Women are often discouraged from getting an education or being economically productive, marriage pressures are high from a very young age (especially in rural areas), and biases within religions towards men are some examples of how religion can affect women’s development.
A majority of violence committed against women occurs within the home. There has been an increase in reports of domestic torture (cruelty by the husband or his family), with 5.9 cases per 100,000 females being reported in 1994, (National Crime Bureau 1995).
Such incidents seriously undermine the women’s status within the household and her decision-making ability, in addition to seriously endangering her physical safety and mental health. Dowry deaths (wherein a woman is killed due to insufficient gifts/money given by her parents at the time of her wedding) are illegal in India but are known to still widely occur.
Nearly 5000 women have been known to suffer dowry deaths by burns or bodily injury. The actual number of deaths is thought to be larger given that many deaths occur due to reasons of insufficient dowry but are not reported as such. Though the sex ratios increased for the first time this century from 1991-2001, there is little reason to be optimistic. At 933, the ratio is far behind the 972 of the 1901 census, and represents only a marginal improvement from the 927 of 1991.
Regional disparities further complicate any demographic analysis. Northwestern India – including Punjab (874), Haryana (861), Western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan (922), and northern Madhya Pradesh – has the lowest sex ratios in the country even though Punjab and Haryana are among the richest states in the country in terms of per capita income. The highest rates, once again, are in the high literacy rates of the south, Kerala (the only state with a positive sex ratio in 1058) and Tamil Nadu (986). Low infant and adult sex ratios are widely seen to be indicators of the dismal situation of women in the country.