Let indian women move-out of homes, other capabilities will follow

Tripathi, Tulika (1); Mishra, Nripendra (2) (2019). 'Let Indian women move-out of homes, other capabilities will follow' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA 2019, London, UK.


So far ‘mobility’ in the capability literature has been seen as an outcome factor; an indicator of empowerment and wellbeing. However, mobility theory claims that the wealthiest societies are the most mobile, and act of moving in itself can add to people’s wellbeing. Cresswell (2001) conceived mobility as a movement that is socially produced, is variable across space and time, and has visible effects on people, places and things. Kaufmann calls it a ‘restricted good’. Mobility theorist (Mackinder, Deleuze and Guattari and Bacherland) have equated mobility with freedom, liberation and power, excluding the conditions where ‘movements begets constraints and constraints beget movements’ (Gill et al, 2011;Cresswell, 2006; Adey, 2010). Intuitively capabilities for mobilities allows one to access fundamental resources like education, health, information and therefore makes it critical to one’s capabilities. Empirically, restrictions on mobility of women in India and many other countries has resulted into higher drop out ratio of girls, lower access to health and lower participation of women in labor market and public life, meaning capabilities for mobilities adversely affects many other capabilities. Tripathi & Mishra (HDCA, 2017) shows that freedom of mobility emerges as common loading factor in multiple dimensions of empowerment; the factor loading of mobility in resources is 0.301, and for agency it is 0.795. Thus, women’s freedom of mobility (potential choice) affects their decision-outcomes (actualized choice). 

Therefore the treatment of freedom of mobility - as a subset of empowerment or as an outcome factor in gender and empowerment literature - has ignored its instrumental role. For example, the empowering effect of women SHGs is seen through resources distribution, completely ignoring the ‘identity’, ‘exposure’, ‘information’ and ‘advice’ women gets when they come out of their homes. Based on these observation and findings from our earlier work, the present paper attempts to explore important constituents of freedom of mobility of Indian women and its role in their capabilities formation. While feminist literature associates this with culture and society (mainly patriarchy, power and control), mobility literature puts emphasis on some real and observable factors, like availability of road, access to public transport, household ownership of motorised vehicle and violence against women in public. The present paper follows the latter line of argument to examine capabilities for mobilities shaped by violence against women in public, availability of road and access to public/private transport. It further attempts to find out role of freedom of mobility on other crucial capabilities such as participation in work and education. Here, mobility is measured on scale of three, 1-free to move, 2- needs male permission, 3- needs male escort to go outside the village, health centre and parent’s home. Further, educational participation is measured for 10 plus years of schooling. Following research questions are addressed: 

RQ 1: Whether absence of freedom of mobility is reinforced from violence against women and unavailability of road and access to transport?

RQ 2: Whether freedom of mobility restricts women’s capabilities for participation in work and education: 

The present paper uses three secondary data sources, namely: National Family Health Survey – 4 (NFHS-4, 2018) and National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB, 2017-18) and LSMS-2 (2017-18) - our own primary data based on quantitative and qualitative survey in poverty belt of India (Uttar Pradesh & Bihar). We have merged district level numbers of violence against women in public with NFHS-4 for all districts of India, to estimate the effect of violence on women’s freedom of mobility. We did the same with LSMS-2 data to see nested relationship of freedom of mobility, violence, availability of road and transport and its effect on female labor force and educational participation. 

More than 50 percent women can’t go alone to outside village and health center. As crime against women falls the percentage going alone rises, regardless of the place to go. In other words, as the crime against women declines, freedom of mobility increases. Similar results are found, when we made state level analysis. In states where crime against women is higher, restriction on mobility is tighter.Since female’s freedom of mobility is nested within availability of road and transport and violence in public, it can’t be captured from simple regression analysis. Therefore we used structural equation model (SEM) to construct freedom of mobility as a latent variable and in second stage analyzed its effect on women’s participation in labor market and education. In order to establish this relationship and include other structural variable we used LSMS-2 and NCRB data. The results from this analysis suggests that male permission is required for larger number of women if average crime against women is higher and vice versa. Moreover, women have to take male member along to the places if crime is higher and lower crime provides them free mobility on their own. Which means, when crime against women is higher most of them tend to join domestic duty. It is shown that if mobility is restricted then the employment outcome also becomes limited. In cases where women’s mobility gets restricted to their village only, they tend to work in the villages itself, which limits their employment opportunities. The effect of road on mobility is very significant. Higher percentage of women works outside the village if concrete roads are available, while poor quality of road reduces participation in employment and education. Higher percentage of women worked outside the village if there was bus or taxi stand in the village.

Thus, the present paper shows the nested relationship among freedom of mobility, crime against women and availability of transport facility and its effect on female’s participation in work and education. While available literature argues that outside employment improves women’s capabilities for mobilities, the present paper based on quantitative and qualitative data, suggests that freedom of mobility is imperative for their labor force and educational participation. 

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