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The World - Countries - India Teamwork OP 06
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Teamwork Oral Presentation
By Inmaculada (01 Intro), Sonia (02 History), Carlos (03 Gandhi), Adela (04 Spirituality), Montse (05 Taj Mahal), Diana (06 Women), Encarna (07 Microcredits),
Irene (08 Food), Miguel MM (09 Music 1), Tere (10 Music 2), Esther (11 Bollywood)
Y5C, 2006-07

Women in India
By Diana H
12th April 2007
(with slide show

First of all, I would like to begin my oral presentation about women in India by saying that the Indian Constitution external link grants women equal rights with men, but strong patriarchal traditions persist, making inequality between women and men a reality.

There are seven areas of discrimination against women in India: malnutrition, poor health, lack of education, overwork, lack of qualification/training, mistreatment and powerlessness. We are going to see these areas briefly.

1. Malnutrition
Women are malnourished because tradition in India requires that women eat last and the least throughout their lives, even when pregnant and lactating. As a result of this,
malnourished women give birth to malnourished children, thus perpetuating the cycle. Because of this, India has exceptionally high rates of child malnutrition.

2. Poor health
Females receive less health care than males. For instance, medical expenditures for boys is 2.3 times higher than for girls, and nearly 25% of the 15 million baby girls born in India each year will not live to see their 15th birthday. Moreover, many women die in childbirth of easily prevented complications. In rural areas, maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. As we can see in the photo, an Indian woman dies every five minutes because of childbirth. One consequence of this is that India is one of the few countries where males are significantly more than women, due to, among other causes, high female mortality between ages 1 and 5 and high maternal mortality rates.

A woman dies every 5 minutes because of childbirth in India

3. Lack of education
Women are uneducated, since they receive far less education than men, due both to social norms (e.g. responsibilities in housework) and fears of violence (i.e. parents want to protect their daughter's virginity).

Although India's Constitution guarantees free primary school education for both boys and girls up to fourteen, the literacy rate for women is 39% versus 64% for men. Parents’ reluctance to educate their daughters has its roots in the situation of women. Education for girls brings no returns to parents, since parents’ role is to deliver a chaste daughter to her husband's family and women's role will be mainly reproductive and in many cases agricultural labour, both of which require no formal education.

4. Overwork
Women are overworked because they work longer hours and their work is harder than men's. In agriculture, women work 3,485 hours versus the 1,212 hours worked by men, which means women work almost three times more than men. In addition, women are not permitted to use machinery or tools to facilitate their work because tradition bans it.
It's important to remark at this point, that over 70% of India's population makes a living on land resources, which includes 84% of the economically-active women.

5. Lack of qualification/training
Women are unskilled. The process of mechanization in agriculture has brought gender discrimination. As I said before, women are not permitted to use machinery or tools. Therefore, their work is based on human energy and is considered unskilled and less productive than men's. Because of this, women are paid lower wages. And moreover, women's work is rarely recognized as economically productive.

Unequal access to education restricts women's abilities to learn skills that require functional levels of literacy.

6. Mistreatment
There are different types of mistreatment of women. Not only do women suffer from male violence-- rapes, sexual harassment, assaults, kidnappings… but they also suffer from the violence derived from the patriarchal traditions. These traditions have been abolished. Nevertheless they are still being practised nowadays. Some of these traditions are the following:

  1. Sati is when a widow is immolated alive on her husband's funeral pyre.
  2. Jauhar is a voluntary immolation of all the wives and daughters of defeated warriors.
  3. Purdah is a symbol of women's subordination, since the have to cover their bodies, having restriction on their mobility.
  4. Devadasis are women married to a deity or temple. They suffer sexual exploitation.
  5. Child marriages are very typical in rural areas, where half the girls between ten and fourteen are married.
  6. Ill-treatment of widows: widows cannot remarry and are ill-treated, since they are confined in centres, have to wear unattractive clothing and have their heads shaved. Besides, they are also rejected by the society and considered dirty and contaminating people.
  7. Dowry system is a tradition that consists of a large sum of money that bride's parents have to pay to the groom at the time of marriage. Brides who cannot meet their husband's expectations are harassed, burned, murdered or they even commit suicide, after the wedding.

It's surprising that the origin of this tradition was a security blanket for married women in case of marital problems or abandonment by husband and nowadays it has become one of the biggest problems of Indian women and also of India as a country.

The figures are terrifying: 6000 dowry-murders are committed each year in India. The abuse of the dowry system in India has been one of the main reasons for female infanticide and sex-selective abortions, in all, 2.5 million of them each year. Parents prefer male children, since they cannot afford to pay those big amounts of money required by the dowry system when marrying their daughters and the consequence is that 96% of female foetuses are aborted or parents even kill them after birth. Other consequences are a natural imbalance between male and female population and also numerous problems for women.

The Indian Government, in order to avoid these abortions and infanticides, is going to place cradles on the streets to allow parents to abandon their daughters without any punishment.

7. Powerlessness
Women lack power to decide who they will marry and are often married off as children, i.e., by their parents' decision.

Despite various laws protecting women's rights, traditional patriarchal attitudes still prevail and in most Indian families women do not own any property in their own names.

Now, we are going to see some photos of Indian women working…

The last topic I would like to point out is that India has a long history of activism for women's welfare and rights, which has increasingly focused on women's economic rights. On the other hand, the Government has launched programs to increase economic opportunities for women, although there appear to be no existing programs to address the cultural and traditional discriminations against women.

Jawaharlal Nehru says: "You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women".

Consequently, not until the situation of women in India changes and equality between women and men becomes a reality, will hunger and poverty in the country disappear.