The Status of Women in India
November 28, 2000English 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). 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 is viewed as a temporary condition that will disappear. The estimates nationwide are that only