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Higher gender inequality in India than Pakistan, Bangladesh

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New Delhi: India lags way behind Pakistan and Bangladesh in the 2014 Gender Inequality Index (GII), with a rank of 130 out of 155 countries, according to the latest Human Development Report (HDR) 2015 by the United National Development Programme.

While Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively hold a rank of 111 and 121, among South Asian countries, India is at a better position only compared to Afghanistan, which is at 152.

The GII takes into account the inequalities seen in gender-specific areas such as, women empowerment measured through the number of parliamentary seats occupied by women and women’s education level; reproductive health of women measured by adolescent birth rates and maternal mortality ratio.; and economic contribution measured by the rate of labour market participation.

India has fallen behind its neighbors with respect to almost each of these parameters.

  • Indian women hold merely 12.2 per cent of parliamentary seats, while the percentage is 19.7 in Pakistan and 20 in Bangladesh.

  • For every 100,000 live births, 190 mothers die in India. The country has a high maternal mortality rate compared to both Bangladesh and Pakistan, where there are 170 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 births.

  • At 34 per cent women receiving secondary education, Bangladesh is far more developed than India, which is at 27 per cent.

  • Bangladesh has 57 per cent women participating in its labour force, while India has just 27 per cent.

India’s performance, according to the above indices, is even lower than the South Asian average. It is just in the sector of adolescent birth rate that India’s figures are better than Bangladesh and over the South Asian average, though Pakistan marginally out-performs it.

The adolescent birth rate refers to the number of births per 1000 women aged between 15 and 19 years. A lower rate is indicative of a female population who marries and conceives late, thus showing their control over their own choices.

In the last couple of years, improvements in maternal mortality rate and women’s representation in parliaments have slightly pushed up India’s GII values from 0.61 to 0.563, said UNDP officials. Other indicators however remained stagnant during this time.

A global drop was documented by the HDR 2015 in the female labour force participation rate, which refers to the working age female population in paid employment or looking for paid work. “This is mainly owing to the steep reduction for India, from 35 per cent women in 1990 to 27 per cent in 2013, and China from 73 per cent to 64 per cent in the same period,” said UNDP resident representative in India, Yuri Afanasiev.

National coordinator of Self-Employed Women’s Association, Renana Jhabvala stated that women’s workforce participation is missed by government surveys many a time due to the fact that they are virtually invisible.

“For instance, these surveys fail to capture details on large number of women in agriculture since land is in the name of the man. Due to this invisibility in official data, such women are often bereft of benefits such loans or seeds which the land-holding men are eligible for. This creates in India what we call a ‘sticky floor’ situation, where a majority of women cannot rise above a certain level of earnings, skills and benefits. It is the opposite of what the West refers to as ‘glass ceiling’,” said Jhabvala.

In case of Human Development Index (HDI), however, India out-performs both Pakistan and Bangladesh. While India ranks 130 out of 188, Pakistan is at 147 and Bangladesh at 142.

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Australia Rejects U.N. Climate Report, Continues Using Coal

Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent.

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Australia, Coal
The Liddell coal-fired power station is seen in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, Australia. VOA

Australia is rejecting the latest U.N. report on climate change, insisting coal remains critical to energy security and lowering household power bills.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its report released Monday that global greenhouse gas emissions must reach zero by the middle of the century to stop global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The authors warned that if warming was allowed to reach two degrees, the world would be on course toward uncontrollable temperatures.

Climate change, Australia
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Georgia. VOA

They made special mention of coal, insisting that its use for power generation would have to fall to between zero and two percent of current usage.

The report has received a lukewarm response by Australia’s center-right government. It has said it has no intention of scaling back fossil fuel production because without coal, household power bills would soar.

Canberra also insists it is on target to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement, which attempts to unite every nation under a single accord to tackle climate change for the first time ever.

Australia earns billions of dollars exporting coal to China and other parts of Asia, while it generates more than 60 percent of domestic electricity.

Queensland, Australia
FILE – A dead tree stands near a water tank in a drought-stricken paddock located on the outskirts of the southwestern Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, Aug. 10, 2017. (VOA)

Australia’s Environment Minister Melissa Price believes the IPCC report exaggerates the threat posed by fossil fuel.

“Coal does form a very important part of the Australian energy mixer and we make no apology for the fact that our focus at the moment is on getting electricity prices down,” Price said. “Every year, there is new technology with respect to coal and what its contribution is to emissions. So, you know, to say that it has got to be phased out by 2050 is drawing a very long bow.”

Australia has some of the world’s highest per capita rates of greenhouse gas pollution. A recent government report showed a failure to reduce levels of greenhouse gas pollution. The survey said that between January and March this year, Australia had its most elevated levels of carbon pollution since 2011.

Coal, Australia
Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

Conservationists argue Australia is doing too little to protect itself from the predicted ravages of a shifting climate.

Also Read: Use Every Resources To Help in Climate Change: Scientists

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Scientists warn that droughts, floods, heat waves, brush fires and storms will become more intense as temperatures rise, with potentially disastrous consequences for human health and the environment, including the Great Barrier Reef. (VOA)