Why Is Gender Inequality a Problem in South Asia?
Even though there is great economic growth in South Asia, many are still asking, “Why is gender inequality a problem in South Asia?” Each year, the Global Gender Gap Report measures the gender gap in four areas: health, education, economy and politics. According to the 2021 report, “South Asia is the third-worst performer in the region, having closed 62.5 percent of its gap. Because of its large population, South Asia’s performance has a substantial impact on the region’s overall performance.”1
What drives this gender inequality? Here are some factors:
Death Rates – “Globally, girls have higher survival rates at birth, are more likely to be developmentally on track, and just as likely to participate in preschool, but South Asia is the only large country where more girls die than boys. Girls are also more likely to drop out of school.”2
Preference for Sons – In South Asian culture, there is an ingrained preference for sons. Several things contribute to this preference, including the son becoming a caregiver for parents as they age. Another factor is the dowry system that requires the bride’s family to pay a significant part of the family income to the groom and/or his family.3
Child Marriage – It is estimated that 1.5 million girls under age 18 marry each year in South Asia.4 This astounding statistic impacts gender inequality.
Health – Inadequate and poor nutrition hurts women in South Asia. In some areas, there is a lack of healthcare available to them.5
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1 “Global Gender Gap Report 2021.” World Economic Forum. March 2021. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2021.pdf.
2 “Gender Equality.” UNICEF. Accessed 12 February 2022. https://www.unicef.org/india/what-we-do/gender-equality.
3 Sharma, Smriti. “Achieving Gender Equality in India: What Works, and What Doesn’t.” United Nations University. 2016. https://unu.edu/publications/articles/achieving-gender-equality-in-india-what-works-and-what-doesnt.html.
4 “Ending Child Marriage and Adolescent Empowerment.” UNICEF. Accessed 12 February 2022. https://www.unicef.org/india/what-we-do/end-child-marriage
5 Harvey, Elysia. “What is the State of Gender Equality in India, and How Can You Help?” GVI. Accessed 12 February 2022. https://www.gviusa.com/blog/what-is-the-state-of-gender-equality-in-india-and-how-can-you-help/.