In its vision to make employment accessible, has MGNREGA overlooked the safety of the “second sex”?

India has made considerable progress in terms of legislative gender equality which has been shown to increase political participation, property rights and female access to employment. Similarly, fertility rates have declined and the educational gender gap has diminished. This pattern is suggestive of an improvement in women’s conditions even though there are several barriers to women’s access to the labor market. In spite of this, recently violence in India has been increasing, with violence against women partially contributing to this trend. This is one aspect of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), launched 10 years ago, that has perhaps not been sufficiently addressed.

In an article from the Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, the researchers- Sofia Amaral and Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay of the University of Birmingham, UK, and Rudra Sensarma of IIM Kozhikode analyze the extent to which FLP affects women’s well-being in India with respect to the violence they face at home and at the work place. It scrutinizes the relationship between violence against women and the implementation of one of the largest public works programmes in the world which aimed to reduce poverty levels and increase employment opportunities for the poor and, in particular, improve women’s access to the labour market.

The research has also been referred to in a recent article of the Times of India on MGNREGA and women's security, where its findings suggest that increased female labor participation following the NREGS has increased total gender-based violence. There have been increases in kidnappings, sexual harassments and domestic violence, while dowry deaths have decreased. 
The rise in domestic violence along with the increases in kidnappings and sexual harassment appears to have contributed to an increase in total violence. Therefore while the NREGS may be designed as an anti-poverty programme with economic benefits, reasearch findings imply that the government must pay greater attention to policing and security needs to control some of the undesirable consequences that the scheme seems to have on women’s well-being.

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