Author: Ranjani K Murthy, February 1 2018 - After framing of global SDGs, many countries have begun to frame country specific ones. India was not one to be left behind, and it has drafted a document “SDG Targets and Proposed Draft National Indicators” (Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 2017). The government had not changed the targets, but some indicators were changed.

On some SDG5 targets there were no differences between global and Indian indicators, like:

  • target 5.1 “End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere”;
  • target 5.4 “Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work”; and
  • target 5.b “Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women”.

There are many shortcomings in the indicators for these global targets, which is not the focus of this article.There are some areas where the Indian government’s indicators are better or more appropriate to the Indian context than the global ones. For example, under SDG 5.2 on eliminating violence against women and girls the government has included the indicator child sex ratio (which is skewed in favour of boys). Further, the indicators capture violence against girl children of all age groups, and not just 15 years and older, as in global SDG indicators. The indicator 5a on economic resources of the Indian government includes gender gaps in wages which is not there in the global SDG 5a indicator.

On the other hand there are several ways in which the Indian draft targets fall short of global ones:

  • With regard to SDG 5.2 “Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation” - On the positive side, the Indian government has retained the global indicator of “Percentage of currently partnered girls and women aged 15-49 years who have experience physical and/or sexual violence by their current intimate partner in the last 12 months”, but the indicator on the proportion of women/girls 15 years and above subject to sexual violence in public spaces has been excluded by the Indian government. Indicators which have been added by the Indian government are i) Proportion of crimes against women to total crimes reported in the country during the calendar year, ii) Proportion of sexual crimes against women to total crimes against women during the calendar year, iii) Proportion of cruelty/physical violence perpetrated against women by the husband or his relative to total crimes against women during the calendar year, iv) Proportion on rape of women by persons known to them, inter-alia, live-in partner or separated husband or ex-husband to total rape of women during the calendar year, v) Proportion of sexual crimes against girl children to total crimes against children during the calendar year vi) Proportion of Trafficking of girl children to total children trafficked during the calendar year. Again these indicators are based on reported cases and not incidence of violence against women and girls.

  • With regard to SDG 5.3 “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation” - The Indian government has listed 3 indicators, of which the first two are different from the global I) Proportion of women subjected to dowry related offences to total crime against women ii) Proportion of cases reported under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (early marriage of children below 18 years of age) to total crimes against children. Iii) Proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union before age 18[1]. The problem with the first two indicators is that they are based on reported cases which are recorded as crimes against women, and not the incidence of dowry or incidence of child marriage as proportion of all crimes against women.  Further, there are many other harmful practices in India such female infanticide, witch hunting, honor killing, virginity testing, etc., whose incidence are not taken into account while framing indicators.

  • With regard to SDG target 5.5 “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life” - The Indian government has evolved two indicators i) Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament, State legislation and Local Self Government ii) Number of women in Boards of listed companies. However, proportions and numbers do not inform whether women are actually attending meetings, influencing discussions and taking decisions. Further, the indicators do not cover women’s leadership in religious bodies, producer companies, cooperatives, etc. This critique equally applies to global indicators as well.
  • With regard to the SDG target 5.6 “Ensure universal access to SRHR [sexual and reproductive health and rights]” - As agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action”, the Indian government’s indicator are i) Contraceptive Prevalence Rate, ii) Unmet need for family planning for currently married women aged 15-49 years, iii) Proportion of population aged 15-24 years with comprehensive correct knowledge of HIV/AIDS. These indicators are far removed from the SRHR indicators of ICPD [International Conference on Population and Development 1994] (and beyond) which include sexual and reproductive decision making of women, male responsibility for contraception, freedom from early marriages and forced marriages, choice in marriages, rights of women to safe abortion (other than for sex selection), sexual and reproductive rights of people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and abilities. While even the global indicators[2] are inadequate[3], they are better than the Indian ones.
  • With respect to SDG target 5.a “Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources”, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws”. The Indian government’s position does include positive indicators discussed earlier (sex-disaggregated and ownership, agricultural wages, wages of casual workers). On the other hand, there are indicators like number of bank accounts opened under a government scheme, and amount of overdraft availed by women, without addressing gender gaps. Further, there are no indicators of gender gaps in rights to houses, forests, water bodies and other common property resources.
  • With regard to SDG target 5c “Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of GEWE [Gender Equality and Women Empowerment]” - The Indian government’s indicator is “Number of Gender Budget Cells in Central and State Ministries” which, while a relevant indicator, is not an adequate indicator. There is nothing in the indicator[4] about gender transformative policies and legislation, or allocation/spending of resources. The global SDG 5c indicator is slightly better; it refers to proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for GEWE.

On the whole Indian governments draft indicators are a step forward and two steps backwards, and it is time to engender them by incorporating some of the gaps pointed out.

Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 2017, Draft National Indicator Framework for Sustainable development Goals (SDGs)-inviting the comments from general public and experts. Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, New Delhi.


[1] The global indicator delineates marriages before age 15 years and 18 years, while the Indian one does not.

[2] For example, global indicator 5.6.1 is on “Proportion of women aged 15-49 years who make their own informed contraceptive use and reproductive health.

[3] 5.6.1 Proportion of women aged 15-49 years who make their own informed decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care;

5.6.2 Number of countries with laws and regulations that guarantee women aged 15- 49 years access to SRH care, information and education.

[4] The global SDG 5c

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