Dalit woman in India dies 14.6 years younger than an upper-caste woman, says the UN report


Women and girls constitute 330 million of the poor population in the world.

According to a new report titled Turning promises into action: gender equality in the 2030 Agenda, recently released by the UN, a woman’s caste in India can decide her exposure to basic amenities and can increase her exposure to mortality.

The report cites findings from the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies in 2013, which state that the average Dalit woman in India dies 14.6 years younger than those from the higher castes.

This means that the average age of death of a woman belonging to the Dalit caste is 39.5 years whereas the average age of death of a woman belonging to upper caste is 54.1 years.

About the report

  • The report covers 89 countries and said that women and girls constitute 330 million of the poor population in the world
  • It has been released two-and-a-half years after the adoption of the UN’s 2030 Agenda, which examines the progress and challenges in the implementation of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through a gender lens
  • “This translates to 4 more women living on less than USD 1.90 a day for every 100 men. The gender gap is particularly wide during the reproductive years,” according to the report
  • The report, which calls for strengthening transparency, accountability and participation, has stressed on ensuring that access to water is provided to all groups without discrimination

What can be deduced from the statistics?

According to the official statistics, the goal to ensure that all women and girls, irrespective of their age, location, class, ethnicity, race etc., enjoy equal rights and opportunities, is not met often.

What does the report say?

  • The intersection of gender with other forms of discrimination — caste, race/ethnicity, religion etc. — is what further marginalises women and girls from poor and deprived sections of the society. It shows through data how progress for women is a pre-requisite if progress for all is to be achieved
  • It stated that half of the urban women and girls in developing countries lack the access to basic amenities like sanitation, clean water, and sufficient living area.
  • It noted that citizens can be effective data producers if engagement initiatives are set up. It cited examples of the Safecity initiative in India — a platform that crowd-sources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces
  • It put forward the point that the age at death is lower even after providing similar mortality-related factors as higher-caste women
  • The report also said that a woman in India, aged 20-24 belonging to a poor, rural household is over five times likely to marry before the age of 18, then a woman from a rich, urban household. Also, the former has over 20 times the chances to have never attended the school, 1.3 times not have access to money of her own, and 2.3 times not have a say in spending compared to the latter
  • This is a result of factors such as poor sanitation and inadequate water supply and health care, says the report
  • The likelihood of a woman being poor also depends on whether she comes from a landless family or belongs to scheduled caste. Hence, her social status and education level prove whether her work for pay is under exploitative working conditions or not

Although a significant increase in overall literacy rates and school participation rates since the early 1990s has been observed, however, gender and social disparities still exist. Scheduled castes (SC), who comprise 16.6 per cent of the population, and scheduled tribes (ST), who make up 8.6 per cent of the population, have lower literacy rates than the Indian average. The literacy rate for female STs is still under 50 per cent and 57 per cent for SC women, while the numbers are slightly higher for men.

The report adds that the strategies to achieve the goal of ‘leave no one behind’ must be devised in such a way that it doesn’t alleviate further social fragmentation or other forms of harm or abuse of vulnerable groups.

Courtesy Indian Today

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