Vice president M Hamid Ansari said on Friday that India’s declining sex ratio since 1961 was a major cause of concern. He patted Meghalaya and Mizoram for being the ‘only silver lining’ in such a scenario.
Ansari was speaking at the 19th convocation of the North Eastern Hill University in Meghalaya capital Shillong on Friday.
“The sex ratio in the age group 0-6 years continues to decline since 1961 and stands at 914 in census 2011. The only silver lining is provided by Mizoram and Meghalaya having sex ratio in this age group at 971 and 970,” he said.
Pointing out that India has one of the highest incidences of under-nutrition among women in the world, the Vice President said “our health indicators are weaker compared to our level of development”. He also underscored the need to improve the level of female economic activity, female participation in professional and technical work, and involvement of women in political decision making at middle and higher levels.
Citing the World Development Report 2012 released by the World Bank 10 days ago, the vice president said gender equality was a critical determinant of development outcomes and made for smart economics.
“Besides calling for action in addressing human capital issues, closing earning and productivity gaps between women and men, and giving women greater voice within households and societies, the report for the first time seeks limiting the perpetuation of gender inequality across generations. This is an important aspect so that inequity, marginalization, discrimination and stereotyping are not transmitted across generational cycles,” Ansari said.
He further referred to a recent project by IIM Bangalore based on a large-scale household survey in Karnataka on women’s access to and ownership of assets, which has revealed that apart from some jewellery, women hold little or no assets.
“There exist huge gender inequalities for key productive assets such as land or residence, ownership of business or vehicles, and even communication tools such as mobile phones. Women owners are less than half or at times less than a third of the number of male owners of assets, and their assets are of lower value, poorer quality and less productive. Even in a metro such as Bangalore, less than a quarter of women have cell phones compared to around half of the men surveyed, whereas only 12% of women own vehicles compared to over 50% of men,” he said.
“Even more startling is the fact that for asset acquisition, natal inheritance overwhelmingly benefits men and discriminates against women, with over 50% of the men reporting asset acquisition through their natal homes as compared to around 15% of the women. The vast majority of assets owned by women, of over 70%, are either self-acquired, or obtained through marital or spousal inheritance,” Ansari said.
“The picture of discrimination and deprivation that emerges is disturbingly stark.”