Outnumbered city women suffer all round: UNDP

Shweta Desai Posted: Aug 31, 2009 at 0151 hrs
Mumbai In a city with the reputation of being one of world’s most gender-sensitive, the woman-to-man gender ratio is declining while women are frequently subjected to discrimination and sexual harassment at the workplace.

Across the working sector, men outnumber women. Only in two sub-sectors are there more women, in teaching and as domestic helps.

These are part of the findings of the first-ever Human Development Report for Mumbai, compiled with the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and released by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. “The total empowerment of women is still elusive for her base itself is weak as evidenced by the adverse child sex ratio.”

Mumbai’s gender ratio, as of 2001, is 809 women for every 1,000 men. From a low of 663 in 1961, it had progressed to 716 in 1971, 772 in 1981 and 818 in 1991, then dropped. Men outnumber women in all age groups with the divide particularly sharp between ages 20 and 29. “In all probability, this is on account of high male in-migration,” the report says.

The sex ratio at birth has declined, possibly due to continuing sex selection and selective abortion despite laws prohibiting them. The report says rich and affluent areas of Mumbai have the most skewed ratios.

Ward-wise data reveal that Ward C, an area comprising old chawls and congested apartment complexes but no slums, has the worst sex ratio with 587 women to every 1000 men in 2001. The child sex ratio at birth in Mumbai was 919.5 girls for 1,000 boys in 2006.

Sociologist Nandini Sardesai, who also works for Laadli project that attempts to give more rights to the girl child, says gender discrimination has been most unfortunate for the city. “It is sad that we still have an old mindset with prejudices, we are still regressive. There are doctors in the affluent areas of Mumbai who yield to demands for sex selection,” she said.

In teaching, one of the only two areas where women outnumber men, BMC’s civic schools had 4,324 male and 8,191 women teachers in 2007-2008, or nearly twice as much women as men. Domestic workers comprise 6 lakh women, with about 40 per cent of them girls aged under 15.

The literacy rate for women is 72 per cent, 10 percentage points lower than that for men.

The report says women face several constraints that hamper their overall development. As an example, it cites jobs as sales assistants in malls, where women are paid less than Rs 5,000 per month for the daily eight-hour shifts, while their male counterparts earn at least Rs 3,000 more. Promotions for women in such jobs are rare.

Healthwise too, women have fared poorly, with 60 per cent pregnant women being anaemic. Studies on nutrition have found that the number of women and girls with various deficiencies was 25 percentage points higher than that of men. Crime and violence against women is also high in the city with cases of rape, molestation abounding.