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Challenging negative social norms


It is important to focus on the challenges for India in terms of demographic management with the World Population Day coming up on 11th of July.


GS-I: Indian Society (Issues related to Population)

Mains Questions:

Discuss about India’s demographic dividend and throw light on the various roadblocks the remain in India’s population control targets. (10 marks)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Data regarding India’s Population
  2. Background: India’s Current position on demographic dividend and SRHR
  3. India’s Progress so far
  4. Challenges faced by India
  5. Way Forward

Data regarding India’s Population

  • According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimates, India’s population will reach 1.5 billion by 2030 and hit 1.64 billion in 2050. This would make India become the largest populous country, overtaking China.
  • The fertility rate in the country still lies in the range of 2.1-4.
  • According to the United Nations population projections, India’s population will increase by a multiple of 1.09 between 2021 and 2031.
  • From 2060 onwards, India’s population will start falling, which happens when fertility rate falls below replacement levels.

Issues with India’s Increasing Population

  • At present, India hosts 16% of the world’s population with only 2.45% of the global surface area and 4% water resources.
  • As per India Ageing Report 2017 by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) the share of the population over the age of 60 could increase from 8% in 2015 to 19% in 2050. India will have to spend more on their health along with geriatric care.
  • In the face of an increasing population, unequal distribution of income and inequalities within the country would be a possible outcome.
  • India’s low literacy rate and poor skilling of human capital will turn demographic dividend into a burden. There will be a need to spend more on education, healthcare system, grow more food, and to add capacity to basic infrastructures, such as roads, transport, electricity, and sewage to provide a minimum quality of life to every citizen.

Background: India’s Current position on demographic dividend and SRHR

  • India is currently enjoying what is referred to as a demographic dividend. Half of India’s population is under 29 years of age. This significant proportion of young people in the total population will help drive India’s economic growth.
  • India will have the youngest workforce in the world with a median age much lower than China and other Developed countries. The other countries will have a higher proportion of the population which is not in the working-age group which will result in a shortage of manpower to the tune of 56 million.
  • However, for India to be able to enjoy the fruits of this demographic dividend the young population must not only be healthy, knowledgeable and skilled but must also be provided with the rights and choices to develop to their fullest potential, including, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

What is a Demographic Dividend?

  • As per the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the demographic dividend is the economic growth potential resulting out of changing population age structure with a large section of people in the working-age group of 15 years to 64 years as compared to the non-working age population of below 14 years and above 65 years.

What is Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)?

  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights or SRHR is the concept of human rights applied to sexuality and reproduction.
  • Apart from ensuring good sexual and reproductive health via access to quality healthcare facilities, the definition of SRHR would also encompass a broader range of issues such as violence, stigma and respect for bodily autonomy.
  • SRHR include issues like abortion, HIV and other STIs, maternal health and rights, contraceptive access, gender-based violence, discrimination and stigma, and more.
  • SRHR is a critical aspect of human well being given that it greatly impacts the psychological, emotional and social well-being of individuals.

India’s Progress so far

  • India’s population growth has been stabilizing. The overall fertility rate has been decreasing. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR), presently at 2.2 children, will soon reach replacement level (2.1).
  • In the last two decades, India has made substantial gains with SRHR indicators. There has been a marked improvement in the rate of institutional delivery.
  • There has been a decline in maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from 327 in 1999-2001 to 113 per 100,000 live births in 2016-18.
  • Data from the National Health Family Survey 5 for the year 2019-20 (NFHS-5) notes improvement in contraceptive prevalence in most States. This marks a significant shift in family planning methods considering the earlier emphasis on forced sterilization efforts.

Challenges faced by India

  • Pervasive negative social norms, health system barriers and gender inequality have hindered universal access to SRHR. According to NFHS-4, in girls aged 15-19 years, 22.2% had an unmet need for contraception.
  • As an indicator of the poor social status of rural women who have very little formal education and economic power given their poor income levels – the TFR remains higher than the national average of 2.2 children among women who live in rural areas and a majority of them living in the poorer States.
  • Early marriage of girls is a big challenge in India. 26.8% of women aged 20-24 years are married before they turn 18.
  • Many girls and women face gender-based violence and harmful practices that are socially sanctioned and rooted in social norms, beliefs and practices that deny women their bodily autonomy.

Way Forward

  • There is the need to ensure universal access to SRHR as envisioned under the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
  • Prescriptive or coercive methods, such as one- or two-child norms, have rarely worked well anywhere for long as is evident from the experience of China in demographic management. Rather, the people should be empowered to take suitable measures.
  • Youth, women and girls must be placed at the centre of policymaking and services given the positive ripple effect that it can generate. Turning the focus on women and youth could lead to better health outcomes.
  • India’s population stabilisation strategy must be formulated keeping in mind the rights of women and girls. Women must have a greater say in choosing their family size.
  • Governmental programmes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP), has played a significant role in challenging the existing regressive social norms and similar efforts should be taken going ahead.

-Source: The Hindu

March 2024