Gender Budgeting and the Promotion of Women’s Rights

Gender budgeting is the process of preparing budgets from the gender perspective. Often, gender budgeting has been misunderstood as having a separate budget for women, but that is clearly not the case. Gender budgeting is used as a tool to achieve gender mainstreaming and to ensure that the benefits of development reach the women as well. In brief, gender budgeting hopes to bridge the gap between women and men and make them equals on the same platform.

Before we delve into this concept any further, let us first clear out the differences between gender and sex. Sex refers to the biological differences between the male and the female of the species and it always remains unchanged. Gender on the other hand is a socially and culturally constructed role, responsibility and privilege. It is almost never a constant and varies from place to place and time to time. Gender results from the upbringing and the traditions followed by the society. Its dimensions include expected behavioural patterns, gendered traits and virtue, gendered space such as kitchen and garage and so on.

So, coming back to gender budgeting, it is an exercise that is used to translate the gender commitments of the government into budgetary commitments. It includes affirmative action for women and covers the assessment of the gender differential impact of government budgets and policies. In other words, it analyses how the governments spend and raise public money with the aim of securing gender equality in decision making. It also analyses the impact of government budgets on the most disadvantaged groups of women which is an area of great importance, especially in India. The major goal of gender budgeting is to strengthen the capacity of governments to incorporate gender budgeting analysis and to support strategies for women’s participation in economic decision making through their engagement in the budgetary process.

The concept of gender budgeting first originated in Australia in 1984. The interest in this concept was further accelerated by the Fourth UN World Conference on Women and the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995. Several NGOs that focused on bringing women on par with men with respect to government policies were started. Soon, this concept had spread widely throughout the commonwealth countries. In 1994, the Philippines government adopted a gender and development budget policy that required every government agency to allocate at least 5 percent its budget for gender and development. In 1999, the government introduced a performance based budgeting policy that reduced the budget of agencies not following the 5 percent rule. As a result of this, the allocations for women tripled. In 1996, South Africa became the first pioneer of the commonwealth gender budget initiative. Local level initiatives have also sprung up in municipalities, provincial legislatures and even in universities thereby accelerating the public awareness on gender issues. Similarly, the Budget Act of 2000 in France required the government to submit an annex to the budget each year presenting allocations earmarked to promote gender equality. A report submitted in the same year on gender budgeting came to a conclusion that there has been an increasing feminisation of poverty. In India, several initiatives have been taken to set up a body that dealt with increasing women’s participation in the work force. In the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th Five Year Plans, the Indian Government had allocated certain portion of money for the development of women and also ensured that they received their rightful share from all the women related general development sectors.

High social indicators of development for women such as literacy and health do not necessarily imply gender equitable relations. Conscious attempts have to be made to address women’s subordination through a more appropriate allocation of resources and awareness rising geared towards changing the patriarchal views of the society. Gender budgeting is simply a way to promote gender egalitarianism. Hence, it is important to not reject the idea due to false misgivings.

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