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5 Reasons Why It’s Better To Be A Woman In Kerala Than Haryana

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By Pallavi Ghosh

Kerala and Haryana are placed at two extreme ends while discussing the child sex ratio in India. Kerala is a space of respite with a consistently higher child sex ratio (964 girls per 1000 boys) and Haryana is where the ratio is skewed. Unlike Kerala, Haryana has thereby earned the reputation of a feudal space where despite economic progress, patriarchal mindset seems to dominate culturally, leading to gender-based discrimination in various forms. How is it that these two states that are amongst the relative better-developed regions fare so differently when it comes to gender-based discrimination?

kerala women
Source: MM/ Flickr

Here are 5 reasons why Keralite women are better off than their Haryanvi counterparts:

1. Discrimination Before Birth

According to an article published in The Hindu, estimates are that around 37,000 girls are at the receiving end of gender-biased sex selection every year in Haryana and account for 4% of gender-biased sex elimination in the country. The predominant attitude is to view a girl child as a burden and hence get ‘rid’ of her as early as possible. Such a mindset has a critical role to play in the skewed child sex ratio in Haryana.

2. Costs Of Labour Lost

Despite having a greater number of women involved in agricultural labour, Haryana has 31.3% of women having BMIs below 18.5 as against Kerala, where the percentage stands at 18. This had an adverse impact on not only women’s bodies throughout their lifetime but also in terms of life expectancy. It is no surprise thus that 13,370 more lives are either lost or suffer from the risk of being lost in Haryana than in Kerala. This is because of the differing life expectancy at birth rates. A study by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen brings to light a 10% gap in the life expectancy at birth rates in the years 1990 and 1992 in the two states – Kerala (74 approx) and Haryana (64 approx).

GC graph 1

3. No Pay, No Say

Imagine a day when we are told to survive on Rs. 40 for a day. This is exactly the amount available to women in Kerala in houses where the monthly income is Rs. 10,000. Despite this meagre amount, women in Kerala are less dependent on others in the family – 5% less dependent, and thus more empowered than Haryanvi women. In the same study by Dreze and Sen, it was noted that the share of earned income for women in Kerala is around 12% approximately. However, if you think this is low enough, in Haryana, the percentage drops to 7.

4. To Read Or Not To Read

Literacy rates might be misleading in terms of gauging the level of progress, but they certainly reflect the level of investment in a child.

GC graph 2

Amongst adult women, the rate is an impressive 81 percent approximately – the difference in percentage being 54! In other words in terms of investment, fewer people are interested in funding girls’ education even in the primary level. Therefore, in cultural terms, the value of daughters suffers a blow in the process making them more of a burden than an asset. For those girls who are alive, not much money is ‘wasted’ on them.

5. Employment In The Organized Sector

If we compare the proportion of women employed under the organized sector in Haryana and Kerala, we find that a greater presence of women in the South Indian state. With greater opportunities and security, come greater decision-making powers and better conditions of living. Armed with better wages and conditions of work, women in Kerala are more empowered than their North Indian counterparts.

Source : Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation
Source : Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation

6. Early Marriages

The age of marriage is crucial in understanding the position of women in a given society. The earlier the normative year of marriage is for girls, the more dependent they are on others.

Source: Child Marriage in India (UNICEF)
Source: Child Marriage in India (UNICEF)

The median age for girls in Haryana is majorly below the legal age of marriage. This reflects the cultural attitude that believes that marriage is a woman’s destiny and not choice; the earlier she marries, the better it is because hey what else can a woman do after all? Getting married later means that the scope of agency and choice is greater for Keralite women.

So there it is, things as they stand today. While it is heartening to see the improvements that are being made when it comes to the position women hold in some parts of the country, the lag overall is saddening. Moribund traditions and huge inequalities are what are causing this gender imbalance, which is detrimental to our growth as a society. If the youth are the future of tomorrow, why do we forget that girls comprise a good chunk of that population? Giving them an equal chance is as much a necessity, as their fundamental right.

Let’s make #GirlsCount

You must be to comment.
  1. Amlan

    The better position of women in Kerala, is mainly because of matrilineal past. But, sadly the position of women in Kerala is getting worse day by day with the transition to patriliny and patriarchy, mainly because of increasing influence from the ever globalising world, polluting their culture with misogyny and patriarchy. Sex ratio actually decreased which once used to be much higher then todays 964 mark after the patriarchal transition.But, even today some parts of Kerala still follow their matrilineal tradition.

    Solution to the problem of son preference can actualy be a gender equal society with a mix of patrilineal and matrilineal system depending and adjusting itself to the needs of the situation of the two partners and the two families concerned, instead of strictly and irrationaly adherring to a particular convention.

  2. Almas Shamim

    While I totally agree that it is way better to be a woman in Kerala than in Haryana for the above mentioned reasons and some more (such as- it is also easier and safer to be a woman belonging to a minority religion or lower caste in Kerala than in northern states since minorities and lower caste members are better treated here), I want to remind you that not all is perfect in this Southern state. Women, even in Kerala, are expected to dress and carry themselves a particular way. It would be nearly impossible to walk in certain places of Kerala alone at night without being stared and commented upon and sometimes even molested. The general norm is that if there is a party in college, it is the guys who will really ‘party’ while the girls will enjoy just sitting and looking at the guys for a while before going back to their hostels since there is a ridiculous in-time. I have personally been demeaned coz I used to stroll in my college campus alone at night. There had been an incident of sexual harassment on one of these nights and I had raised my voice- created quite a scene- I was further criticized for doing that!! I was also judged for not ‘pinning my dupatta’, laughing loudly, sitting cross legged and wearing lipstick. Dowry is also a BIG thing in Kerala with even girls supporting and justifying the demand of maddening dowry. Of course, the same attitudes persist in most places in India! But, I just wanted to point out that a high literacy rate does not necessarily mean that girls are at par with men. They may be better off than women in Haryana, but their current status is no benchmark against which India should set its standards- it is just the basic minimum- a lot more needs to be done.

    1. Avi

      Spot on!

  3. Amlan

    I would like to put forward an issue related to the “Why should I care part of this article”. Two child policy has been called “discriminatory”. I think thats quite hypocritical to say so. By saying so, it seems that are re emphasising the sick dicriminatory idea that having ‘atleast 1 son’ is important and that famillies without a son are incomplete and hence should try for a 3rd child hoping for a son, for which “two child norm” is hindrance, not realising the problems of overpopulation and also difficulties of working women and also women in general in keeping on giving birth one after another in order to fullfill the society’s patriarchal, sick and unjust desire for sons or ‘atleast one son’, which is practically not always possible to have in a natural and just manner.Instead of reforming biased social structures and systems that lead to son preference,baselessly critisizing government policies of good intent wont do any good.

  4. Tyson

    It was a nice article.
    I just want to point out something that i found on the census website, its Delhi vs Puducherry.
    why Delhi begin a Metro city ended up at the last and
    puducherry also union territory like delhi ended up at the top?

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