Using a ‘traffic light’ color scheme, learn about a country’s performance relative to the other focus countries for each individual SDG. Each square on an individual SDG line represents the performance of a country, with the selected country (i.e. India) being the larger square. Click on a country square on any SDG line to learn about the related indicators and their score!

Gender Equality Context in India

India is the world’s largest democracy, with 1.2 billion people, and is expected to be the world’s most populous country by 2050. Where India makes progress towards development goals, the lives of hundreds of millions of people can be improved: in recent decades, India has made substantial progress to improve child nutrition, immunization rates and education enrolment rates, as well as to achieve broad economic growth. Yet gender disparities persist against a backdrop of rapid economic growth: rates of violence against women are still high, women’s participation in government is low, and discriminatory dowry and inheritance practices continue.

The Constitution grants equality to women, ensures equality before the law, and prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. It also allows ‘personal’ laws, however, resulting in a dual system that allows forms of discrimination against girls and women. Under civil law, for example, the minimum age for marriage is 18 years for women and 21 years for men, but in Muslim Personal Law (though not codified) Muslims can determine when marriage is acceptable (sometimes at puberty).

Implementation of relevant legislation, such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006), has been weak, partly because the statute is unclear on whether it supersedes personal law. Similarly, The Hindu Succession Act of 2005 grants Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain women equal inheritance rights to ancestral and jointly owned property, but Muslims may follow Sharia laws on inheritance that allow daughters to inherit only half as much as sons.

India launched the National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) in 2010, mandated to facilitate the coordination of all programmes related to women’s welfare and their socio-economic development across all ministries and departments. The government leads specific initiatives focused on gender equality and other programmes that, though not focused exclusively on girls and women, benefit them nonetheless, including its push to enhance access to clean water and sanitation.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images, Equal Measures 2030
Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Key findings

What does the SDG Gender Index tell us about the profile of gender equality for each country?

Areas of strong performance
  • SDG 10 on inequalities: India scores well on SDG 10 among the six focus countries. It had the lowest levels of income inequality, alongside Indonesia, in 2012 and the highest score for the extent to which gender equality was reflected in its Constitution as of 2017.

  • SDG 16 on peace, justice and institutions: India had lower rates of women killed by intentional homicide in 2016 than many of the other countries and fairly low rates of people displaced by conflict as of 2017.  India also had the second highest proportion of women who said they feel safe walking alone at night, 69% (2017).

  • SDG 5 on gender equality: India had the highest score on the legal grounds for abortion, alongside Colombia (as of 2017) and it had the highest score for women represented in senior positions in the government in 2018.  However, it has the lowest score for women represented in national parliaments (just 12% in 2018).

  • SDG 17 on partnerships: India registers a strong commitment to gender budgeting and also had the second highest social expenditure, as a percentage of GDP, in 2016.

Areas for improvement
  • SDG 2 on hunger: India lags behind the other countries. While it had the lowest rates of obesity among women, it had the highest rates of stunting among girls in 2015/16. The country also had the highest prevalence of anaemia among women, with anaemia rates for women nearly double that of Colombia, El Salvador, Indonesia and Kenya in 2016.

  • SDG 5 on gender equality: India had the lowest percentage of women in its national Parliament in 2018 – just 12% compared to 42%  in Senegal. It also had the second highest percentage of child, early and forced marriage before the age of 18 in 2015/16 and high percentage of women (45% in 2015/16) who reported believing that a husband is justified in hitting his wife, an indication of discriminatory social norms.

  • SDG 13 on climate: India scores the lowest on the climate change indicator, driven largely by the massive share of its people affected by disasters in recent years (primarily driven by monumental drought in 2015 and 2016, estimated to have affected nearly 1/4, but also because it has the lowest score for whether the delegation representing the country at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) was gender balanced in 2012.

Equal Measures 2030
Paula Bronstein / Getty Images Reportage

EM2030 partner in India

Sahaj, Equal Measures 2030


SAHAJ, an NGO based in Gujarat, strives to improve the health and education of marginalized girls and women through community-directed programmes, research and policy advocacy.

With the support of EM2030, SAHAJ works with partner coalitions in six states in India and at the national level to build data-for-advocacy skills. It aims to increase political will and dialogue among government stakeholders on the importance of data-based implementation of the SDGs for girls and women, particularly SDG 3 on health and SDG 5 on gender equality. The project analyses existing data and field-level evidence from grassroots organizations to drive advocacy, focusing on the groups of girls and women most likely to be left behind. National-level advocacy in 2018 focuses on the Ministries of Health and Women’s Development, the NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

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Equal Measures 2030 Partners