Health and nutrition rights elude Indian women, says report

Photo: HT

Indian women are lagging behind in rights for health, nutrition and participation in workforce, revealed the country briefing report on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Gender Index, released by Sahaj Equal Measures 2030 on Wednesday. Equal Measures 2030 is an independent civil society and private sector-led partnership organization.

According to the report, in SDG 2 on nutrition, India lagged behind other countries. While it had the lowest rates of obesity among women, it had the highest rates of stunting among girls in 2015-16. The country also had the highest prevalence of anaemia among women with anaemia rates for women nearly double that of Colombia, El Salvador, Indonesia and Kenya in 2016.

As far as the SDG 5 that aims to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls is concerned, the report said that India had the lowest percentage of women in its national parliament in 2018 – just 12% compared to 42% in Senegal. It also had the second highest percentage of child, early and forced marriage before the age of 18 in 2015-16. In addition, it had a high percentage of women (45% in 2015-16) who reported believing that a husband is justified in hitting his wife.

“Unless SDG 5 gets achieved it would be impossible to achieve the other SDGs. If it is not achieved in India, unlikely it will be achieved in the world, said Nishtha Satyam, UN Women, Deputy Country Representative, India, who released the report.

Sahaj also released—State level reports of Punjab, Gujarat, Assam and Madhya Pradesh. The State reports of Punjab and Madhya Pradesh indicated that economic development does not necessarily translate into improved social indicators.

The Gujarat state report showed that despite economic development there is great discrimination and disparity. “The focus on public private partnership has led to commercialization of healthcare and medical tourism at the expense of the local population. Practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation still exist in some communities,” the report said.

The report from Assam highlighted that Bengali immigrants and tea garden workers still remain the vulnerable communities of the state. “As feminists there is concern that though there is policy rhetoric about gender equality, in reality women are seen largely in their role as mothers. Since the SDG agenda will rule for the next decade, we feel we need to create feminist spaces to deliberate the SDGs in India,” Nilangi Sardeshpande from Sahaj, Equal Measures 2030 said.

Another report by the organization Sahaj—The Fiscal Underpinnings of Gender Equity, Health, Nutrition and Welfare Programs for Women—highlighted that a much greater resource allocation is needed to meet the health, nutrition and welfare targets for women and girls in India. “Some of the key programs and schemes that are targeted to reduce gender inequities and specifically for the benefit of women and girls are launched with a lot of fanfare but end up being populist proclamations directed towards electoral outcomes or public relations exercises or even as fire-fighting said Ravi Duggal, budgets and financial reforms expert who authored the report.

“The budgets and their trends tell us the real story underlying these programs and schemes. The huge fluctuations we see over the years in allocations for many of these programs and the under spending clearly indicate that political interest in establishing well consolidated programs and schemes that efficiently target goals like SDGs is very marginal,” he said.