Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

State of World Population Report 2021


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : State of World Population Report 2021

Mains level : Womens' right issues

The United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) flagship State of World Population Report 2021 titled ‘My Body is My Own’ was recently launched.

State of World Population Report 2021

  • The State of World Population report is UNFPA’s annual flagship publication.
  • It has been published yearly since 1978.
  • It highlights emerging issues in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, bringing them into the mainstream and exploring the challenges and opportunities they present for international development.

Key findings of the 2021 report

This is the first time a UN report has focused on bodily autonomy, defined as the power and agency to make choices about your body without fear of violence or having someone else decide for you.

  • The report measures both women’s power to make their own decisions about their bodies and the extent to which countries’ laws support or interfere with a woman’s right to make these decisions.
  • The data show a strong link between decision-making power and higher levels of education.

The report shows that in countries where data are available:

  • Only 55 per cent of women are fully empowered to make choices over health care, contraception and the ability to say yes or no to sex.
  • Only 71 per cent of countries guarantee access to overall maternity care.
  • Only 75 per cent of countries legally ensure full, equal access to contraception.
  • Only about 80 per cent of countries have laws supporting sexual health and well-being.
  • Only about 56 per cent of countries have laws and policies supporting comprehensive sexuality education.

In essence, hundreds of millions of women and girls do not own their own bodies. Their lives are governed by others.

The report also documents many other ways that the bodily autonomy of women, men, girls and boys is violated, revealing that:

  • Twenty countries or territories have “marry-your-rapist” laws, where a man can escape criminal prosecution if he marries the woman or girl he has raped.
  • Forty-three countries have no legislation addressing the issue of marital rape (rape by a spouse).
  • More than 30 countries restrict women’s right to move around outside the home.
  • Girls and boys with disabilities are nearly three times more likely to be subjected to sexual violence, with girls at the greatest risk.

Solutions: the power to say yes, the right to say no

  • The report shows how efforts to address abuses can lead to further violations of bodily autonomy.
  • For example, to prosecute a case of rape, a criminal justice system might require a survivor to undergo an invasive so-called virginity test.
  • Real solutions, the report finds, must take into account the needs and experiences of those affected.

Indian scenario

  • In India, according to NFHS-4 (2015-2016), only about 12% of currently married women (15-49 years of age) independently make decisions about their own healthcare, while 63% decide in consultation with their spouse.
  • For a quarter of women (23%), it is the spouse that mainly takes decisions about healthcare.
  • Only 8% of currently married women (15-49 years) take decisions on the use of contraception independently, while 83% decide jointly with their spouse.
  • Information provided to women about the use of contraception is also limited — only 47% of women using a contraceptive were informed about the side effects of the method, and 54% of women were provided information about other contraceptives.
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