though the literacy rate has increased over the decade from 53.7% to 65.5%. Only 4% of all educated women have finished higher secondary school and 3.6% of all Indian women are graduates.
The states that score the best for women against all these indices are not that much of a surprise. Himachal Pradesh, compared with the other 30 states in the country gets an A, as does Manipur. Kerala gets an A minus, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland get an A plus along with Puducherry, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu. Assam, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh get the worst score of G, along with Rajasthan.
There are some caveats however to the way in which these scores should be read and this was acknowledged both by Radha Kumar as well as a panel of experts she had called on to discuss the report. CPI-M leader and best known leader of the All India Democratic Womens’ Association -Brinda Karat was the first to outline some of the gaps. If statistics are to do their job then they must inform policy and activism, she pointed out. We all know by now that the India is a highly gender skewered nation on all possible indices. But to find out what to do about it we need to know for instance, which groups are more unsafe and more vulnerable than others. Why for instance is there a general perception that crimes against women in UP and Haryana would be higher and they do show up as high, but that somehow Delhi, Assam and even Madhya Pradesh outrank them? What do we do with the A pluses when they are in fact only a measure of how Mizoram may treat its women better than Delhi but for women in Mizoram, their sense of vulnerability may have increased over time.
Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising who was also hearing the scorecards, took a sharper look at the crime figures and remarked that some more aggregation may actually be useful. The figures for crimes against women that come out of our civil courts – of domestic violence or women being dis-inherited and being thrown out of their homes, if added to rape, kidnapping and murder statistics would reveal an altogether more horrifying picture of discrimination.
But in discussing these scores, perhaps the scorecard was already beginning to do its job. Naina Lal Kidwai, a shining light for women in the corporate sector – currently Group General Manager of HSBC India and also President of FICCI, listed how the figures for womens’ employment in the corporate sector are also dismal. But she tried to signpost some of what she felt were the strides made recently – the setting of the all womens’ bank announced in this years’ budget and the Rs 1000 crore Nirbhaya fund. Both of these facts were soon after smashed by Indira Jaising who said her years as Additional Solicitor General had in fact opened her eyes up to just how slow and leviathan our bureaucracy is, in getting anything done. The bank for women is only scheduled to begin in November, and in all fairness, it takes time for the systems to be set up. But the Nirbhaya fund not having moved into a take-off phase five months after its announcement was a rude reality check for all those listening in.
Indeed, the scorecard and the discussion in its wake was yet another awakening to the fact that a drastic shift is required for anything at all to change substantially. And also that efforts to find out what needs to be done and how it will be done similarly need to acquire more depth, even if the scorecard was a welcome first step in that reckoning.