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The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and continues until 10 December, Human Rights Day. In this context, IWWAGE hosted a webinar on how safety concerns of women outside the home in India are likely to play an important role in their economic activity.

In India, the labor force participation rate of women remained stagnant for almost two decades. Since then, the economy has more than doubled in size, but the overall number of women in jobs has declined by ten million. Recent estimates suggest that women in India are less likely to be employed than in other G20 countries, next only to Saudi Arabia. Research has well established that with the expansion of women’s economic opportunities and increased participation of women in the labor market, women as well as their households, society as a whole and economies prosper. The IMF estimates that gender parity in the workforce could increase India’s GDP by as much as 27 percent.

Women’s labour force participation rate can be attributed to multiple factors like availability of childcare, occupational segregations, sociocultural barriers, social identities, concerns around safety and mobility, and many more. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, and devastating human rights violations that are mostly under-reported due to the stigma and shame surrounding it. Fear of public spaces following media coverage of sexual assaults can deter women from venturing out for work as it creates stress and anxiety, and thus acts as a barrier to their equal participation in and contribution to the society. While the union and state governments have announced measures to prevent violence against women and girls, stronger mechanisms and policy measures are needed to actively prevent, respond and take remedial actions. Evidence suggests that violence due to several household-level stressors, such as loss of income, unemployment, and food shortage, may lead to long-term harmful impacts that will further perpetuate barriers to women’s economic empowerment in India and inhibit their ability to participate actively in the labour force.

In this webinar, IWWAGE released a working paper on rising crime rate and declining female labour force participation rate in India, which presents a state-level analysis of how lack of safety, due to increasing rate of crime against women, acts as a barrier to work for women and girls, and can be associated with the sharp decline in female labour force participation rate.

The panel addressed several dimensions linked to gender-based violence and the impact that it can have on labour supply and economic productivity in the short and long-term. View the recording here.