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Women's position in India

As of March 2001, the female population stands at 495.4 million out of total 1,028 million Indian population. Thus, in the present population of 1.03 billion, there ought to be 528 million women. Instead, estimates show only 496 million women in the population today. This implies that there are some 32 million "missing" women in India. Some are never born, and the rest die because they do not have the opportunity to survive. Sex-ratio (number of female per 1,000 male) is an important indicator of women's status in the society. In 1901 there were 972 females per 1,000 males, while by 1971; the ratio has come down to 930 females per 1,000 males. In 1981 there has been only a nominal increase in the female sex ratio within 934 females to 1,000 males. There were only 926 females per 1000 males in India according to 1991 census.

The 2001 census indicate that the trend has been slightly arrested with the sex ratio at 933 females per 1000 males, with Kerala at 1058 females. The sex ratio of the 0-6 age group has declined sharply from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001. According to UNFPA State of world population 2005, Punjab (793), Haryana (820), Delhi (865), Gujarat (878) and Himachal Pradesh (897) have worst child sex ratio. Scheduled Tribes have fairly respectable CSR of 973 but that falls for Scheduled Castes it falls at 938.For non SC/ST population it stands at 917.Rural India has 934 per 1000 and for urban India it stands at 908.In most states least literate districts have superior CSR compared to their most literate counterparts.

One reason for the adverse juvenile sex ratio is the increasing reluctance to have female children. For women the literacy rate stands at 54.16 per cent. Still, 245 million Indian women cannot read or write, comprising the world's largest number of unlettered women. National averages in literacy conceal wide disparities. For instance, while 95 per cent of women in Mizoram are literate, only 34 per cent of women in Bihar can read and write. The average Indian female has only 1.2 years of schooling, while the Indian male spends 3.5 years in school. More than 50 per cent girls drop out by the time they are in middle school. Similarly, life expectancy has increased for both the sexes; it has increased to 64.9 years for women and 63 years for men according to UN Statistic Division (2000). The Working women population has risen from 13% in 1987 to 25% in 2001.

However the UNFPA State of World Population 2005 states that about70% of graduate Indian women are unemployed. Women constitute 90 per cent of the total marginal workers of the country. Rural women engaged in agriculture form 78 per cent of all women in regular work. They are a third of all workers on the land. The traditional gender division of labour ensures that these women get on average 30 per cent lower wages than men. The total employment of women in organized sector is only 4 per cent. Although industrial production increased in the 1980s; jobs in factories and establishments -- or non-household jobs -- stagnated at eight per cent of the workforce. Increasingly, companies tend to rely on outsourcing, using cheap labour.It is well known that women and children work in huge numbers in bidi-rolling, agarbatti-rolling, bangle making, weaving, brassware, leather, crafts and other industries. Yet, only 3 per cent of these women are recorded as laborers. They are forced to work for pitiable wages and are denied all social security benefits. A study by SEWA of 14 trades found that 85 per cent of women earned only 50 per cent of the official poverty level income.

The sociological research on the status of women has generally suggested that the Indian women enjoy a low status in their households because family decisions relating to finances, kinship relations, selection of life partner are made by the male members and women are rarely consulted. Although there has been an expansion in health facilities maternal mortality rate continue to be high at 407 per 1, 00,000 live births (1998).WHO estimates show that out of the 529,000 maternal deaths globally each year ,136,000 (25.7%) are contributed by India. 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 40-50 percent of women receive any antenatal care. Evidence from the states of Bihar, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat find registration for maternal and child health services to be as low as 5-22 percent in rural areas and 21-51 percent in urban areas. Even a woman who has had difficulties with previous pregnancies is usually treated with home remedies only for three reasons: the decision that pregnant women seek help rests with the mother-in-law and husband; financial considerations; and fear that the treatment may be more harmful than the malady.