Gender inequality widespread in Asia: UNDP

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Despite vibrant economic growth in Asia-Pacific area including India, the region has not done much to assimilate women in the mainstream and bridge the deep gender inequality, the UN Development Programme said Monday.

‘While Asia and the Pacific can take pride in the regions vibrant economic transformation in recent decades, this has not translated into progress on gender equality,’ a UNDP report released on the occasion of International Women’s Day said here.

Even in the Asia Pacific region, ‘South Asia’s rankings for many gender gap indicators are often close to lower than those in Sub-Saharan Africa’. In south Asia more women die in child birth – 500 for every 100,000 live births – than in any other part of the world except sub-Sahara Africa, the report said.

The report also said that at least 100 million women are missing in seven Asian countries of which 85 million are from India and China alone.

‘In 2007, the number of women and girls who were missing – who died because of discriminatory treatment in access to health and nutrition or who were eliminated before they were born – was close to an estimated 100 million in seven Asian countries,’ the report revealed.

The report said while China accounted for 42.6 million missing women, the figure for India was 42.7 million. Pakistan, with over 6.1 million missing women, stands number three in the infamous tally.

‘More boys than girls are born in Asia as whole than in any other region in the world and the divide is increasing,’ the report said adding that the in East Asia has the highest male-to-female sex ratio at birth – 119 boys for every 100 girls.

In education, the gender equality is quite striking. ‘South Asia and Sub-saharan Africa are the poorest performers in the world at all levels,’ the report added.

According to UNDP, in South Asia, the gap between female and male enrollment grows sharpely as girls and boys move upward through the education system. Even at the primary level, only 94 girls go to school for every 100 boys.

This ratio steady declines to 84 percent in secondary level and and further drops to 71 percent in the higher education level.

In the economic field, women are largely discriminated. ‘More than 65 percent of female employment in South Asian and more than 40 percent in East Asia is in agriculture – yet women in these regions head only seven percent of the farms.

‘In countries such as India, Indonesia and Malaysia, conservative estimates show that GDP would increase by 2-4 percent annually if women’s employment rates were raised to 70 percent, closer to the rate of many developed countries.’

Helen Clark, the UNDP administrator who released the report here, said: ‘Underrepresentation of women in workforce has a negative impact on GDP.’

‘Successful economic growth in the region has not led to a successful story of gender equality. There is need for three windows of opportunity for women and they are economic power, political voice and legal rights,’ the report’s chief author Anuradha Rajiram told IANS.

The report says that malnutrition remains a major challenge in south Asia. More than 41 percent of the children in the region are underweight far worse than the sub-Saharan Africa, where 27 percent women are suffering from this. In India, around 47 percent children below the age of five are malnourished and the girl child form a major portion of this number.

In Asia, there are only 18.2 percent women participation in parliamentary politics, which is much less than Europe and America.

Amid pandemonium, India tabled the women reservation bill in parliament. The bill, once passed, will reserve 33 percent seats in parliament and state legislatures.

The UNDP report also said that one out of every 10 women in Asia and Pacific regions report assault by their male partner. And more than half of the countries in South Asia favor men in land inheritance.

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