Big Gender Gap Persists in South Asia
The Global Gender Gap Report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four critical areas:
1. Economic participation and opportunity: Outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
2. Educational attainment: Outcomes on access to basic and higher level education
3. Political empowerment: Outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
4. Health and survival: Outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio
The country profile of Pakistan shows that it is ranked 132 in economic participation and opportunity, 128 in education attainment and health and survival and 55 in political empowerment. Pakistan’s position was 112 in the year 2006 that declined to 126 in 2007 and then 128 in 2008.
Only Chad and Yemen rank worse than Pakistan this year. This is not a surprise considering one of the lowest female literacy rates in Pakistan. Pakistan's gender gap of 27% in literacy is worse than India's 22%. At overall literacy rate of only 52%, and with more than 50 million people illiterate, Pakistan has one of the lowest overall literacy rates in Asia. The literacy rate for males over 15 years is 63% while that for females is 36% in Pakistan. Only Yemen's literacy gender gap is worse than South Asia's.
In spite of the grim picture painted by the WEF, the status of women in Pakistan, and the rest of South Asia, continues to vary considerably across different classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and urban social customs on women's lives. While some women are soaring in the skies as pilots of passenger jets and supersonic fighter planes, others are being buried or burned alive for defying traditions.
Sri Lanka, ranked at 16 ahead of the United States at 31, is the shining exception to the rest of South Asia in terms of gender parity.
Ranked 114, India has fared better than Pakistan. But the WEF survey indicates that India is behind Bangladesh (94) and Nepal (110) - affirming that women in these countries share resources with men more equally than in India. Echoing concerns of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen over female infanticide and 25 million "missing women" in India, the WEF rankings bring out the gender gap on health and survival issues. India's gender gap of 22% in literacy is also among the worst in the world.
India ranks 24 for women's political participation. It stands at 121st position in education gap and 127th place on economic participation gap. On its health gender gap, India ranks dead last at 134th.
"While India, Iran and Pakistan perform very poorly on the economic, education and health subindexes, their overall scores are partially bolstered by relatively good performances on political empowerment," the WEF said.
WEF said close to 300 Indian women die every day during childbirth or of pregnancy-related causes, and the country has the worst sex ratios at birth in the world, ranking 131st on this variable. India holds last place among the BRIC countries on the the WEF gender Index, behind Russia (51), China (60) and Brazil (82).
Of the 25 Muslim nations included in the survey, fourteen rank above India and eleven rank below. Most of the Islamic countries ranking higher than India are located in Central and East Asia.
Overall, Nordic nations offer women the most equal treatment compared to men, with Iceland ranking number one, followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden. Ranked ninth, the Philippines is the only Asian country in the top 10. It has “closed the gender gap on both education and health”, according to the WEF. The UK ranks 15 and the United States at 31.
Clearly, South Asians in general, and Pakistanis in particular, have a long way to go toward achieving any semblance of gender parity. They can definitely look to Sri Lanka for inspiration to close the gender gap.
Here's a video about women literacy in South Asia:
WEF Gender Gap Rankings 2009
Dalit Victims of Indian Apartheid
Global Gender Gap Rankings 2008
India at Bottom in Gender Equality
Sex Ratios at Birth
Female Literacy Lags Far Behind in India and Pakistan
Female Genocide Unfolding in India
Status of Women in Pakistan