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Piyali Dasgupta

How Laws Play In Positioning Women As Professionals And Entrepreneurs

POSTED ON 19 Apr 2017
5 Min read


The World Bank report and how it plays out for India: How government policies limit women’s full economic participation through laws that restrict their ability to engage in entrepreneurial and employment activities. 

Kaushik Basu, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at The World Bank says, “The World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law project has been constructing a unique dataset on laws, regulations and policies that constrain women’s economic choices.

The data illuminate how government policies limit women’s full economic participation through laws that restrict their ability to engage in entrepreneurial and employment activities. The report draws on readily comparable data across seven indicators: accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, going to court and protecting women from violence. It seems clear from the evidence that while governments are working progressively to provide equality of opportunity for women, there are still laws that differentiate between women and men in ways that affect women’s economic prospects: of the 173 economies covered, 155 have at least one law that differentiates between women and men.”

For India, these are the huge areas of concern which restrict women:  

  • In India, the female population is 612,195,535 and the participation in labour force is only a dismal 29% of the population compared to Iceland where the female population 162,643, the participation in labour force is 82%.

  • When it comes to protecting a wife’s interests, there are no special provisions governing the marital home for the Indian women unlike other countries.

  • With regard to judicial representation, there are 28 justices in the constitutional court and only 1 of them is a woman.

  • There is no law mandate for paternity leave, so fathers have limited participation in newborn child care.

  • There is no law mandate for equal remuneration for work of equal value for women.

  • Mothers aren’t guaranteed an equivalent position after maternity leave.

  • Parents are not entitled to flexible/part-time schedules with a newborn.

  • Women and men cannot do the same jobs in India, in industries such as metalwork and mining.

The areas in which there is seeming progress:

As per the Government of India, there are 2,38,617 Gram Panchayats in 31 listed states and union territories. The World Bank report says, “A study of 265 village councils in two states in India where a third of the positions of council head had been reserved for women since 1993 found that women leaders invest more in infrastructure that is directly relevant to women’s needs.” 

It has been seen that countries with quotas for the number of female legislators actively invested money in social services and welfare more than the countries which do not have such representation.

Women, Business and the Law measured and reported “The most recent quotas were introduced in Germany (30%) and India (at least one board member has to be a woman). In Israel, as in India, publicly listed companies must have at least one woman on their boards.”

The report states, “In 1994, two states in India, Karnataka and Maharashtra, reformed the Hindu Succession Act to allow women and men the same rights to inherit joint family property. This altered control over assets within families and increased parental investments in daughters. The second-generation effects were even larger in such areas as daughters’ education.

For example, mothers who benefited from the reform spent twice as much on their daughters’ education. Moreover, where the reforms occurred, women were more likely to have bank accounts and their households were more likely to have sanitary latrines, suggesting that legal empowerment gives women more bargaining power within the household and leads to better educational and financial outcomes for families. Although the reform was initiated at the state level, it has now been implemented throughout India.”

S Susie A. King writes for The Economy of Safety: The Importance of Financial Freedom for Women, “In Southern India, despite being uneducated and poor, Shantha developed a women’s “self-help” group in rural India. She worked with women in her community to build financial resources through the sale of rice and cow’s milk, and worked to gain financing for their business opportunities. The group that Shantha created helped 26 women obtain employment. The report finds that 90 percent of countries reviewed have at least one law impeding women’s economic opportunities. The report noted the direct correlation between a woman’s economic empowerment and being protected from violence.

When women were given the scope to head companies, inherit assets, access institutions, education and jobs, use property for financial growth, get incentives to work like maternity leave, health care benefits etc, build credit and have easy admittance to courts, it has directly lead to decrease in violence against women, bettered outcomes for the next generation of children i.e. especially girls. They have improved lives and are more empowered.  


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Written by Piyali Dasgupta

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