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Neighbours way ahead as India stumbles

india Updated: Mar 09, 2010 00:36 IST
Namita Kohli

Even as the fate of the 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament remains undecided, two conflict-ridden countries in South Asia — Afghanistan and Nepal — have already shown the way, at least when it comes to the numbers, so says the United Nation Development programme’s (UNDP)-sponsored Asia Pacific Human development report.

The report titled Power, voice and Rights: A turning point for Gender equality in Asia and Pacific was released on Monday. It points out that while Nepal has managed to get 33 per cent women in Parliament without quotas, the Afghan Parliament has reserved 27 per cent seats in its lower house. This is contrast to the 9.2 per cent women in the Lok Sabha.

“In India, political parties are more resistant to state and national quotas for women,” the report says, adding that quotas were an effective way to increase women’s political participation. “Quotas should reflect political incentives so that parties and candidates will reap benefits and be more willing to comply with them,” it suggests. Even the Parliament of Pakistan that reserved 17 per cent of seats for women in 2002, now has 21 per cent women, said Ghazi Salahuddin, journalist and vice-chairperson of the Human Rights commission for Sindh, Pakistan.

The report also looks at areas of economic power and legal rights to analyse the status of women in the Asia pacific region. Citing how gender equality makes for good economics, the findings show a rise in the GDP with an increase in women workers. “Reaching 70 per cent — the level of women’s labour market participation in the US — would boost GDP in India by 4.2 per cent,” the report says. Lack of women’s participation costs the region about $89 million every year, it estimates.

To overcome discrimination, the report stresses on women’s right to ownership and control of assets. Quoting a study from Kerala, where 49 per cent of the property-less women reported long-term physical violence by spouses relative to 18 per cent and 10 per cent of those owing land or a house respectively.