The Status of Women in India




November 28, 2000
English 101
The Status of Women in India
With a population of over one billion, India is the world first most
populous country. Of that astronomical number, 200 million are women who
live in poverty (Vinayak 11). The origin of the Indian belief of
appropriate Indian female behavior can be traced to the rules laid down
by a young girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one. They believe
in the notion that everything an Indian woman engages in must be done
independently, even in her own house. The primary issue to be addressed
is that all women in India are struggling with everyday survival such as
lack of contraception administration, lack of education, being
overworked, and being powerless towards men.

Over 70 percent of India’s population currently derives their
livelihood from land resources, which includes 84 percent of the
economically active women (Vinayak 11). India is one of the few countries
where males significantly outnumber females, and this imbalance has
increased over time. From global perspective, Indian accounts for 19
percent of all births and 27 percent of all maternal deaths (Neft 58).

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There seems to be a consensus that higher female mortality between ages
one and five and high maternal mortality rates result in a deficit of
females in the population. Of the 15 million baby girls born in India
each year, nearly 25 percent will not live to see their 15th birthday.

Although India was the first country to announce an official family
planning program in 1952, its population grew from 361 million in 1951 to
844 million in 1991. India’s total fertility rate of 3.8 births per woman
can be considered moderate by world standards, but the sheer magnitude of
population increase has resulted in such a feeling of urgency that
containment of population growth is listed as one of the six most
important objectives in the Eighth Five-Year Plan (Rajan B2).

Surviving through a normal life cycle is an India woman’s greatest
challenge in India. The origin of the Indian belief of appropriate female
behavior by a young girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, is
that nothing must be done independently, even in her own house. “During
her childhood, a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her
husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be
independent” (Carr 12). The most common problems were the lack of basic
amenities such as food, water, fuel, fodder and health facilities. In
addition, the deterioration of the natural environment and the fact that
many of their traditional occupations were no longer viable were
conditions that were making it increasingly hard for women to continue
sustaining their families, as they had done in the past.

Since 1970, the use of modern contraceptive methods has risen from 10
percent to 40 percent, with great variance between northern and southern
India. The most striking aspect of contraceptive use in India is the
predominance of sterilization, which accounts for more than 85 percent of
total modern contraception use, with female sterilization accounting for
90 percent of all sterilizations. In most Indian families, a daughter is
viewed as a liability, and she is conditioned to believe that she is
inferior and subordinate to men (Rajan B2). Sons are idolized and
celebrated. May you be the mother of a hundred sons is a common Hindu
wedding blessing.

Women’s health is harmed by lack of access to and poor quality of
reproductive service. The practice of breast-feeding female children for
shorter periods of time reflects the “strong desire for sons” (Bunch
27). If women are particularly anxious to have a male child, they may
deliberately try to become pregnant again as soon as possible after a
female is born. Conversely, women may consciously seek to avoid another
pregnancy after the birth of a male child in order to give maximum
attention to the new son.


India’s maternal mortality rates in rural areas are among the highest
in the world. A factor that contributes to India’s high maternal
mortality rate is the reluctance to seek medical care for pregnancy – it

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