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Template:Discrimination sidebar Sexism in India refers to beliefs or attitudes in India that one gender or sex is inferior to, less competent, or less valuable than the other. Discrimination and violence against women is prevalent, and sexual harassment at the workplace and lack of education continue to be identified as major problems.[1] Some men's advocacy groups have complained that the government discriminates against men through the use of overly aggressive laws designed to protect women,[2][3] and by other socio-economic methods that favour females, such as lower taxes and higher benefits.[4] These benefits are argued to be necessary to redress the historic and continuing wealth imbalance between the genders.[5] The constitution of India contains a clause guaranteeing the right of equality and freedom from sexual discrimination.[6]

Women's reservations

Women have 33% reservation in panchayats and municipal elections. The process of extending this to the Indian parliament is ongoing.

Discrimination against women

Violence against women

Domestic violence against women in India is a big problem.[7] For example, a New Delhi report by the Indian Communist Party says that in the state of Bihar between January and April there were 221 rapes, 159 kidnappings of women, 51 cases of rape and murder or parading naked and torture and 144 cases of dowry killing.[8] A further update gives details as to the extent to which the perpetrators were backed up by the state.[8] A U.N. Population Fund report claimed that up to 70 per cent of married women aged 15–49 in India are victims of beatings or coerced sex.[7]

Sexual harassment

Eve teasing is a euphemism used for sexual harassment or molestation of women by men. This phenomenon has resulted in various assaults against women. Half of the total number of crimes against women reported in 1990 related to molestation and harassment at the workplace.[1] Many activists blame the rising incidents of sexual harassment against women on the influence of "Western culture". In 1987, The 'Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act' was passed[9] to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.

In 1997, in a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court of India took a strong stand against sexual harassment of women in the workplace. The Court also laid down detailed guidelines for prevention and redressal of grievances. The National Commission for Women subsequently elaborated these guidelines into a Code of Conduct for employers.[1]

Selective abortion and female infanticide

The number of girls born and surviving in India is significantly less compared with the number of boys, due to the disproportionate numbers of female foetuses being aborted and baby girls deliberately neglected and left to die.[10] The normal ratio of births should be 950 girls for every 1000 boys, however in some regions the number is as low as 300.[10]

India has a low sex ratio, the chief reason being that many women die before reaching adulthood.[1] Tribal societies in India have a better sex ratio than all other caste groups. This is in spite of the fact that tribal communities have far lower levels of income, literacy and health facilities.[1] It is therefore suggested by many experts, that the low sex ratio in India can be attributed to female infanticides and sex-selective abortions.

Gender selection and selective abortion were banned in India in 1994, but despite this the use of ultrasound scanning for gender selection continues.[10] Female infanticide (killing of girl infants) is still prevalent in some rural areas.[1] India celebrates an annual Girl-child day, which seeks to raise the status of girls and combat female infanticide.[11]


In 1961, the Government of India passed the Dowry Prohibition Act, making the dowry demands in wedding arrangements illegal.[12] However, many cases of dowry-related domestic violence, suicides and murders have still been reported.[13]

In 1985, the Dowry Prohibition (maintenance of lists of presents to the bride and bridegroom) rules were framed. According to these rules, a signed list of presents given at the time of the marriage to the bride and the bridegroom should be maintained. The list should contain a brief description of each present, its approximate value, the name of whoever has given the present and his/her relationship to the person. However, such rules are hardly enforced.[14]

A 1997 report claimed that at least 5,000 women die each year because of dowry deaths, and at least a dozen die each day in 'kitchen fires' thought to be intentional.[15] The term for this is "bride burning" and is criticised within India itself.[13] Amongst the urban educated, such dowry abuse has reduced dramatically.


Though it is gradually rising, the female literacy rate in India is lower than the male literacy rate.[1] Compared to boys, far fewer girls are enrolled in the schools, and many of them drop out.[1] According to the National Sample Survey Data of 1997, only the states of Kerala and Mizoram have approached universal female literacy rates. According to majority of the scholars, the major factor behind the improved social and economic status of women in Kerala is literacy.[1]

Under Non-Formal Education programme, about 40% of the centres in states and 10% of the centres in UTs are exclusively reserved for females.[16] As of 2000, about 0.3 million NFE centres were catering to about 7.42 million children, out of which about 0.12 million were exclusively for girls.[16] Currently, in engineering, medical and other colleges, 30% of the seats have been reserved for females.[citation needed] In rural India girls continue to be less educated than the boys.[16]

According to a 1998 report by U.S. Department of Commerce, the chief barrier to female education in India are inadequate school facilities (such as sanitary facilities), shortage of female teachers and gender bias in curriculum (majority of the female characters being depicted as weak and helpless vs. strong, adventurous, and intelligent men with high prestige jobs)[16]

The Prime Minister of India and the Planning Commission also vetoed a proposal to set up an Indian Institute of Technology exclusively for females.[17]

Military Service

Women are not allowed to have combat roles in the armed forces. According to a study carried out on this issue, a recommendation was made that female officers be excluded from induction in close combat arms, where chances of physical contact with the enemy are high. The study also held that a permanent commission could not be granted to female officers since they have neither been trained for command nor have they been given the responsibility so far.[18]

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Kalyani Menon-Sen, A. K. Shiva Kumar (2001). "Women in India: How Free? How Equal?". United Nations. Archived from the original on 2006-09-11. Retrieved 2006-12-24.
  2. Pro-women laws being misused
  3. Call to end discrimination against men
  4. Women paying less income tax than men
  5. Girls gain extra points in admissions
  7. 7.0 7.1 India's landmark domestic abuse law comes into effect
  8. 8.0 8.1 Green Left - INDIA: Resistance grows against Hindu chauvinism, sexism, privatisation
  9. "The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1987". Retrieved 2006-12-24.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2
  11. "Girl child day on January 24". The Times Of India. 2009-01-19.
  12. "The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961". Retrieved 2006-12-24.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ash, Lucy (2003-07-16). "India's dowry deaths". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
  14. "The Dowry Prohibition (maintenance of lists of presents to the bride and bridegroom) rules, 1985". Retrieved 2006-12-24.
  15. Kitchen fires Kill Indian Brides with Inadequate Dowry, July 23, 1997, New Delhi, UPI
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Victoria A. Velkoff (October 1998). "Women of the World: Women's Education in India". U.S. Department of Commerce. Retrieved 2006-12-25.
  17. PM vetoes women's IIT
  18. No permanent commission for women in forces
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