MDGs and Gender Inequality

Posted: 6 Oct 2013

See all articles by Vani S. Kulkarni

Vani S. Kulkarni

Yale University - Department of Sociology

Manoj K. Pandey

Australian National University (ANU)

Raghav Gaiha

University of Delhi - Department of Economics; Australian National University (ANU)

Date Written: October 3, 2013


As the countdown to 2015 has begun, debates about the continuation of the MDGs and their reformulation have taken on greater urgency and significance. Our view is that there is a need to reformulate them to better reflect deprivations and inequities that are pervasive but not sufficiently emphasised in the present version. A case in point is gender inequality. While various dimensions of gender inequality are included in the MDGs, we argue that these reflect a somewhat narrow focus – especially because the deprivation that women face from the womb to the rest of their lives – is not fully captured. Following Amartya Sen and others, we focus on the phenomenon of ‘missing women’ that best captures the cumulative impact of multiple deprivations to which they are subjected. Our analysis reinforces the case for this measure, and broadens and updates recent estimates of missing girls and women. The key questions addressed are the reasons underlying the continuing increase in the number of missing women in China and India. We broaden this measure by including: (i) missing adult women; (ii) excess maternal mortality ratio; (iii) casualties resulting from violent conflicts and the forms these take; and (iv) domestic violence against women. Even though the magnitudes differ, these together are a brutal violation of women’s human rights that remains pervasive in a large part of the developing world – especially Asia and North Africa. The perspective on gender inequality offered here may seem daunting, but raises concerns that go much beyond the somewhat narrow focus that the MDGs embody. The policy implications are accordingly more formidable, but underline the centrality of women’s empowerment through education and employment opportunities, social networks that give women voice to express their concerns arising from life-long deprivations that often take brutal forms, expansion of health services to reduce infant and maternal mortality risks, and enforcement of laws that penalise violation of women’s human rights.

Keywords: MDGs, gender equality, missing women, maternal and child mortality, son preference, violence, conflicts

Suggested Citation

Kulkarni, Vani S. and Pandey, Manoj Kumar and Gaiha, Raghav, MDGs and Gender Inequality (October 3, 2013). Available at SSRN:

Vani S. Kulkarni

Yale University - Department of Sociology ( email )

493 College St
New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Manoj Kumar Pandey

Australian National University (ANU) ( email )

Development Policy Centre
Crawford School of Public Policy
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601

Raghav Gaiha (Contact Author)

University of Delhi - Department of Economics ( email )


Australian National University (ANU) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601

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