Women in India fare worse than men in education, workforce participation and representation in government compared to several other countries, including countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, which otherwise rank lower than India on the Human Development Index (HDI), latest data shows. 

The United National Development Programme released its Human Development Report (HDR) 2015 on Monday, and while India climbed five places to a rank of 130 among 188 nations with an HDI value of 0.609, the report highlighted glaring gender inequality in one of the world's largest and fastest growing economies. 

While Bangladesh ranked 142 on HDI, it placed higher than India on the gender inequality index at 111, while Pakistan ranked 121, despite a lower HDI ranking of 147. India's rank on gender inequality was 130 with a value of 0.563. 

Veena Poonacha, who retired as the director of women's studies at the SNDT Women's University in Mumbai, said that the figures do not come as a surprise.

"Just because we are the fastest growing economy, it doesn't mean there is balanced development. Because of the patriarchal structure of our society, many women even in the organised working sector do not have complete control over their income," Poonacha said.

"The fact that we still do not have reservation for women in the parliament shows that men do not want to share power with women," the retired professor said.

These very issues are reflected in the report that shows how women in India are discriminated against when it comes to health, empowerment and economic activities.

Women in parliament: 

Women's representation in the Indian parliament was only 12.2% in 2014 as compared to 20% in Bangladesh and 19.7% in Pakistan. 

In Norway and Australia, which ranked in the top two in the HDI index, the parliamentary seats held by women were 39.6% and 30% respectively. 

In Iraq, the figure was 26.5%, while in Saudi Arabia, where women face severe restrictions, the figure was higher at 19.9%. 


Only 27% of women in India received secondary education between 2005 and 2014, compared to 95.1% in the United States, which ranked 8th on the HDI table, and 100% in Canada, which ranked 9th overall. 

Education levels among Indian women were also lower than in Bangladesh, where 34.1% women received secondary education. In Pakistan, the figure was lower at 19.3%. 

Women in the workforce:

Participation of women in the workforce fell to 27% in 2013 from 35% in 1990. Comparatively, in Bangladesh, labour force participation of women was 57.4% in the same year. 

Indian women also fared worse than those in less developed nations such as Ghana and Congo where the female labour force participation stood at 67.3% and 68.5%. 

Women's reproductive health:

India also had a high maternal mortality ratio of 190 deaths per 100,000 live births. 

In Bangladesh and Pakistan, the maternal mortality rate was 170 deaths, while in the developed world, the figure ranged from 3 (Poland) to 8 (United Kingdom) and 28 (United States). 

Even in war-torn nations such as Iraq, the maternal mortality rate was lower than India's at 67 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Among the positive indicators for women in India, according to the UNDP report, was a higher life expectancy at birth, which was 69.5 years for women compared to 66.6 years for men, but was still lower than 85 years for women in Switzerland and 86 years for Japanese women. 

However, on perceptions of individual well-being, 75% of Indian women said they were satisfied with their freedom of choice, scoring better than their counterparts in neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

Poonacha said that gender inequality in the country is a complex problem to solve.

"We need to change the development model, to make it balanced for not just women but weaker sections, and even for the environment," she said. 

"We also need massive investments in the healthcare sector to ensure women do not die during childbrith," she added.