New Delhi: In a recent international survey on gender equality opinions and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, most (87 per cent) female respondents from India have said they feel at risk, or know someone who feels at risk, of assault or harassment in some place or another. In the same survey, about 26 per cent women say they are not paid as much as their male counterparts.
According to India-based findings of the report by Women Deliver and Focus 2030, women in India cited public places to be the most common place where they felt at-risk. "Fifty-five percent of female respondents feel at risk, or know someone who feels at risk, "online", and 40 per cent do "in the place where (they) work or study". Twenty-six per cent of female respondents in India feel at risk, or know someone who feels at risk, of assault or harassment in their home," said the report.
Of the 1,003 respondents surveyed, 48 per cent of female respondents in India state that they have had their "freedom of movement restricted against their will by family members or (their) partner".
As per the report, 60 per cent women find it acceptable for women to refuse sexual intercourse with their partner; and 56 per cent find it unacceptable to whistle at a woman in the street, or touch her without her consent. 35 per cent think it acceptable to share a sexist joke about a woman with friends or on social media, while 51 per cent find this unacceptable.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights
When it comes to bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights, 1 in 10 want provision of access to contraception and family planning, good maternal health, and sex education in schools.
Female respondents who migrated for a job or better economic opportunities are particularly keen on an increase in access to sexual health services compared to other females.
Twenty-six per cent of female respondents in India stated that they have had difficulty accessing their chosen method of contraception and 20 per cent have had difficulty accessing abortion and post-abortion care, said the report.
Economic justice and rights
Seventeen per cent of respondents rank "implement access to well paid jobs, equal pay, financial independence, and property rights" as their number one priority. In order to improve women's economic opportunities and decision-making powers, respondents cite measures like preventing violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, guaranteeing social protection and decent working conditions for women in low paying jobs and achieving equal access to education and professional training for women and men.
Notably, according to the report, 26 per cent of female respondents in India said that they are "not paid as much as male counterparts where (they) work". This figure rises to 32 per cent among female respondents aged 45 to 59. Furthermore, 28 per cent females feel that they have "not had the same access to promotion opportunities as (their) male peers". 26 per cent of female respondents have "not or will not receive the same inheritance as male relatives", and 30 per cent "have had difficulty accessing education and professional training compared to (their) male peers or relatives".
Forty per cent of male respondents and 44 per cent of female respondents deem it acceptable to let women do the majority of housework, childcare, and elderly care.
Impact of COVID-19
Females in India seem to have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic on a greater scale than their male counterparts. Forty-five per cent expect inequality between women and men will rise as a consequence of COVID-19. A strong majority (89 per cent) think that women should be involved in all aspects of the global health response and recovery efforts to COVID-19.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, 67 per cent females in India said that their time doing household work has increased. Ten per cent have lost their job and 29 per cent could not do as many hours of paid work as they usually would.
"We've made a lot of progress on gender equality over the last 25 years, but there's so much work left to do. Now, with COVID-19, just as women are assuming an outsized role in responding to the pandemic in their communities and at home, they are also experiencing enormous added burden, and we could see the consequences of that strain playing out for years to come," said Divya Mathew, Senior Manager, Policy and Advocacy at Women Deliver.
"This survey shows us where the world has fallen short, but it also delivers the encouraging news that the vast majority of women and men around the world expect their leaders to take action to advance gender equality."