Gender based inequality in agriculture sector in India

Synopsis- Women farmers fear that the farm laws will further deepen the existing gender-based inequality in the agriculture sector. 

How Farming in India has strengthened gender-based inequality? 

This gender discrimination is deeply rooted in society and deprives women farmers of some of the most basic facilities like access to loans and irrigation systems. 

  • First, non-recognition as farmers– Female farmers are labeled as ‘cultivators’ or ‘agricultural laborer’s but not farmers. Without any recognition, they tend to get excluded from all the benefits of government schemes. 
    • According to the agricultural census, 73.2 percent of rural women workers are engaged in agriculture, yet they own only 12.8 percent of the land.
  • Second, the lack of land ownership makes female farmers “invisible”. Without land, they are not recognized as farmers despite their large contributions to the sector and this marginalization means they are especially vulnerable to exploitation by large corporationsunder the new laws. 
    • 83% of agricultural land in India is inherited by male members of the family and less than 2% by their female counterparts, according to India Human Development Survey (2018).

What are the implications of recently enacted farm law’s on women a farmer? 

Recently enacted farm laws will further deteriorate there already poor condition; 

  • First, no mention on MSP- Their main worry is about a possible withdrawal of the MSP and a dismantling of the public procurement. Without a guarantee of an MSP, they are vulnerable to corporate exploitation.  
  • Second, bargaining power-When selling their produce outside mandis, Women farmer’s ability to understand and enter into a fair agreement with the corporate buyers is a cause of concern.
    • Without this safety net, Vulnerable farmers fear they will have to participate in contract farming with private corporations, where these companies determine the price with no adequate redressal mechanism.  
    • They also fear that the small marginal and medium farmers (mostly women led) will be forced to do sell their land to big agro-businesses and become wage laborer.

Thus, the lack of safeguards from the government for pricing will widen the gender gap in farming as the premise of “increasing competition” assumes women are able to trade as easily as men when they are subject to greater limitations. 

Way forward- 

  • Widen the definition of farmers which doesn’t recognize women as farmer but as cultivators and agriculture laborer.
  • Policy paralysis in granting entitlement to women agriculture needs to be focused. 
  • Grant property rights and tenure of security of agriculture land to women. 

The empowerment of women farmers is important not only to achieve gender equality but improve nutritional security of the country.

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