NEW DELHI: Signaling a strong wave of women empowerment, indicators for female health, literacy, financial means and age of marriage over the past decade show positive upswings, the findings of the fourth national family health survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16 reveal.
Findings of the survey depict a dramatic decline in underage marriages with women found to be marrying late even though the trend for men seems to be the reverse.
For instance, in Bihar, less than 40 per cent of women in the age group of 20-24 years were married before 18 years of age. This is compared to 60.3 per cent of women in the same age group marrying before 18 years according to the third round of survey conducted in 2005-06. Similarly, Haryana has witnessed a sharp improvement with less than 19 per cent of women marrying before reaching 18 years now, as compared to almost 40 per cent during the previous survey.
But results of the survey covering 13 states and two union territories show men are getting married at an early age now. In Goa, for instance, 10.6 per cent of the men in the age group of 25-29 years married before 21 years of age, an increase from 7.2 per cent 10 years ago. Similar trends were spotted in Tamil Nadu and Tripura. While in Tamil Nadu, percentage of the men marrying before the age of 21 increased to around 17 per cent during NFHS-4 from 14 per cent 10 years ago, 22 per cent of the men in Tripura married before 21 years, as against 19 per cent earlier.
The latest survey shows a marked improvement in literacy rate of women. In around 11 out of 13 states, literacy rate of women have gone up over the past decade. While Goa tops the list with 89 per cent literate women in the age group of 15-49 years, Sikkim is a close competitor with 86.6 per cent. In Bihar, the female literacy rate jumped from 37 per cent in the 2005-06 survey to 49.6 per cent. Haryana and Madhya Pradesh show a significant rise from 60.4 per cent to 75.4 per cent, and 44.4 per cent to 59.4 per cent, respectively. The percentage of literate women increased in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
Signs of women empowerment are also evident in terms of increase in the percentage in the age group of 15-49 years having a savings account that they use themselves. Goa again took the lead with 82.8 per cent women having a bank or savings account that they personally use.
Tamil Nadu has also showcased a terrific improvement with percentage of women managing their accounts jumping from 15.9 per cent in the third round of NFHS in 2005-2006 to 77 per cent in the latest survey. Tripura, Sikkim and Goa have also registered an increase. In Bihar, though there is a significant increase from 8.2 per cent in the previous survey to 26.4 per cent in the current one, the state still lags far behind as compared to others.
The fourth round of survey also has a new indicator of women owning a house and/or land (alone or jointly with others). Bihar, otherwise at the bottom despite its improvements in other indicators, tops the list with 58.8 per cent women owning some form of property. In Tripura, 57.3 per cent women featured in the section, whereas West Bengal has least with 23.8 per cent of such women.
Results of NFHS-4 also showed more women participating in household decisions. At 95.3 per cent, Sikkim tops the indicator—in the number of married women who usually participate in household decisions. West Bengal has shown the maximum increase from 70.2 per cent in NFHS-3 to 89.8 per cent in NFHS-4.
The findings also showed that women were taking the lead in adopting family planning methods. For instance, women were found opting for methods like sterilisation rather than men. In the case of Haryana, the female sterilisation rate was 38.1 per cent compared to 0.6 per cent among men. In the case of Bihar, the female sterilisation rate was 20.7 per cent compared with nil for men. And the case of West Bengal, the female sterilisation rate was 29.3 per cent while for men it was 0.1 per cent.