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Mains Answer Writing

22-March-2024

Q1) Inability of the government measures to respond to the feminization of old age has made gender-based discrimination a life-long experience. Discuss. (150 Words/ 10 marks)

 

The feminization of old age refers to the trend of a growing proportion of women in the elderly population due to factors such as longer life expectancies for women and changing demographic patterns. However, the inability of the government measures to adapt to this shifting demographic landscape results in a life-long gender-based discrimination in the following ways:

  1. Economic vulnerability: Women generally have lower lifetime earnings, lower savings, and inadequate pensions. Greater reliance on informal or unpaid work, gender pay gaps and career interruptions due to caregiving responsibilities create financial insecurity in old age.
  2. Healthcare:
  3. Elderly women are more susceptible to urinary incontinence (accidental urination) due to weakened pelvic floor muscles on account of repeated childbirths. The lack of public health facilities makes them dependent on family support.
  4. Women have four-times higher rate of osteoporosis and fractures than men as decline in estrogen-level after menopause accelerates bone-loss.
  5. Women face unique mental health issues in old age as they grapple with grief and depression in widowhood. Issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease affect twice as many women as men. Cultural aspects like patrilocal residence add to their loneliness.
  6. Elder women suffer a high degree of risk against social crimes.

E.g., repeated incident of house-theft/murder of elderly women living alone.

  1. Social vulnerability:
  2. Due to gender-gaps in education, elderly women are less aware about their rights, including right to property, inheritance, and maintenance. The lack of social agency makes them incapable to confront denial of rights.
  3. The dependency on family leads to issues of elderly abuse, including physical, emotional, and financial abuse.

E.g., the usurpation of assets and pensions and abandonment by children.

E.g., the ‘shadow-pandemic’ for elderly during covid-19.

 

The following suggestions can help the government in adapting measures that cater to the challenges of feminization of old age:

  1. Gender-responsive social protection schemes including pensions and health insurance should play affirmative role in addressing gaps.
  2. Increase public investment in primary health to address elderly’s vulnerability to double burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases.
  3. Improve literacy among women and promote financial and rights awareness to combat disinheritance.
  4. Healthy ageing should be promoted through primary health centers, anganwadis etc. due to receding traditional support of joint family, caused by migration and urbanization.
  5. Improve formal female labor force participation and address economic disparities between genders to make future generations of elderly women financially independent.

 

By implementing gender-responsive policies and addressing the unique challenges faced by elderly women, governments can work towards creating a more equitable and inclusive society for all individuals in old age. In this respect, there is need to make changes to the National Policy on Older Persons 1999 to make it responsive to changing demography.

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