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Women, Culture, and DevelopmentA Study of Human Capabilities$

Martha C. Nussbaum and Jonathan Glover

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198289647

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198289642.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Women, Culture, and Development
Author(s):

Martha C. Nussbaum (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198289642.003.0001

Abstract and Keywords

‘I may die, but still I cannot go out. If there's something in the house, we eat. Otherwise, we go to sleep.’ So Metha Bai, a young widow with two young children in Rajasthan, India, described her plight as a member of a caste whose women are traditionally prohibited from working outside the home—even when, as here, survival itself is at issue. If she stays at home, she and her children may die shortly. If she attempts to go out, her in‐laws will beat her and abuse her children....

‘I may die, but still I cannot go out. If there's something in the house, we eat. Otherwise, we go to sleep.’ So Metha Bai, a young widow with two young children in Rajasthan, India, described her plight as a member of a caste whose women are traditionally prohibited from working outside the home—even when, as here, survival itself is at issue. If she stays at home, she and her children may die shortly. If she attempts to go out, her in‐laws will beat her and abuse her children.1

In this case, as in very many others throughout the world, cultural traditions pose obstacles to women's health and flourishing. Depressingly many traditions have portrayed women as less important than men, less deserving of basic life support, or of fundamental rights that are strongly correlated with quality of life, such as the right to work and the right to political participation. Sometimes, as in the case of Metha Bai, these traditions are resisted by the women themselves. Sometimes, on the other hand, they have become so deeply internalized that they seem to record what is ‘right’ and ‘natural’, and women themselves frequently come to endorse their own second‐class status.

What should people concerned with justice say about this? And should they say anything at all? On the one hand, it seems impossible to deny that traditions perpetrate injustice against women in many fundamental ways, touching on some of the most central elements of a human being's quality of life—health, education, political liberty and participation, employment, self‐respect, and life itself. On the other hand, hasty judgements that a tradition in some distant part of the world is morally retrograde are familiar legacies of colonialism and imperialism, and are correctly regarded with suspicion by sensitive thinkers in the contemporary world. To say that a practice endorsed by tradition is bad is to risk erring by imposing one's own way on others who surely have their own ideas of what is right and good. To say that a practice is all right wherever local tradition endorses it as right and good is to risk erring by withholding critical judgement where real evil and real oppression are surely present. To avoid the whole issue because the matter of proper judgement is so fiendishly difficult is tempting, but perhaps the worst option of all. It suggests all too clearly the sort of moral collapse depicted by Dante, when he describes the crowd of souls who mill around in the vestibule of hell, dragging their banner now one way now another, never willing to set it down and take a definite stand on any moral (p.2) or political question. Such people, Dante implies, are the most despicable of all: they can't even get into hell because they have not been willing to stand for anything in life, one way or another. To put our position extremely briefly, we would rather risk charges of imperialism (however unjustified, as we think, such charges would be) than to stand around in the vestibule waiting for a time when everyone will like what we are going to say.

The situation of women in the contemporary world calls urgently for moral stand‐taking. Women, a majority of the world's population, receive only a small proportion of its opportunities and benefits. According to the 1993 UN Human Development Report, there is no country in the world in which women's quality of life is equal to that of men, according to a complex measure that includes longevity, health status, educational opportunities, employment, and political rights.2 Some countries have much larger gender disparities than others. (Among the industrial countries, for example, Japan and Canada perform relatively poorly in these areas, Sweden, Denmark, and New Zealand relatively well.) If we turn our attention to the developing countries—this volume's central topic—we find, once again, uneven achievements but, in the aggregate, a distressing situation. On average, the employment participation rates of women are only 50% of those of men (in South Asia 29%, in the Arab states only 16%). Even when women are employed, their situation is undercut by pervasive wage discrimination and by long hours of unpaid household labour. (If women's unpaid housework were counted as productive output in national income accounts, global output would increase by 20–30%.) Outside the home, women are generally employed in a restricted range of jobs offering low pay and low respect. Their situation in the workplace is frequently undermined by sexual discrimination and sexual harassment.

Women are much less likely than men to be literate. In South Asia, female literacy rates average around 50% of those of males. In some countries the rate is still lower: e.g. in Nepal 35%, Sierra Leone 37%, Sudan 27%, Afghanistan 32%. Two‐thirds of the world's illiterate people are women. In higher education, women lag even further behind men, in both developing and industrial nations.

Although some countries allowed women the vote early in this century, some still have not done so. And there are many informal obstacles to women's effective participation in political life. Almost everywhere, they are underrepresented in government: in 1980, they made up only around 10% of the world's parliamentary representatives and less than 4% of its cabinet officials.

(p.3) As Metha Bai's story indicates, employment outside the home has a close relationship to health and nutrition. So too, frequently, does political voice. And if we now turn, in fact, to the very basic issue of health and survival, we find compelling evidence of discrimination against females in many nations of the world. It appears that when equal nutrition and health care are present, women live on average slightly longer than men, even allowing for a modest level of maternal mortality. Thus in Europe the female:male ratio in 1986 was 105:100, in North America 104.7:100.3 But it may be objected that it is for several reasons inappropriate to compare these developed countries with countries in the developing world, so let us, with Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen, take as our ‘base’ the ratio in sub‐Saharan Africa, where there is great poverty but little evidence of gender discrimination in basic health matters. The female:male ratio is 102.2:100. If we examine the sex ratio in various other countries and ask the question, ‘How many more women than are now in country C would be there if its sex ratio were the same as that of sub‐Saharan Africa?’, we get a number that Sen has graphically called the number of ‘missing women’. The number of missing women in south‐east Asia is 2.4 million, in Latin America 4.4, in North Africa 2.4, in Iran 1.4, in China 44.0, in Bangladesh 3.7, in India 36.7, in Pakistan 5.2, in West Asia 4.3. If we now consider the ratio of the number of missing women to the number of actual women in a country, for Pakistan we get 12.9%, for India 9.5%, for Bangladesh 8.7%, for China 8.6%, for Iran 8.5%, for West Asia 7.8%, for North Africa 3.9%, for Latin America 2.2%, for south‐east Asia 1.2%. In India, not only is the mortality differential especially sharp among children (girls dying in far greater numbers than boys), the higher mortality rate of women compared to men applies to all age groups until the late thirties.4

Poverty alone does not cause women to die in greater numbers than men. When there is a scarcity, custom frequently decrees who gets to eat the little there is, and who gets taken to the doctor. And custom is always crucial in determining who gets to perform wage labour outside the home, an important determinant of general status in the family and community. (Indeed, the situation of sub‐Saharan Africa, where women perform a great part of productive agricultural labour, suggests a strong correlation between access to employment and basic health and nutritional status.) Custom decrees who gets access to the education that would open job opportunities and make political rights meaningful. Custom decrees who can go where in what clothing and with whom. Custom decrees who gets to make what sorts of protests against ill‐treatment both inside and outside the family, and whose voice of protest is likely to be heard.

Customs, in short, are important causes of women's misery and death. It seems incumbent on anyone interested in justice, and aware of the information (p.4) about women's status that studies such as the Human Development Report present, to ask about the relationship between culture and justice. It then seems incumbent on her to try to work out an account of the rational assessment of tradition that is neither do‐gooder colonialism nor an uncritical validation of the status quo. The urgent need for such an account is the motivation for the present volume.

Our work grew out of the work, linking philosophy with economics, that had produced the 1993 volume The Quality of Life, edited by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen. This volume asked various foundational questions about how policy‐makers should measure the ‘quality of life’ in a country. One of the questions that turned out to be most urgent was that of women's life quality and its relation to that of men. Another was the question of cultural relativism and universalism: whether, that is, we should seek a universal measure or measures of quality of life for all men and women, or defer, instead, to the many different norms that traditional cultures have selected. These questions were clearly connected. The choice between the voice of tradition and a critical universalism had especially large consequences for the assessment of women's status, given that many traditional norms do not make full equality in the many functions of life a goal for females.

These questions were broached in The Quality of Life, but we saw that they were too large and too complex to be dealt with well in a volume covering so many different aspects of the quality of life issue. We therefore decided at that time to pursue our interest in women's equality in a second volume, connected to a second conference. Whereas the aim of The Quality of Life was in general to canvass various different positions on the issues it confronted, laying the debate out in a clear and mostly even‐handed way, the aim of the second volume would be, instead, to advance a more or less unified position on the question of women's functioning, a critical universalism that would nonetheless not be blankly insensitive to history and to tradition, and that would attempt to answer some of the objections most commonly made against universalist accounts.

We were aware that this inquiry would take us at times away from ethics and politics and economics narrowly construed, into the debate about relativism in other areas of philosophy. Indeed it was our aim to present the whole question of relativism in a more sophisticated way philosophically than is frequently done in economic writings, where a simple and unexamined distinction between ‘fact’ and ‘value’ still prevails in many circles, and in which it is therefore assumed that ethical judgements are hopelessly soft and arbitrary by contrast to another domain of judgement, the domain of science. Hilary Putnam had already offered a subtle critique of this division in his paper in The Quality of Life; we asked him to develop his views further in the context of feminism. And we invited a wide‐ranging group of philosophers and social scientists to address the relationship (p.5) between tradition and life quality, focusing on Martha Chen's case study of women's right to work, which we commissioned for the project.

Throughout the project, our focus was on an approach pioneered within economics by Amartya Sen, now widely known as the ‘capabilities approach’. This approach to the measurement of quality of life, and to defining the goals of public policy, holds that we should focus on the question, ‘What are the people of the country in question actually able to do and to be?’ This focus on capabilities for functioning, unlike a focus on opulence (say, GNP per capita), asks about the distribution of resources and opportunities—for (in the manner of the Human Development Report, and in a way that fundamentally influenced the structure of those reports) Sen's approach asks how all the groups in the population are doing, and insists on comparing the functioning of one group to that of another. Unlike an approach that focuses on utility, where utility is construed as the satisfaction of subjective preferences, the capability approach maintains that preferences are not always reliable indicators of life quality, since they may be deformed in various ways by oppression and deprivation. Unlike an approach that focuses on the equal distribution of resources, the capability approach maintains that resources have no value in themselves, apart from their role in promoting human functioning. It therefore directs the planner to inquire into the varying needs individuals have for resources, if they are to become capable of an equal level of functioning.5

The capability view is in principle compatible with cultural relativism—with, that is, the view that the proper criteria of ethical and political choice are those given in each culture's traditions. It would always be possible to construct culturally varying lists of the most important functions and the associated capabilities, and to measure the life quality of individuals against such standards in each society. That, however, is not the direction in which the capability view has been developed by Sen and others, as it has been put to work in, for example, the construction of the measures used in the Human Development Report. Instead, the view has taken a stand, indeed an increasingly specific stand, on what functions of human beings are most worth the care and attention of public planning, the world over. And it has also taken a clear stand on gender equality, pointing to the unequal level of functioning of the world's women as a bad state of affairs to be altered. This universalist non‐relative aspect of the view needs further development, however, if it is to prove possible to answer the legitimate worries of those who have seen all too much paternalistic imposition of some people's ways upon others.

(p.6) One part of our strategy in grappling with this problem has been, as we said, to ask the help of philosophers who work on the issue of relativism in a general overarching way, not confined to issues of public policy. Another part of our strategy has been to draw into our project, as it has progressed, an increasingly international group of thinkers, whose responses and criticisms would give us some confidence that we were not simply imposing a parochial view that happened to be our own. Martha Chen's field study brings into our work a large number of voices of non‐philosophers, of women simply commenting on their situation as women in a traditional society. The work done in our project by Xiaorong Li from China, by Margarita Valdés from Mexico, by Roop Rekha Verma from India, and by Nkiru Nzegwu from Nigeria has added not only their own sophisticated critical perceptions but also the voices of the many women of their own societies with whom they have lived and spoken in the course of their work.

There are fewer papers by professional economists in this volume than in The Quality of Life: and yet its bearing on the central issues of development economics should be evident. Like its predecessor, this volume asks the reader to think critically about the central foundational concepts used in development economics, and suggests major criticisms of current economic approaches from that foundational viewpoint. Its territory used to lie at one time within ‘political economy’—in the days of Adam Smith, when economists understood that they needed to think philosophically in order to do their own job completely and well—but has now too frequently been redefined as that of ‘another field’, especially by those who are unwilling to ask questions that might lead to changes in the way important economic matters are modelled and understood. We argue that economics as now very often practised cannot deal adequately with the central issues at stake in the lives of women, and with their urgent claims. The conclusion we draw from this is not that economics should be scoffed at or bypassed, but that it should seek conceptual and mathematical tools better suited to grappling with these issues. That conclusion, and the reasoning that leads to it, ought to be of interest to economists, indeed ought to be seen as a conclusion with the science of economics.

The capabilities approach as a whole is critical of dominant approaches in mainstream economics, with their single‐minded focus on utility, construed as satisfaction of preference or desire. But one concrete example will perhaps make the critical contribution of the work presented here more vivid. Sen's paper argues that if we focus on the functioning of females, as that is influenced by the traditional distribution of resources within the family in many parts of the world, we will be led to notice pervasive ‘co‐operative conflicts’, that is, situations in which the interests of members of a co‐operative body (such as the family is supposed to be) split apart, with some individuals doing well at the expense of the deprivation and misery of (p.7) others. This observation entails a fundamental criticism of the dominant approach to the economic analysis of the family, that of Gary Becker,6 who holds that the head of a household may be regarded as an altruistic agent of the interests of all the family's members. Sen's conclusion and ours, looking at the evidence, is that this assumption is false: males are quite often neglectful of the interests of females, whether wives or children, and make decisions inimical to those interests. Becker deserves much credit for putting these issues on the agenda of the profession in the first place; but models are only as valuable as the truth of their premises. And the truth is that Becker's picture of male motivation does not fit the evidence—especially if one looks not simply at women's satisfactions and preferences, which may often be deformed by tradition and lack of information, but at their actual functioning. Here as elsewhere, looking at how people are or are not able to live provides economic thought with new directions.

A Matter of Survival

The volume begins with Martha Chen's vivid field study. Out of the many issues affecting women's quality of life in the developing world, we chose to focus on the right to work because it plays such a pivotal role in relation to other ‘capabilities’ of women: in relation to health care and nutrition, to self‐respect and autonomy, to full political functioning. Chen's earlier study of female literacy in rural Bangladesh was also before all of us as we worked, providing many of us with further, related, examples.7 Although we might have worked from the data supplied by the Human Development Report and related sources alone, actually hearing the voices of women, as Chen's methodology amply encourages us to do, seemed especially important as we confronted the delicate issues of relativism and universalism.

Women's Equality: Methodology, Foundations

The second section of the volume contains papers exploring questions of methodology and basic normative approach where universalism of the sort we wish to defend is concerned. Philosophers are far from being herd animals, and we did not attain, nor did we seek, utter unity of perspective in our approaches to the grounding of a universalist ethics. Indeed, it is reason for optimism that the group of philosophers represented in this section, who exemplify a range of different approaches to the problems—Nussbaum's (p.8) liberal/Aristotelian approach, Glover's modified utilitarianism, O'Neill's liberal Kantianism, Putnam's pragmatism, Benhabib's dialogical approach derived from Habermas—should converge as substantially as they do on our central normative questions about the tenability of a historically sensitive universalism.

All the papers focus in some way on the capabilities approach, relating their own contributions to it. The section therefore begins with a paper by Nussbaum that sets out a version of that approach, showing its relation to other approaches to women's life quality and arguing that it can answer the most serious charges commonly made by relativists against ethical universalism. Susan Wolf comments on the prospects of the approach.

Jonathan Glover then proposes a ‘research programme’ for development ethics that makes questions of universalism and objectivity central, and considers them in close conjunction with questions of justice and equality. Focusing on women's issues, he argues that there is a ‘central core’ to the concept of justice on which we can agree, while differing about more subtle points around the periphery, and that the inequities caused by traditional forms of oppression in lives such as Metha Bai's are clear inequities in the terms of this central core, despite the appeal of views that stress the need to respect traditional cultures. He sorts out various strands in the argument against universalism of the sort defended by Nussbaum, and offers a carefully qualified response.

Onora O'Neill then argues vigorously against taking the satisfaction of preferences as a normative criterion in political economy. Defending the capabilities approach, she connects it closely to a form of Kantianism. She aruges that Kant's proposed test for principles—that we not act on principles that cannot be acted on by all—is still a valuable test in social policy, and one that yields powerful arguments against victimization, ‘by violence, by coercion, by intimidation, or by deception’. This implies that it is of central importance to feminism.

David Crocker presents a meticulous exposition of the thinking underlying the capabilities approach, as both Sen and Nussbaum have developed it. His paper will serve as a comprehensive introduction to the approach for those who are unfamiliar with it, and a nuanced assessment and critique for those who are. He takes particular interest in the ways in which the approach has handled questions of freedom, justice, and rights.

Hilary Putnam now turns to the central issues of ethical objectivity and ethical truth that have been on our agenda from the start. How, he asks, can one justify an ethical claim, such as a claim of justice on behalf of Metha Bai, without tyrannizing over our opponents, while respecting the values of openness and mutual respect proper to a democratic society? He gives an answer built on the thought of the American pragmatists, especially John Dewey, arguing that there can be a rational basis for adopting ethical positions, and that democratic processes are necessary constituents of social (p.9) rationality. In her response, Linda Alcoff urges Putnam to devote more thought to the criticisms some feminists have advanced against traditional conceptions of inquiry, and to follow philosophers such as Nietzsche and Foucault in recognizing the many ways in which power and desire may affect even the most apparently disinterested and democratic procedure.

Our methodological exploration concludes with Seyla Benhabib's vivid defence of cross‐cultural standards of justice. Benhabib argues that many relativist views have neglected the existence of debate and opposition within traditional cultures, and that in that sense these views are simply bad sociology. She argues that cultural views are not radically incommensurable with one another, and that there is sufficient common ground among cultures to create a ‘global dialogical community’ that transcends ethnocentric particularism. Like Putnam, she calls on a certain understanding of democratic procedure to articulate this idea.

Among the issues on which consensus was not found in the present volume, this one appears the most urgent: should we give priority, in development ethics, to a procedural account, in particular an account of democratic debate, and allow that procedure to generate our substantive moral conclusions? Or should we focus on the normative theory of human functioning and its defence, and leave it an open question whether, in each particular situation, the form of government that will best promote human functioning is a democratic one? The gulf between partisans of these two approaches—between Nussbaum on the one hand, for example, and Benhabib on the other—is less wide than this formulation suggests, and is growing narrower all the time. Nussbaum incorporates political participation and an increasingly substantial list of social and political rights into her account of the basic human capabilities; if this does not evidently entail democratic government in all situations, it certainly makes it difficult for a non‐democratic government to show that it has sufficiently promoted human functioning. Benhabib, meanwhile, with Habermas, defines democracy in a manner that is not merely procedural but includes substantive ethical elements—non‐coercion, non‐violence, and so forth—that have been well argued by O'Neill and others to yield specific conclusions in many of the areas of women's lives that are of concern to Nussbaum, Sen, and Crocker. A society in which women were deprived of equal health care, equal nutrition, or employment rights, for example, could not pass Benhabib's and Putnam's tests of democracy, no matter what it called its form of government. Differences remain: for example, it is hard to see how Nussbaum's concern with emotional development, with humour and play, with our relationship to animals and nature, are addressed at all in a procedural democratic approach. (Dewey is friendly to emotions as forms of insight, Habermas, following Kant, actively hostile to them as sources of delusion. Neither takes them as having an especially intimate relationship to democracy.) On the other hand, these are the parts of Nussbaum's list (p.10) that have generated that most critical comment, and the parts that Sen is least disposed to endorse. It is evident that all these questions should remain on our agenda for future debate.

Women's Equality: Justice, Law, and Reason

Part III of the volume turns to more concrete issues of justice for women. Sen's paper introduces the issue of ‘co‐operative conflicts’, and argues that these conflicts are frequently rooted in traditional conceptions of women's role, often internalized as ‘natural’ by the women themselves. He argues that the capabilities approach can handle these issues better than its major alternatives in the policy domain, Rawlsian liberalism and economic utilitarianism.

Okin pursues this theme further, arguing that what is unjust in the situation of women in developing countries is not different in kind from the injustices that unequal family structures produce in developed countries. In both cases, we find that an institution (the family) that claims to be a source of love and a school for ethical virtue frequently manifests and perpetuates injustice; these inequities, far from being ‘natural’, are supported by traditions, laws, and institutions that may be altered. Arguing against feminists who are opposed to generalizing about the situation of women, Okin argues that generalizing, with proper caution and sensitivity, can be a valuable and even a crucial part of good feminist argument, bringing to light what is salient, and deplorably widespread, in unjust laws and practices.

Ruth Anna Putnam examines feminist criticisms of liberalism that charge liberal theories of justice with illicit generalizing, in which the voice of one person is ‘substituted’ for the many different voices that ought to be heard from different positions and backgrounds. Like Okin, she believes that it is possible to develop a conception of moral argument, and the moral point of view, that effectively meets this challenge, generating a single set of conclusions valid for all, at least at a high level of generality. Thus she supports the approaches developed elsewhere in the volume by Sen, Nussbaum, Benhabib, and O'Neill, from within a framework that lies closest to O'Neill's in its focus on Kantian liberalism.

Cass Sunstein's paper turns directly to the issue of law and its impact on women's quality of life, asking how law has sustained and supported discrimination against women and how, on the other hand, it might embody a commitment to sex equality. He proposes what he calls an ‘anticaste principle,’ which forbids law from turning a morally irrelevant characteristic such as sex into a systematic source of social disadvantage. As a pervasive feature of ‘caste systems’ based on gender, he focuses on the situation in which women's sexual and reproductive capacities are turned into objects for the use and control of others. On this basis he offers a critique of current (p.11) American law in the area of sex discrimination, makes proposals for national and international legal change, and comments on the limitations of market mechanisms in ending discrimination.

Since a constant refrain in the traditions of argument against female equality through the ages (both Western and non‐Western) has been that women are too emotional to be fully rational, Nussbaum now confronts this question, a central topic in ‘political economy’ since Adam Smith. She argues that when we have an adequate conception of what an emotion is, the opposition between emotion and reason will be seen to be incoherent, and emotions will be seen as Adam Smith saw them, as essential ingredients in rational ethical judgement. Nussbaum argues that emotions are best understood as forms of recognition of neediness and dependency with respect to the most important things in life, and are thus as appropriate and rational as are those recognitions and the beliefs that support them. Catherine Lutz comments on this argument from the point of view of anthropology.

In several of the papers a question about gender identification was raised: how important is it, why do societies need to have gender divisions of any kind, and how reasonable would it be to work toward a gender‐free society? This question really raises a number of distinct issues; Christine Korsgaard disentangles and comments incisively on them.

Women's Equality: Regional Perspectives

Martha Chen's study was central to all our work in preparation for the conference. But we wanted, as well, to incorporate responses from other regions of the world, and from philosophers whose work has been deeply informed by membership in non‐Western traditions. The volume's concluding section contains four examples of such responses, each commenting on the capabilities approach and its prospects in connection with her sense of her own traditions and their problems of sex inequality.

Xiaorong Li offers a trenchant account of women's inequality in China and its relation to traditional norms. Arguing against cultural relativist approaches to China and in favour of a more internationalist and critical approach, she concludes that the capabilities approach as developed by Sen and Nussbaum can diagnose what is wrong in the situation and promote women's equality, without patriarchal imposition or historical insensitivity.

Margarita Valdés offers an analysis of the situation in Mexico, identifying traditional obstacles to women's full access to constitutionally guaranteed equality of opportunity. She makes a number of subtle comparisons between the Mexican situation and the situation in India, as described in Martha Chen's paper, arguing, among other things, that traditional Mexican (p.12) conceptions of the family offer more advantages than Indian conceptions do to women who seek equal participation in the labour force.

With Roop Rekha Verma's paper we return to India, and to a philosophical analysis based on ideas of rights and autonomy that complements Chen's empirical study. Verma argues that the Hindu traditions of India have been unremittingly hostile to women's demands for equality, and that a critical position should be sought from the Western Enlightenment and its ideas of rights and personhood, rather than from within those traditions. Verma thus takes up, along with Li, an anti‐traditionalist and pro‐Enlightenment stance that is considerably ‘harder’ and less conciliatory than the positions of most of the writers in this volume, who have tended to stress that traditions contain an internal plurality of voices, and that the voices of critical and rationalist traditions can frequently be deployed against the dominant tradition, where that is oppressive of women.8

The volume ends with a vigorous defence of one traditional conception of women's role. Nkiru Nzegwu argues that traditional Ibo values gave women a place of considerable power both in familial and personal relations and also in the management of the economy. This power was actually eroded by the influence of British norms of proper women's behaviour, insofar as these were imitated by the upwardly mobile classes. And assumptions based on European conceptions of the distinction between the ‘private’ and the ‘public’ spheres have proven pernicious in development work, where women's managerial knowledge has been neglected to the detriment of the interests of all. Meanwhile, Westernized family structures gave women vastly‐reduced social power and legal autonomy, by comparison to their traditional familial and legal role.

Nzegwu's paper is a vivid case study of a situation that is familiar from the data on sub‐Saharan Africa in the Human Development Report: the situation of an ‘underdeveloped’ country in which the productivity and autonomy of women are relatively well respected, and in which women's participation in the labour force, encouraged rather than stifled by tradition, gives them social entitlements that Metha Bai sorely lacks. Because it is not her theme, Nzegwu does not place emphasis on the obstacles to women's full equality that surely exist in the Nigerian context. (Women comprise only 20% of the labour force, considerably lower than in many nations of sub‐Saharan Africa; female literacy is still only 63% of that of males, thought it has risen sharply; the population ratio of 102:100 is slightly below the average for sub‐Saharan Africa, and maternal mortality, at 750 per 100,000 live births, is comparably high, more than triple that in Cape Verde, for example, and 2.5 times that of Botswana.) Nor does her (p.13) negative account of current developments mention certain positive indications. (For example, during the past thirty years women's enrolment in primary education has risen from 59% of that of males to 93%, and the rate of post‐secondary enrolment is now up to 38% of that of males.) It must also be said that it is not at all surprising that it should be our participant from sub‐Saharan Africa who finds her tradition on the whole an ally and a source of illumination, rather than an impediment to be transcended. For the data do bear out Nzegwu's claim that the status of women in this region of the world is relatively good, and inequalities—in health, in nutrition, in labour, in access to education—far less profound than in many other parts of the developing world.

It is appropriate that we should end on this note, for we would not wish to be read as saying that all good ideas about women's equality come from the Western Enlightenment. The cultures of the Enlightenment have frequently been unjustly contemptuous of the traditions of the people they have colonized, and obtuse about discovering that those traditions are. Nzegwu is surely right that the Victorian wife (or even the contemporary American professional woman) might profit from acquaintance with the remarkable tradition of ‘sitting on a man’. She might also study with profit its associated patterns of women's group affiliation and self‐definition, strikingly at variance with Western customs in which women's social identity derives primarily from that of a male head of household. These recognitions are in no way incompatible with the sort of universalism we wish to defend, as we have emphasized throughout. We want to take good ideas where we find them, and then think how they might be implemented in a variety of concrete contexts. Having been on the whole highly critical of traditions, both non‐Western and Western, we end with a non‐Western female voice that speaks with pride of its own traditions, viewing these as valuable resources in the critical social thought and action of women the world over.

Postscript June 1994

In April 1994, Martha Chen and Jean Drèze held a conference at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore on the living conditions of Indian widows. The conference, the culmination of Chen and Drèze's study of 562 widows in fourteen villages spread over seven states, was the first in India to spotlight the conditions of widows, especially in rural areas. The problem is an enormous one, since the 33 million widows in India comprise about 8% of the country's female population, about the same as the proportion of agricultural labourers to the total male population. The conference brought together academics from various fields who have studied widowhood, social activists and feminists who have worked on widows' problems, and thirty‐five widows from different parts of the country. One goal of the conference (p.14) was to bring these widows out of their isolation, to foster self‐confidence, and to encourage them to communicate their experiences to one another.

For these women, coming together with many other widows for the first time, and talking about who they are (as opposed to who society says they are) appeared to generate striking transformations. As The Hindu Magazine reports (24 April 1994):

Throughout the week they came to realise many things about themselves and their lives—especially how much they had internalised society's perceptions of them as daughters, wives, mothers and widows (their identity invariably defined in terms of their relationship to men). The workshop aimed to change their self‐perception as objects of pity, unfortunate women who had lost their husbands and now had to beg for help from their families or sops from the state. They were encouraged to see themselves as persons who had a right to exist even if their husbands were dead, and as citizens who had a right to resources—such as land, housing, employment, credit and ration cards—which would enable them to live and bring up their children (if any) with dignity and self‐respect.

That the process they went through in that week was a transforming one was evident on the last day, when they got together one more time in a symbolic and moving ceremony which reinforced their newly acquired sense of unity and strength. Before they bid each other farewell, they shared their individual decisions about what they would do to carry the message of the workshop back to their villages. While their promises to each other—most of them related to wearing forbidden things like bindi, sindoor, bangles or coloured clothes—may seem trivial to many of us, they represent huge strides in their march towards self‐confidence and an identity that is all their own.

One of the widows who attended the Bangalore conference was Metha Bai. Her photograph appears in the Hindu story—a beautiful, reflective face, with enormous eyes. During the past few years her situation had degenerated, since she could not keep up mortgage payments on even the small plot of land she still retained, and was on the verge of losing it. According to Martha Chen, the conference was a transforming experience for her. Martha saw her smile broadly for the first time since she has known her. Metha Bai bought clothes in the forbidden colour of blue, and put on bangles. She laughed freely with the other widows. She also came up with a plan of action to raise the money to save her land. A loan she managed to get through her own initiative, acting on contacts made at the conference, has in fact enabled her to meet her mortgage payments securely for some time to come.

This is, at least for the time being, a happy ending. But in concluding we should set it in the context of the larger framework of Chen's research. I quote again from the Hindu story reporting the conference:

The impotence of many laws meant to secure gender justice is, once again, established by the study. For example, although widows in virtually all communities are legally entitled to inherit at least part of their deceased husband's property (if any), (p.15) Chen found that less than half exercise even use rights over what ought to be their land. Disputes over property often lead to violence against widows—sometimes in the form of fatal witch‐hunts, which provide a convenient cover for the physical elimination of women who attempt to claim their rights.

. . . As women who have experienced the worst that the patriarchal order has to offer their gender, widows could well become the vanguard of the women's movement once they are enabled to break out of their isolation and fragmentation, scattered as they are in separate households across the country. Once they are empowered to become an organised political force, they will surely be potent agents of change who simply cannot be ignored by society or the state.

Meanwhile, public awareness of the condition of widows and public action both to prod the state into positive action and to encourage the full participation of widows in public life can pave the way towards gender justice for women with and without men.

The struggle for human capabilities is not just a theoretical construct. For women all over the world, and for everyone who cares about women's well‐being, it is a way of life.

Martha Nussbaum, June 1994 (p.16) (p.17) (p.18) (p.19) (p.20) (p.21) (p.22) (p.23) (p.24) (p.25) (p.26) (p.27) (p.28) (p.29) (p.30) (p.31) (p.32)

Table 1 Status of Women: Developing Countries

HDI rank

Life expectancy at birth (years) 1990

Maternal mortality rate (per 100,000 live births) 1988

Average age at first marriage (years) 1980–1985

Literacy rate (age 15–24 only) 1980–1989

Enrolment ratio

Tertiary science and engineering enrolment (% female) 1987–1988

Administrative and managerial staff (% female) 1980–1989

Women in labour force (% of total) 1990

Parliament (% of seats occupied by women) 1991

Primary (net) 1988–1990

Secondary (gross) 1988–1990

Tertiary (gross) 1988–1990

High human development

73.8

120

22.0

93

. .

65

23

. .

13

29

8

20

Barbados

77.4

35

. .

. .

96

83

21

. .

31

48

4

24

Hong Kong

80.1

6

25.3

. .

. .

75

9

. .

12

36

. .

27

Cyprus

78.6

10

24.4

. .

. .

91

16

24

7

37

5

30

Uruguay

75.5

50

22.4

99

. .

. .

54

32

25

31

6

31

Trinidad and Tobago

74.1

120

22.3

99

90

82

5

28

. .

27

17

32

Bahamas

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

47

4

33

Korea, Rep. of

73.1

80

24.1

. .

100

86

28

13

3

34

2

36

Chile

75.3

67

23.6

97

. .

77

16

25

18

31

6

42

Costa Rica

77.3

36

22.7

98

87

43

. .

. .

22

29

12

43

Singapore

76.9

14

26.2

96

100

71

. .

. .

22

39

5

44

Brunei Darussalam

. .

. .

. .

93

. .

. .

. .

. .

6

. .

. .

46

Argentina

74.4

140

22.9

97

. .

78

44

35

. .

21

5

50

Venezuela

73.2

130

21.2

94

62

41

27

. .

15

22

10

51

Dominica

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

(.)

24

42

17

52

Kuwait

76.0

30

22.9

76

84

. .

20

43

4

14

. .

53

Mexico

73.0

150

20.6

91

. .

53

12

. .

15

31

12

55

Qatar

72.6

140

. .

. .

. .

94

43

34

. .

7

. .

Medium human development

69.8

170

22.0

82

98

44

4

. .

11

39

16

Excluding China

67.5

220

21.0

81

. .

50

10

23

13

33

8

56

Mauritius

72.2

130

21.7

. .

94

53

1

24

15

35

7

57

Malaysia

72.3

120

23.5

83

. .

58

7

29

8

31

5

58

Bahrain

73.5

80

. .

82

92

. .

21

32

4

10

. .

59

Grenada

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

49

. .

60

Antigua and Barbuda

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

(.)

. .

. .

. .

61

Colombia

71.7

150

20.4

. .

. .

57

14

28

21

41

. .

63

Seychelles

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

(.)

12

42

16

65

Suriname

72.1

120

. .

. .

100

57

10

16

. .

. .

. .

67

United Arab Emirates

73.5

130

18.0

56

100

72

21

54

1

6

(.)

68

Panama

74.5

60

21.2

93

92

62

26

39

22

27

8

69

Jamaica

75.3

120

25.2

. .

96

63

4

48

. .

31

5

70

Brazil

68.4

230

22.6

85

. .

. .

12

. .

. .

35

6

71

Fiji

67.1

150

21.6

91

98

53

3

27

9

19

. .

72

Saint Lucia

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

6

19

. .

(.)

73

Turkey

67.0

200

20.6

75

. .

42

10

26

3

33

1

74

Thailand

68.1

180

22.7

96

. .

32

. .

. .

21

47

4

75

Cuba

77.3

54

19.9

99

95

94

25

39

. .

32

34

76

Saint Vincent

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

17

20

. .

. .

79

Saint Kitts and Nevis

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

1

14

. .

7

81

Syrian Arab Rep.

68.1

200

22.1

. .

93

43

17

24

33

15

8

82

Belize

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

(.)

12

33

(.)

84

Saudi Arabia

66.5

220

. .

. .

56

41

11

31

. .

7

. .

85

South Africa

64.7

250

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

17

33

. .

86

Sri Lanka

73.1

180

24.4

90

. .

77

4

20

7

37

5

87

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

63.7

200

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

9

. .

89

Ecuador

68.2

200

22.1

93

. .

57

23

15

15

30

6

90

Paraguay

69.3

200

22.1

94

94

31

8

39

. .

41

6

91

Korea, Dem. Rep. of

73.3

130

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

46

20

92

Philippines

66.2

250

22.4

92

98

75

. .

. .

25

37

9

93

Tunisia

67.5

200

24.3

63

91

40

7

24

. .

13

4

94

Oman

67.8

220

. .

. .

82

48

5

. .

. .

8

. .

95

Peru

65.0

300

22.7

90

. .

. .

. .

. .

8

33

6

96

Iraq

66.1

250

20.8

. .

78

37

11

28

. .

6

11

97

Dominican Rep.

68.9

200

20.5

. .

73

. .

. .

. .

21

15

. .

98

Samoa

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

19

. .

. .

99

Jordan

68.8

200

22.6

77

. .

. .

. .

31

14

10

(.)

100

Mongolia

63.8

250

. .

. .

. .

96

26

45

. .

45

2

101

China

71.8

130

22.4

82

. .

41

1

. .

11

43

21

102

Lebanon

68.0

200

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

27

(.)

103

Iran, Islamic Rep. of

66.6

250

19.7

42

90

45

4

10

. .

18

2

104

Botswana

62.8

300

26.4

. .

93

47

3

. .

36

35

5

105

Guyana

67.1

200

20.7

. .

. .

58

4

15

13

21

37

106

Vanuatu

. .

. .

. .

68

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

46

4

107

Algeria

66.1

210

21.0

60

83

53

6

16

. .

4

2

108

Indonesia

63.3

300

20.0

82

96

41

. .

21

7

40

12

109

Gabon

54.2

600

. .

. .

. .

. .

3

. .

. .

38

. .

110

El Salvador

67.7

200

. .

71

71

26

14

12

16

45

8

111

Nicaragua

66.2

200

. .

. .

77

44

9

48

. .

34

16

Low human development

57.3

590

19.0

41

. .

26

4

20

3

26

7

Excluding India

55.6

610

19.0

42

. .

20

3

16

. .

27

7

112

Maldives

. .

. .

. .

87

. .

. .

. .

. .

10

20

4

113

Guatemala

65.9

250

20.5

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

16

26

. .

114

Cape Verde

67.9

200

. .

. .

93

20

(.)

. .

. .

29

6

115

Viet Nam

64.8

400

. .

94

. .

40

. .

. .

. .

47

18

116

Honduras

67.0

220

. .

. .

94

. .

7

. .

. .

18

12

117

Swaziland

58.6

400

. .

75

84

49

3

. .

. .

40

. .

118

Solomon Islands

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

(.)

119

Morocco

63.7

270

21.3

. .

45

30

8

25

. .

20

(.)

120

Lesotho

61.8

350

19.6

. .

76

31

6

20

. .

44

. .

121

Zimbabwe

61.4

330

20.4

. .

. .

46

2

. .

15

35

12

122

Bolivia

56.9

600

22.1

76

75

31

. .

. .

. .

24

7

123

Myanmar

63.0

600

22.4

81

. .

23

. .

. .

. .

37

. .

124

Egypt

61.5

300

21.3

38

. .

69

13

26

14

11

2

125

Sāo Tomé and Principe

. .

. .

. .

74

. .

. .

. .

. .

9

. .

11

126

Congo

56.3

900

. .

. .

. .

. .

2

8

. .

39

. .

127

Kenya

61.7

400

20.4

. .

. .

19

1

14

. .

40

1

128

Madagascar

56.0

600

20.3

. .

63

18

3

30

. .

40

7

129

Papua New Guinea

55.7

700

. .

. .

67

10

. .

8

. .

39

(.)

130

Zambia

55.5

600

19.4

. .

79

14

1

5

11

29

5

131

Ghana

56.8

700

19.3

. .

. .

31

1

9

9

40

. .

132

Pakistan

57.8

600

19.8

25

. .

13

2

. .

. .

11

1

133

Cameroon

55.3

550

17.5

59

69

21

. .

. .

6

30

14

134

India

59.3

550

18.7

40

. .

33

4

22

2

26

7

135

Namibia

58.8

400

. .

. .

. .

38

. .

. .

. .

24

7

136

Côte d'Ivoire

55.2

680

17.8

. .

. .

12

. .

. .

. .

34

5

137

Haiti

57.4

600

23.8

51

44

19

1

12

33

40

. .

138

Tanzania, U. Rep. of

55.7

600

. .

54

48

4

. .

8

. .

48

11

139

Comoros

55.5

500

19.5

55

50

15

(.)

10

. .

41

(.)

140

Zaire

54.7

700

20.1

. .

53

16

. .

. .

. .

36

5

141

Lao People's Dem. Rep.

51.3

750

. .

. .

. .

21

1

17

. .

45

9

142

Nigeria

53.3

750

18.7

. .

. .

17

2

. .

. .

20

. .

143

Yemen

52.0

800

17.8

. .

. .

10

. .

. .

. .

13

3

144

Liberia

55.5

600

. .

. .

. .

. .

1

10

. .

31

. .

145

Togo

55.8

600

. .

36

58

10

1

3

8

37

4

146

Uganda

53.7

700

. .

. .

50

. .

1

11

. .

41

12

147

Bangladesh

51.5

650

16.7

27

61

11

1

16

2

7

10

148

Cambodia

51.2

800

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

4

. .

39

. .

149

Rwanda

51.2

700

21.2

45

65

6

(.)

10

. .

48

17

150

Senegal

49.3

750

17.7

. .

41

11

1

11

. .

26

13

151

Ethiopia

47.1

900

. .

. .

24

12

(.)

11

. .

42

. .

152

Nepal

51.6

850

17.9

15

43

17

. .

. .

. .

34

3

153

Malawi

48.7

500

17.8

. .

52

3

(.)

16

. .

42

10

154

Burundi

50.2

800

20.8

. .

46

4

(.)

13

. .

. .

. .

155

Equatorial Guinea

48.6

800

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

8

. .

36

. .

156

Central African Rep.

52.0

650

. .

18

43

6

1

. .

. .

46

4

157

Mozambique

49.2

800

17.6

25

37

4

(.)

17

. .

48

16

158

Sudan

52.0

700

21.3

. .

. .

17

2

27

. .

29

. .

159

Bhutan

48.2

800

. .

. .

. .

2

. .

. .

. .

32

(.)

160

Angola

47.1

900

. .

. .

. .

. .

0

. .

. .

39

15

161

Mauritania

48.7

800

19.2

. .

. .

10

1

15

. .

22

. .

162

Benin

48.7

800

18.2

18

36

6

1

10

. .

24

6

163

Djibouti

49.7

740

. .

. .

33

12

(.)

. .

. .

. .

(.)

164

Guinea‐Bissau

44.1

1,000

. .

18

32

4

(.)

8

. .

42

. .

165

Chad

48.1

800

. .

. .

23

3

. .

. .

. .

17

. .

166

Somalia

47.6

900

20.1

. .

8

7

1

10

. .

39

. .

167

Gambia

45.6

1,000

. .

. .

45

10

(.)

. .

15

41

8

168

Mali

46.6

850

18.1

14

14

4

(.)

9

. .

16

. .

169

Niger

47.1

850

. .

. .

19

4

(.)

6

. .

47

5

170

Burkina Faso

49.9

750

17.4

7

23

5

(.)

10

. .

49

. .

171

Afghanistan

43.0

1,000

17.8

11

13

5

1

. .

. .

8

3

172

Sierra Leone

43.6

1,000

. .

. .

. .

12

1

. .

. .

33

. .

173

Guinea

44.0

1,000

. .

. .

17

5

(.)

10

. .

30

. .

All developing countries

64.2

420

20.7

65

86

36

5

20

8

33

12

Least developed countries

52.0

740

18.9

36

45

12

1

14

. .

29

9

Sub‐Saharan Africa

53.6

690

19.1

37

42

14

2

12

. .

34

. .

Industrial countries

77.9

26

23.5

99

. .

. .

. .

22

24

42

9

World

67.3

370

21.2

69

. .

. .

. .

21

12

34

11

Source: United Nations Development Program, UNDP, 1993.

Table 2 Female‐Male Gaps: Developing Countries

HDI rank

Females as a percentage of males (see note)

Life expectancy 1990

Population 1990

Literacy

Mean years of schooling 1990

Primary enrolment

Secondary enrolment 1988–1990

Tertiary enrolment 1988–1990

Labour force 1990

1970

1990

1960

1988–1990

High human development

110

100

90

98

86

95

100

99

80

42

20

Barbados

107

109

. .

. .

93

. .

98

92

. .

92

24

Hong Kong

107

94

71

. .

63

85

99

106

56

57

27

Cyprus

107

101

. .

. .

86

. .

100

102

114

60

30

Uruguay

109

103

100

99

110

100

98

. .

114

45

31

Trinidad and Tobago

107

101

94

. .

101

98

100

104

68

38

32

Bahamas

. .

106

. .

. .

94

. .

. .

. .

. .

90

33

Korea, Rep. of

109

100

86

94

61

90

100

97

53

51

36

Chile

110

102

98

100

92

96

92

108

82

45

42

Costa Rica

106

98

99

101

97

98

100

105

68

40

43

Singapore

108

97

60

. .

66

93

100

104

. .

64

44

Brunei Darussalam

. .

94

. .

. .

83

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

46

Argentina

110

102

98

100

105

101

107

113

117

27

50

Venezuela

109

98

90

103

97

100

103

. .

91

27

51

Dominica

. .

. .

. .

. .

91

. .

. .

. .

. .

72

52

Kuwait

106

76

65

87

79

78

98

94

129

16

53

Mexico

110

100

88

94

96

94

97

102

76

46

55

Qatar

107

60

. .

. .

93

. .

98

112

. .

8

Medium human development

105

96

59

80

65

83

99

82

57

66

Excluding China

105

99

. .

87

75

. .

95

88

75

54

56

Mauritius

108

102

77

. .

68

90

102

100

52

54

57

Malaysia

106

98

68

81

91

77

100

105

95

45

58

Bahrain

106

73

. .

84

67

. .

98

101

. .

11

59

Grenada

. .

. .

. .

. .

93

. .

. .

. .

. .

94

60

Antigua and Barbuda

. .

. .

. .

. .

80

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

61

Colombia

109

99

96

98

106

100

103

119

108

69

63

Seychelles

. .

101

. .

. .

92

. .

99

100

. .

74

65

Suriname

107

102

. .

100

92

. .

100

119

113

41

67

United Arab Emirates

106

48

29

. .

101

. .

100

114

. .

7

68

Panama

106

97

100

100

106

96

106

109

. .

37

69

Jamaica

106

101

101

100

97

101

98

111

75

45

70

Brazil

109

101

91

97

94

96

. .

90

100

54

71

Fiji

107

99

. .

. .

83

. .

101

104

57

23

72

Saint Lucia

. .

106

. .

. .

96

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

73

Turkey

105

95

49

79

50

64

93

64

55

49

74

Thailand

106

99

84

96

76

90

. .

97

. .

88

75

Cuba

105

97

101

98

103

100

99

112

. .

46

76

Saint Vincent

. .

. .

. .

. .

95

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

79

Saint Kitts and Nevis

. .

. .

. .

. .

97

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

81

Syrian Arab Rep.

106

98

33

. .

60

44

93

72

72

18

82

Belize

. .

. .

. .

. .

93

. .

98

. .

. .

49

84

Saudi Arabia

106

84

13

66

26

. .

81

75

73

8

85

South Africa

110

101

. .

. .

90

90

. .

. .

. .

50

86

Sri Lanka

106

99

81

89

80

90

100

107

71

59

87

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

106

91

22

67

23

26

90

. .

. .

10

89

Ecuador

107

99

91

95

92

91

98

104

68

43

90

Paraguay

107

97

88

96

88

86

99

107

88

70

91

Korea, Dem. Rep. of

110

101

. .

. .

63

. .

. .

100

. .

85

92

Philippines

106

99

96

99

89

95

98

104

. .

59

93

Tunisia

103

98

39

76

41

49

91

80

67

15

94

Oman

106

91

. .

. .

22

. .

94

81

80

9

95

Peru

106

99

74

86

80

75

96

. .

24

49

96

Iraq

103

96

36

71

69

38

87

64

64

6

97

Dominican Rep.

107

97

94

96

87

99

100

. .

. .

17

98

Samoa

. .

. .

. .

. .

78

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

99

Jordan

106

95

45

79

66

63

. .

. .

. .

11

100

Mongolia

104

99

85

. .

95

99

103

110

. .

83

101

China

105

94

. .

73

60

. .

100

77

50

76

102

Lebanon

106

106

73

83

66

94

92

71

44

37

103

Iran, Islamic Rep. of

101

97

43

67

68

48

91

73

45

21

104

Botswana

111

109

. .

78

97

. .

106

. .

76

55

105

Guyana

109

99

. .

98

91

. .

100

105

76

27

106

Vanuatu

. .

92

. .

. .

71

. .

. .

. .

. .

86

107

Algeria

103

100

28

65

18

67

88

80

44

5

108

Indonesia

106

101

64

85

58

67

96

84

. .

66

109

Gabon

107

103

51

66

33

. .

. .

. .

41

61

110

El Salvador

111

104

87

92

98

. .

103

100

73

81

111

Nicaragua

104

100

98

. .

110

102

104

. .

121

51

Low human development

103

97

44

59

39

50

99

62

41

39

Excluding India

105

100

45

65

43

50

81

63

35

42

112

Maldives

. .

. .

. .

. .

77

. .

. .

. .

. .

25

113

Guatemala

108

98

73

75

86

78

85

68

. .

34

114

Cape Verde

103

112

. .

. .

39

. .

95

100

. .

41

115

Viet Nam

107

104

. .

91

59

. .

94

93

28

88

116

Honduras

107

98

91

94

93

99

106

. .

65

22

117

Swaziland

107

103

. .

. .

82

. .

105

96

68

67

118

Solomon Islands

. .

. .

. .

. .

70

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

119

Morocco

106

100

29

62

36

40

68

70

59

26

120

Lesotho

117

108

. .

. .

. .

. .

119

. .

. .

78

121

Zimbabwe

106

102

75

82

40

. .

100

85

36

54

122

Bolivia

109

103

68

83

60

64

90

84

. .

31

123

Myanmar

106

101

67

81

72

85

98

92

. .

60

124

Egypt

104

97

40

54

42

65

79

75

53

12

125

São Tomé and Principe

. .

. .

. .

. .

39

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

126

Congo

110

103

38

63

35

51

. .

. .

20

64

127

Kenya

107

100

43

. .

42

47

96

70

45

67

128

Madagascar

106

102

77

83

65

78

98

90

82

66

129

Papua New Guinea

103

93

62

58

50

12

85

63

38

64

130

Zambia

104

103

56

81

45

67

98

56

37

40

131

Ghana

107

101

42

73

46

48

81

65

26

67

132

Pakistan

100

92

37

45

25

28

55

45

41

13

133

Cameroon

106

103

40

64

33

49

86

68

. .

42

134

India

101

93

43

55

34

50

97

61

47

34

135

Namibia

104

101

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

31

136

Côte d'Ivoire

107

97

38

60

31

35

. .

44

27

52

137

Haiti

106

104

65

80

63

84

100

95

35

67

138

Tanzania, U. Rep. of

107

102

38

. .

45

55

104

80

33

93

139

Comoros

102

102

. .

. .

65

. .

83

75

. .

69

140

Zaire

107

102

36

73

33

36

79

50

. .

56

141

Lao People's Dem. Rep.

106

99

76

. .

59

47

80

68

50

81

142

Nigeria

107

102

40

63

26

59

93

77

38

25

143

Yemen

101

108

15

50

18

. .

. .

20

. .

15

144

Liberia

105

98

30

58

26

40

. .

55

31

44

145

Togo

107

102

26

54

31

38

68

30

15

58

146

Uganda

107

102

58

56

41

. .

88

44

36

71

147

Bangladesh

99

94

33

47

30

39

88

50

22

7

148

Cambodia

106

101

. .

46

71

. .

. .

. .

. .

64

149

Rwanda

107

102

49

58

31

. .

100

67

20

92

150

Senegal

104

102

28

48

29

. .

75

52

26

35

151

Ethiopia

107

102

. .

. .

43

27

75

71

23

71

152

Nepal

98

95

13

35

32

5

51

40

. .

51

153

Malawi

103

103

43

. .

46

. .

95

50

27

72

154

Burundi

107

104

34

65

33

33

84

67

33

. .

155

Equatorial Guinea

107

103

. .

. .

20

. .

. .

. .

. .

56

156

Central African Rep.

111

106

23

48

32

23

65

35

20

86

157

Mozambique

107

103

48

47

54

60

82

44

33

92

158

Sudan

105

99

21

27

45

40

71

74

68

41

159

Bhutan

97

93

. .

. .

32

. .

65

29

. .

48

160

Angola

107

103

44

51

52

. .

82

. .

15

64

161

Mauritania

107

102

. .

45

29

23

70

45

14

28

162

Benin

107

103

35

49

29

39

52

38

15

31

163

Djibouti

107

98

. .

. .

33

. .

73

67

. .

. .

164

Guinea‐Bissau

108

105

. .

48

27

. .

55

44

. .

72

165

Chad

107

103

10

42

31

14

44

25

11

21

166

Somalia

107

110

20

39

31

. .

57

58

22

64

167

Gambia

108

103

. .

41

23

. .

73

45

. .

69

168

Mali

107

106

36

59

27

43

58

44

14

20

169

Niger

107

102

33

82

40

43

61

44

17

89

170

Burkina Faso

107

102

23

32

54

42

64

56

27

96

171

Afghanistan

102

94

15

32

12

13

52

45

18

9

172

Sierra Leone

108

104

44

37

26

. .

75

57

20

49

173

Guinea

102

102

33

38

20

36

50

36

12

43

All developing countries

104

96

54

72

58

61

94

74

51

52

Least developed countries

104

100

38

58

43

44

81

58

28

48

Sub‐Saharan Africa

107

102

42

64

46

52

85

64

32

55

Industrial countries

110

106

. .

. .

99

. .

. .

. .

. .

77

World

106

99

. .

. .

72

. .

. .

. .

. .

56

Note: All figures are expressed in relation to the male average, which is indexed to equal 100. The smaller the figure the bigger the gap, the closer the figure to 100 the smaller the gap, and a figure above 100 indicates that the female average is higher than the male.

Source: United Nations Development Program New York, UNDP, 1993.

Table 3 Female‐Male Gaps: Industrial Countries

HDI rank

Females as a percentage of males (see note)

Life expectancy 1990

Population 1990

Mean years of schooling 1990

Upper secondary education

Tertiary education

Labour force

Unemployment 1990–1991

Wages 1990–1991

Enrolment 1988

Graduates 1988

Full‐time equivalent enrolment ratio 1988

Engineering and related science enrolment 1988

1970

1985–1991

1

Japan

108

103

98

104

108

. .

16

64

68

110

51

2

Canada

109

102

97

102

105

114

29

. .

. .

90

63

3

Norway

109

102

98

112

113

118

27

38

81

85

85

4

Switzerland

109

105

93

85

90

48

42

52

60

125

68

5

Sweden

108

103

100

109

102

130

25

61

92

77

89

6

USA

110

105

102

105

113

116

29

59

83

91

59

7

Australia

109

100

99

71

. .

115

40

42

71

93

. .

8

France

111

105

102

105

109

119

. .

54

75

168

88

9

Netherlands

109

102

104

84

106

81

25

. .

. .

179

78

10

United Kingdom

108

105

102

106

105

93

. .

55

74

. .

67

11

Iceland

108

99

103

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

131

80

12

Germany

109

108

90

91

96

86

24

. .

. .

120

74

13

Denmark

108

103

98

100

115

120

24

58

85

130

82

14

Finland

111

106

98

130

139

119

35

73

89

62

77

15

Austria

110

109

90

85

110

89

25

. .

. .

112

78

16

Belgium

109

105

100

. .

. .

120

34

42

70

201

64

17

New Zealand

108

102

104

106

. .

103

48

38

77

87

81

18

Luxembourg

109

105

95

96

117

. .

. .

35

53

236

65

19

Israel

105

100

82

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

156

. .

21

Ireland

108

99

102

125

112

84

48

36

44

64

62

22

Italy

109

106

99

104

113

95

53

. .

. .

234

80

23

Spain

108

103

92

115

113

105

28

24

54

194

. .

25

Greece

106

103

89

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

255

68

26

Czechoslovakia

111

105

88

. .

. .

. .

. .

80

87

124

71

28

Hungary

111

107

102

. .

. .

. .

. .

70

85

83

. .

39

Malta

105

103

92

. .

. .

. .

. .

27

34

56

. .

40

Bulgaria

108

102

84

. .

. .

. .

. .

79

86

. .

. .

41

Portugal

110

107

76

129

. .

. .

37

34

76

206

76

48

Poland

112

105

92

. .

. .

. .

. .

85

83

. .

. .

77

Romania

108

103

89

. .

. .

. .

. .

83

86

. .

. .

78

Albania

107

94

93

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

Aggregates

Industrial

110

106

99

. .

. .

. .

. .

59

77

. .

. .

Developing

104

96

58

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

52

. .

. .

World

106

99

72

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

56

. .

. .

OECD

109

105

99

103

109

106

29

55

75

128

66

Eastern Europe incl. former USSR

112

109

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

European Community

109

105

96

103

106

98

34

46

70

168

75

Nordic

109

103

99

112

115

123

27

59

88

89

84

Southern Europe

108

104

90

110

113

99

43

26

58

220

80

Non‐Europe

109

104

101

103

110

115

26

60

76

98

59

North America

110

105

101

105

112

116

29

59

83

91

59

Other countries

29

Lithuania

115

111

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

34

Estonia

115

114

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

35

Latvia

116

115

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

37

Russian Federation

116

114

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

38

Belarus

114

114

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

45

Ukraine

114

117

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

47

Armenia

110

104

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

49

Georgia

111

111

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

54

Kazakhstan

114

106

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

62

Azerbaijan

112

105

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

64

Moldova, Rep. of

110

110

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

66

Turkmenistan

111

103

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

80

Uzbekistan

110

102

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

83

Kyrgyzstan

113

105

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

88

Tajikistan

108

101

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

. .

Note: All figures are expressed in relation to the male average, which is indexed to equal 100. The smaller the figure the bigger the gap, the closer the figure to 100 the smaller the gap, and a figure above 100 indicates that the female average is higher than the male.

Source: United Nations Development Program New York UNDP, 1993.

(p.33) The meaning: no country treats its women as well as it treats its men, a disappointing result after so many years of debate on gender equality, so many struggles by women and so many changes in national laws (Table 4 and Figures 1 and 2). But some countries do better than others, so adjusting for gender disparity makes a big difference to the rankings: Japan falls from number 1 to 17, Canada from number 2 to 11 and Switzerland from number 4 to 14. By contrast, Sweden improves its rank from number 5 to 1, Denmark from number 12 to 4 and New Zealand from number 16 to 7.

Table 4 Gender‐Disparity‐Adjusted HDI

Country

HDI value

Gender‐disparity‐adjusted HDI

Difference between HDI and gender‐disparity‐adjusted ranks

Sweden

0.977

0.921

4

Norway

0.978

0.881

1

France

0.971

0.864

5

Denmark

0.955

0.860

8

Finland

0.954

0.859

8

Australia

0.972

0.852

1

New Zealand

0.947

0.844

9

Netherlands

0.970

0.826

1

USA

0.976

0.824

−3

United Kingdom

0.964

0.818

0

Canada

0.982

0.816

−9

Belgium

0.952

0.808

3

Austria

0.952

0.782

1

Switzerland

0.978

0.768

−10

Germany

0.957

0.768

−4

Italy

0.924

0.764

3

Japan

0.983

0.763

−16

Czechoslovakia

0.892

0.754

4

Ireland

0.925

0.720

−1

Luxembourg

0.943

0.713

−3

Greece

0.902

0.691

0

Portugal

0.853

0.672

3

Cyprus

0.890

0.656

0

Costa Rica

0.852

0.632

2

Hong Kong

0.913

0.618

−5

Singapore

0.849

0.585

1

Korea, Rep. of

0.872

0.555

−3

Paraguay

0.641

0.546

1

Sri Lanka

0.663

0.499

−1

Philippines

0.603

0.451

0

Swaziland

0.458

0.344

0

Myanmar

0.390

0.297

0

Kenya

0.369

0.241

0

Note: A positive difference shows that the gender‐disparity‐adjusted HDI rank is higher than the unadjusted HDI rank, a negative the opposite.

Source: United Nations Development Program, UNDP, 1993.

Introduction

Figure 1 Changes in Rank With a Gender‐Disparity‐Adjusted HDI

Note: Ranks are for the 33 countries in Table 4.

Source: United Nations Development Program, UNDP, 1993.

Introduction

Figure 2 Difference Between HDI and Gender‐Disparity‐Adjusted HDI

Note: When the HDI is adjusted for gender disparity, no country improves its HDI value.

Source: United Nations Development Program, UNDP, 1993.

In industrial countries, gender discrimination (measured by the HDI) is mainly in employment and wages, with women often getting less than two‐thirds of the employment opportunities and about half the earnings of men.

In developing countries, the great disparities, besides those in the job market, are in health care, nutritional support, and education. For instance, women make up two‐thirds of the illiterate population. And South and East Asia, defying the normal biological result that women live longer than men, have more men than women. The reasons: high maternal mortality and infanticide and nutritional neglect of the girl‐child. According to one estimate, some 100 million women are ‘missing’. (p.34)

Table 5 Female‐Male Ratio (FMR) and ‘Missing Women’, 1986

Region

FMR

Missing women in relation to sub‐Saharan African FMR

Number (millions)

Proportion (%)

Europe

1.050

Northern America

1.047

Sub‐Saharan Africa

1.022

South‐east Asia

1.010

2.4

1.2

Latin America

1.000

4.4

2.2

North Africa

0.984

2.4

3.9

West Asia

0.948

4.3

7.8

Iran

0.942

1.4

8.5

China

0.941

44.0

8.6

Bangladesh

0.940

3.7

8.7

India

0.933

36.9

9.5

Pakistan

0.905

5.2

12.9

Source: Sen and Drèze.

Notes:

(1) For this case and others like it, see Marty Chen, ‘A Matter of Survival: Women's Right to Employment in India and Bangladesh’, in this volume.

(2) See the end of this Introduction for the relevant figures and tables from the report. All the data in this and the following paragraphs are drawn from the report: Human Development Report (New York: United Nations Development Program, 1993).

(3) The statistics in this paragraph are taken from Drèze, J. and Sen, A. (1989) Hunger and Public Action. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

(4) See Drèze and Sen (1989: p. 52).

(5) All these points have been made in a series of fundamental studies by Sen: for a recent summary, see ‘Capabilities and Well Being’ in The Quality of Life, with references to earlier studies. In the present volume, see especially the papers by Sen, Nussbaum (‘Human Capabilities’), and Crocker, which defend the approach further and comment on its relationship to other approaches.

(6) Gary Becker, A Treatise on the Family (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981).

(7) Chen, The Quiet Revolution: Women in Transition in Rural Bangladesh (Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman, 1983).

(8) See Nussbaum and Sen, ‘Internal Criticism and Indian Rationalist Traditions’, in M. Krausz (ed.), Relativism (Notre Dame, Ind.: Notre Dame University Press, 1989); also Sen, ‘India and the West’, The New Republic, June 1993, 27–34. In this volume, see especially the papers by Chen, Sen, and Benhabib.