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Status of Women

          Kerala leads the other states of India in Women's education. Female literacy rate according to 2001 census is 87.86%. There are 1058 females per 1000 males. Women in Kerala occupy high positions in all fields of public activity - educational, judicial, medical and engineering professions.

          
Women of Kerala, enjoyed a lot of liberty from from early days. They used to recite the Puranas and watched performances of dramas, indigenous arts like Kathakali, Patakom and the such, along with men. Festivals like Onam and Thiruvathira gave occasions to them for social contacts and for the exhibition of their literacy, musical and dance talents.

          The rich and many among the poor knew to read and write. In the Chilappathikaram - literature belonging to Sangam era, mention is made about Kannaki, was first spotted in Chera land by some women performing Kuravainritham, a kind of folk dance. Chantrotsavam, a poetic composition of XII century, refers to women artistes like Mathi who was remarkable for her musical talent and dexterity in playing the Veena.

          In Kerala history, we come across plenty of diverse women, remarkable for scholarship and cultural accomplishments. Folk songs praise the martial prowess and war tactics of Unniarcha, in the Northern ballads (Vadakkenpattukal).

          Kerala leads India in women's education. According to 2001 census the female literacy rate is 87.86 per cent. There are 1058 females per 1000 males. Women in Kerala occupy high positions in every field of public activity. The Malayalee woman has an intense social sense, civic and national consciousness. She uses her freedom judicially and in the spirit of being an equal partner with man. Her role as wife and mother are performed well. Education has only sharpened her intellect, widened her outlook and tuned her social and civic senses.

DEMOGRAPHY


          The growth and development of women have direct impact on the general well-being of a society. Sex-ratio is the most credible pointer towards the status of women in any society. Kerala has a unique position in regard to sex-ratio. Over the last one hundred years females have been outnumbering males consistently. According to the 2001 census there are 1058 females per 1000 males. The major reason attributed to the increase in sex-ratio is the decline in the female infant mortality rate and the increase in life expectancy of women.

Ranking of districts by sex-ratio
Rank in 2001
District
   Sex-Ratio (Number of Females per 1000 Males)
Rank in 1991
   
2001
1991
1
Pathanamthitta
1094
1062
2
2
Thrissur
1092
1085
1
3
Kannur
1090
1049
6
4
Alappuzha
1079
1051
5
5
Kollam
1070
1035
8
6
Palakkad
1068
1061
3
7
Malappuram
1063
1053
4
8
Thiruvananthapuram
1058
1036
7
9
Kozhikkod
1058
1027
9
10
Kasaragod
1047
1026
10
11
Kottayam
1025
1003
11
12
Ernakulam
1017
1000
12
13
Wayanad
1000
966
14
14
Idukki
993
975
13

LITERACY

         From the beginning of the century, female literacy rate in the state has been on the increase. The state ranks first in the country with a literacy rate of 90.92%. The breakup shows 94.2 for males and 87.86 for females. The gap between male-female literacy rate in the state is a meager 6.34%.

Literacy rate 1951 - 2001
Year
Persons
Males
Females
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
1951
47.18
58.35
36.43
1961
55.08
64.89
45.56
1971
69.75
77.13
62.53
1981
78.85
84.56
73.36
1991
89.81
93.62
86.17
2001
90.92
94.20
87.86

Literacy rates by sex for state and districts
Sl.No. State/District
Literacy Rate *
 
Persons
Males
Females
1991 2001 1991 2001 1991 2001
  Kerala 89.81 90.92 93.62 94.20 86.17 87.86
1 Kasaragod 82.51 85.17 88.97 90.84 76.29 79.80
2 Kannur 91.48 92.80 95.54 96.38 87.65 89.57
3 Weaned 82.73 85.52 87.59 90.28 77.69 80.80
4 Kozhikkod 91.10 92.45 95.58 96.30 86.79 88.86
5 Malappuram 87.84 88.61 92.08 91.46 84.09 85.96
6 Palakkad 81.97 84.31 87.24 89.73 75.72 79.31
7 Thrissur 90.18 92.56 93.77 95.47 86.94 89.94
8 Ernakulam 92.30 93.42 95.40 95.95 89.22 90.96
9 Idukki 86.97 88.58 90.86 92.11 82.97 85.04
10 Kottayam 95.72 95.90 97.46 97.41 94.00 94.45
11 Alappuzha 93.87 93.66 96.79 96.42 91.12 91.14
12 Pathanamthitta 94.86 95.09 96.56 96.65 93.29 93.71
13 Kollam 90.47 91.49 94.09 94.63 87.00 88.60
14 Thiruvananthapuram 89.22 89.36 92.84 92.68 85.76 86.26
*Literacy rate is the percentage of literate to population aged 7 years and above.

HEALTH

         In Kerala, both access to and utilization of health care particularly among women are quite high compared to the women in rest of the country. A notable achievement of women's healthier in the state has been that over 90 of the deliveries take place under institutional care whereas at the country level "even 60% of the deliveries could not be institutionalized so far". The result is that maternal morality in the state has comedown sharply. For every 3000 deliveries the reported maternal morality is below one.

         Female life expectancy in Kerala is 74 years which is 15 years higher than the Indian average and almost 6 years above the corresponding figure for men in Kerala which is 68. Girls and women have access to the health care system in Kerala and primary data based surveys show that in general the rates of immunization of girls are as high as those of boys. Female literacy and education are crucial determinants of child survival, general health and hygiene. These in turn determine progress in other demographic and health indicators such as the expectancy of life at birth, the birth and death rates, the infant mortality rate and general mortality.

WORK PARTICIPATION

         Though Kerala rank top in women's literacy rate and education, the work participation sex-ratio shows a deviation. There are only 345 female workers per 1000 male workers which is lower than the national average (1991). The work Participation rate for women in 1991 was only 15.85 while that of men was 47.58 which is about three times that of women. This in turn indicate that women's share of earned income" in the state is only 12% . The above fact leaves the note that the higher rate of literacy/education among women is not a sufficient condition for gender equality in work. Along with low work participation, rates of unemployment and gender differentials in the labium market persist across the society.

POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

         Women's participation in politics is low and no different from the rest of the country. On the contrary, going by the numbers in which they turn out for electioneering and to cast vote in various elections, women's participation can quite justifiably described as active and the proportion of votes cast by women has been around 50%. Still, the proportion of women among those contesting the elections and getting elected has tended to be extremely small. In the outgoing assembly of 1996, the number of women is a mere 13 in a house of 141. In 1957, their number was 6 in a house of 127. This statistics indicate that the situation has not further improved.

         A handful of women in Kerala have reached the top by their grit and determination. These have been isolated cases without reflecting any easing of women's entry into the higher echelons of political leadership in parties or government.

Women's participation in Kerala State Assembly
Term of assembly Total seats Men Women Women's participation
1957-60 127 121 6 4.7
1960-65 127 120 7 5.5
1965-67 133 130 3 2.2
1967-70 133 132 1 0.7
1970-77 133 131 2 1.5
1977-80 140 139 1 0.7
1980-82 140 135 5 3.5
1982-87 140 132 4 2.8
1987-91 140 132 8 5.7
1991-95 140 132 8 5.7
1995-2001 140 129 12 8.5
2001- 140 132 8 5.7

Women representation in Lok Sabha
Year of election
Total seats
Men
Women
1957
19
19
0
1962
19
19
0
1967
19
18
1
1971
19
18
1
1977
20
20
0
1980
20
19
1
1984
20
20
0
1989
20
19
1
1991
20
18
2
1996
20
18
2
1999
20
19
1

 


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