Gender Inequality in India – Modern Era [2020]

Author-Yeasmin Biswas


Gender Inequality in India and Indian society discrimination against women is a persistent and enduring phenomenon since the beginning of civilization. The female gender has always been treated as weak and insignificant in the strict patriarchal society. Subordination of Indian women through practices such as female infanticide, neglect of a female child, deprived education, early marriage with a dowry, child marriage, violence against women in India, and numerous other inequity had been a serious social disease in India, and eradicating this long-lasting issue has not been effective even after 70 years after Independence.

But this scenario is slowly as the government is taking various initiatives to secure the equal status of the women, and also women are becoming aware of their rights. Women all over the world are raising their voices to attain what is rightfully theirs. In the patrilineal family in India, women’s status is closely related to family relations. Gender-based inequality actually not only has a social impact but also hugely affects the health, education, freedom, employment of the Indian women.

Keywords: Women in India, Gender discrimination, violence against women, gender pay gap, modern Indian issues.


It is evident from rankings such as the Gender Development Index and Gender Gap Index India’s advancement towards gender equality is utterly unsatisfactory. The decline in female labour force participation, a huge male-female gap in white-collar jobs, and an upward trend in heinous crime such as rapes, dowry deaths, and murder in the name of honour are some of the major unsettling issues concerning Indian women.

To eradicate this disgusting trend and violence against women in India, we need to empower women and change the mindset of the society through proper education and prosperity and have stronger laws for gender equality in India, then we will be able to overthrow the traditional institutions and socially laid down gender roles that suppress women.[1]

Some Statistics On the Gender inequality in India:

All country in the world suffers from gender inequality issue more or less. According to the Gender inequality index (GII), India ranks 130 out of 187 nations according to the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2013. nations according to the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2013.[2] As stated by the report India is the worst place in South Asia except for Afghanistan. Even Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan are a little bit better for women than India! Only 29 percent of Indian women of age make up the labour force of India, while that number is 80.7 for men. In the parliament of India, only about 10.9% are women as lawmakers.

This report also claims 200 women die for every 100,000 while childbirth in India, which clearly shows the picture of the gender inequality in India and the need for laws for gender equality in India to stop violence against women in India.

Gender Discrimination in Childhood and teenage years:

In general, girls have a higher survival rate than boys, and more likely to experience optimum development and grow. But India is one of those countries where girl’s mortal rate is higher than those of boys and more likely to drop out of school even before they reach high school. Mostly because of their family’s gender discrimination in childhood that decides to restrict freedom of their female child and latently forced into child labour, in-home or otherwise.

Boys are treated with more care and love, with more freedom, educated in school, given better healthcare and facilities than a girl child. While it is true that some Indian women excel in diverse professional fields like politics, sports, entertainment, or science, but the number is very small, most women in India don’t have the opportunity to do so. Both boys and girls must be treated equally and supported to help them reach their full potential.

This can only be achieved by destroying an archetypical attitude towards women from the root and adding more stronger laws for gender equality in India. Then can India will be able to develop fully. The manifestations of poor education and health, domestic child labour, teenage marriage, child marriage, exploitation will not change as long as the girls are not appreciated more.

Gender Inequality in adulthood:

Male dominance has always been the reason behind it all, because, in India at least, a woman still requires the anchor of a husband and a family to a large extent. Their dominating nature has never given them the privilege of freedom to walk with their heads up. This vicious practice has been prevalent from the beginning of society and is followed to this day with a slight modification. The patriarchal society has the belief that women are born to do domestic work and give birth to children and look after them, and not to harm the country by taking hold root in politics and state affairs.

Sampled responses of married women from cross country surveys found that more than 45% of women believe that physical violence from their husband is justifiable for trifle reasons such as neglecting their children, burning food, refusing to have sexual intercourse, or even for a verbal argument. This is very shocking because the women are inadvertently involved in upholding the practice of male dominance with their passive support to it.

An inadequate social security coverage system accompanied by a poorly-managed, financially weak healthcare system makes it worse to finance healthcare expenditure, especially for women. Indicators such as high mortality rates, adolescent fertility rate, and low life expectancy for females are proof of such inadequacy.

Although, the enrolment number in the primary sector has gone up a bit for the female children in the last few decades through various central and state education programs the low enrolment and high dropouts of females in secondary and college education have been a major concern. Because low enrolment means a low number of graduates which significantly affects their ability to find a desirable job in the organized sector.[3]

Women and Laws in India:

  • Land and property rights: Due to weak enforcement of laws, women do not own any property as an heir or obtain a portion of parental property. The legislation system has failed to secure basic rights to their parental property. Women’s rights on a property depend on religion, caste, and other things. But in recent times the effort towards granting women equal legal rights has been established through the passing of The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005.[4]
  • The Hindu personal laws of 1956[5] which apply to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains, secured the rights of women to inheritances. According to this law. The share of the daughter in her father’s property was based on the property received by the father, whereas the son enjoys an independent share in the ancestral property. Married daughter had no residential rights in the ancestral home even if they are suffering from domestic violence and harassment. Thankfully, a recent amendment of the Hindu laws in 2005 made it possible for women now to have the same status and rights as men.
  • The Supreme Court of India ruled that divorced Muslim women are eligible for alimony in the famous case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum.[6] This decision was met with opposition from fundamentalist Muslim leaders, who accused the court by saying that it was interfering in their personal law. However, The Union Government later passed the Muslim Women’s Act or Protection of Rights upon Divorce Act.
  • Similarly, the Christian women in India have also fought over the years for equal rights in divorce and succession. In 1994, all churches, together with women’s organizations, outlined a draft law called the Christian Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Bill.[7]But, the government has yet to amend the relevant laws. However, in 2014, the Law Commission of India has requested the government to make necessary amendments to the law to provide Christian women equal rights to ancestral property.

A Ray of Hope against Gender Inequality in India:

The Indian Constitution, by the means of the Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, and the Directive Principles assures equal rights and privilege to all its citizens. In fact, there are several provisions in the Constitution that represent the essence of gender equality and lay the groundwork for outlining policies and programs for safeguard and liberation of women in the country.

The Indian judiciary has played a crucial role in framing and interpreting the law to uphold women`s rights and dignity in India, resulting in several landmark judgments. There are numerous judgments that have encouragingly inspired the women’s rights movement in India and smashed the tendency of gender inequality in India and sustained the constitutional rights influencing different aspects of a woman’s life.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013:

One of the most important cases that acted as a major influence on the enactment of laws to provide for the safety of women and protection from sexual harassment at the workplace[8] was the Vishakha and others vs State of Rajasthan case[9].

A social worker named Bhanwari Devi in Rajasthan was associated with a state government program entitled to prevent child marriages. In one of her campaigns, she tried to prevent an infant marriage of a year-old child, but she was unsuccessful to prevent it. Ramakant Gujjar, the head of the child’s family in an attempt to take revenge for the embarrassment, along with other perpetrator raped Bhanwari Devi in front of her husband. Unfortunately, the lower courts releasedRamakant Gujjar and the other accomplices.

Subsequently, a group for women’s education and research named Vishakha accompanied by four other women’s rights organizations filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court on the matter of sexual harassment in the workplace and the lack of any kind of safety and security. The petition demanded to apply the Fundamental Rights of women at work under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. In 1997, the court instructed to formulate such guidelines as ‘Vishakha Guidelines’ to be exercised at workplaces for the female employees by their employers.

Later, these guidelines worked as the foundation of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013. This is an exceptionally significant law to provide protection to Indian women who are an important part of our labour force, trying to earn a living for their family.

The judgment made it mandatory for employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and provide employees with the means to resolve such unwanted incidents effectively. The Supreme Court in addition defined ‘Sexual Harassment’ in this regard as offensive behaviour with sexual intentions. Indecent behaviour such as attempting or making physical contact and, asking or requesting for sexual favours, obscene remarks, showing pornographic content, or any other undesirable physical, verbal or non-verbal behaviour of sexual nature.

Right to Freedom of women from different religious backgrounds:

Recently, numerous petitions tried by the Supreme Court have questioned the Right to Freedom of women from a different religious background.  In the landmark case of Shayara Bano v/s Union of India (2017)[10], the Supreme Court stated the traditional system of Instant Triple Talaq or Talak-e-biddat is nonconforming with Islam and it violates the basic principles of the Quran. Shayara Bano had challenged the practice being invoked instant triple talaq by her husband of 15 years. The Supreme court found the custom to be evil and immoral and concluded that it should not be a part of a civilized society.

The government eventually introduced the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019.[11] The act proclaimed that– any proclamation of talaq[12] by a Muslim husband to his wife, by the means of words, either verbal, non-verbal or written or in electronic form or in any other manner shall be invalid and illegal.

If a Muslim husband pronounces talaq upon his wife then he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term up to three years, and a fine, or both, whichever applicable.

The Sabarimala Temple case:

The shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala had an ancient tradition that did not allow menstruating women to enter the temple premises. In 1991 The Kerala High Court upheld the restriction of menstruating women to enter the temple. But in September 2018 the practice was again questioned in the Supreme Court of India. And the apex court gave permission to women of all age groups to enter Sabarimala Temple.[13]

The court revoked the prohibition and labeled it as a violation of women’s right to practice religion. Thus it has become one of the most important cases that started the debate between the Right to Equality and the Right to Freedom of Religion.

The 2012 Delhi gang rape case:

Brutal gang rape and the gruesome murder of the victim that took place on 16 December 2012 in Delhi. A young physiotherapy intern was tortured and gang-raped on a stolen bus by the gang, her accompanying boyfriend was also beaten severely. The woman died in a hospital in Singapore from her injuries after a few days of the incident. Four men along with a minor were accused and were found guilty and received the death penalty. After being delayed for seven years finally the accused got the death penalty on 20 March 2020.


It is critical to enhance the value of girls by investing in and empowering them, with education, life skills, sport and much more.

By increasing the value of girls we can collectively contribute to the achievement of specific results, some short-term (increasing access to education, reducing anemia), others medium-term (ending child marriage), and others long-term (eliminating gender-biased sex selection).  

UNICEF India’s 2018-2022 Country Programme is committed to a gender priority that is mentionedclearly in its programme, budget and results.[14] These include: 

(i)Lowering excess female mortality under five and supporting equal caring behaviour for both girls and boys.

(ii) Improving the nutrition of women and girls, especially by promoting unbiased and scientific eating practices.

(iii) Gender-responsive support to enable dropped out girls to learn more gender-responsive curricula and pedagogy.

(iv) Stopping child and early marriage.

(v) Improving girls’ access to menstrual hygiene management through well-equipped separate toilets in schools.

(vi) Supporting state governments to develop gender-responsive money transfer programs.


Gender Inequality in India must turn off because it is the need of the hour. Girls should be able to break free of the culturally determined patterns of employment and go beyond traditional expectations. It is shocking that despite so many laws, women still continue to live under anxiety and pressure. We have a lot to go before we will be able to ensure equality of status for our women. Man and Woman are like two wings of a bird. Life is incomplete without the other.

If India is to become a leading global power then it must close the gap between the disparity between women and men. Increasing the number of women in the public sector is essential and it can easily be achieved through some positive action and attitudinal shift. It is also important for women to be considered equal within their family members and in the extensive society. Teaching Indian children from the primary stage about the importance of gender equality both in school and inside the family could be a significant step.


[1]Nicola Gailits, ‘Women’s freedom of movement and participation in psychosocial support groups: qualitative study in northern India’, accessed 18.09.2020

[2]“Reports (1990-2013) | Human Development Reports (HDR) | United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)”. accessed18.9.2020.

[3]Kritika Sharma, ‘Study shows how India’s higher education enrollment can jump to 65% from 27%’ accessed 18.9.2020

[4]The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005

[5]Hindu Succession Act of 1956

[6]AIR 1985 SC 945

[7] Christian Marriage And Matrimonial Causes Bill 1961

[8]Nehmat Kaur, ‘A critical examination of  The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act’<> accessed 18.09.2020

[9] AIR 1997 SC 3011

[10]WP (C) 118/2016


[12]The Leaflet, “Stop The Criminalisation of Triple Talaq: Bebaak Collective”<>accessed 18.09.2020

[13]Krishnadas Rajagopal, ‘Sabarimala issue explosive now: Supreme Court’< >, accessed 18.9.2020

[14]Sneha Mordani, ‘With 8.8 Lakh Deaths in 2018, India Tops Global List of Under-Five Child Mortality, Says UNICEF’, < > accssed 18.9.2020.

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