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India’s Demographic Opportunities and Issues Faced by Women


  • GS Paper 2: Governance, Administration and Challenges- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to: Human Resources.



  • In these troubled times of the COVID-19 pandemic, World Population Day on July 11 brings some positive news — India has entered a demographic sweet spot that will continue for another two to three decades.
  • Drivers of economic growth and social progress: more than half of India’s population is under 29 years of age.
  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) (defined by the Guttmacher–Lancet Commission): includes issues such as violence, stigma, and respect for bodily autonomy, which greatly impact the psychological, emotional, and social well-being of individuals along with SRHR.

India's Demographic Opportunities and Issues Faced by Women_40.1

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India’s demography: achievements

  • Stabilization of population: due to decline in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) (presently at 2.2 children), which will soon reach replacement level (2.1).
    • But due to the ‘population momentum’ effect, the Indian population will continue to grow.
    • Population momentum occurs when a country’s fertility rate declines to or below replacement level, yet the population size continues to grow due to the population’s age structure.
  • Improved rates of institutional delivery and a decline in maternal mortality ratio (MMR): MMR has declined from 327 in 1999-2001 to 113 per 100,000 live births in 2016-18, as per Sample Registration System (SRS) data.
  • Improved family planning: for instance, contraceptive prevalence has improved in most States (the National Health Family Survey 5 for the year 2019-20).

Mental Health Care

Challenges faced by Women

  • Rural-urban divide: as TFR in rural women is higher than the national average of 2.2 children.
    • This is due to lack of formal education and poverty, as most of them live in the pooper states.
  • Limited access to SRHR: due to pervasive negative social norms, health system barriers, and gender inequality.
  • Inadequate information and access to SRH services:
    • Two million adolescent girls (15-19 years) each year had a pregnancy, and of these, nearly 63% were unwanted or unintended (Guttmacher Institute, 2021).
    • 2% of adolescent girls had an unmet need for contraception, according to NFHS-4.
  • Denial of bodily autonomy to women: socially sanctioned harmful practices such as child marriage, gender-based violence is often rooted in social norms, beliefs, and practices.
    • For instance, 8% of women aged 20-24 years are married before they turn 18, often having their first child within the first year of marriage.
  • Poor performance on The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report (2021): India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia.

National Mission for Clean Ganga

Way forward

  • Government should –
    • Ensure that the youth of the nation is healthy, knowledgeable, and skilled.
    • Provide youth with the rights and choices to develop to their fullest potential, including, and especially, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
    • Triggering positive ripple effects: by placing youth, women, and girls at the center of policymaking and services.
  • Ensure adequate provisions for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services: as any further delays will curtail the health and well-being of women and girls, the consequences of which can last a lifetime.
  • Collaborative approach: all sections of society must embrace this call for positive change, each doing their part, from the individual to the institution level.
  • Investment in social causes must go alongside economic progress: as highlighted by the success of programs such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP).
  • Ensuring woman bodily autonomy: which will result in advances in her health, education, income, and safety. She is more likely to thrive, and so is her family.

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