What is gender budgeting?
Gender budgeting means that allocating funds in the budget for women or pro-women activities and looking at the budget allocation through a gender lens.
A paper published by NIPFP on gender budgeting states that the impact of budgetary allocations is different for different social segments. Some allocations lead to rural segments benefitting whereas others are favourable for the urban population. The aim of gender budgeting is to counter this gender inequality and empower women so that the benefits of the budgetary provisions are enjoyed by women as much as they are by men.
The concept has been termed as a financial innovation. The idea is to link fiscal policy to gender development. Certain provisions are explicitly made for women i.e. 100% of the beneficiaries are women and/or 100% of the allocation of the funds is for women. However, this allocation to women-oriented schemes is one aspect of gender responsive budgeting. It is also likely that provisions which are not explicitly directed towards women end up impacting the condition of women positively/the provision of public goods such as street lights, more patrolling etc. have more positive benefits for women than men. Or to put it differently, these create positive externalities for women such as more safety and security.
India began the exercise of gender budgeting in 2002. Women constitute 48% of India’s population (2011). Due to a patriarchal setup, women lack access to resources such as financial capital, cultural capital leading them to be vulnerable and dependent. Hence, gender budgeting should offset the disadvantageous position patriarchy places women in.
2019 Budget on Gender Budgeting
Promotion of microfinance credit in the form of interest subvention to women across all districts is one of the landmark moves by the government. “Every verified woman SHG member having a Jan Dhan Bank Account will be allowed an overdraft of Rs.5,000. One woman in every SHG will also be eligible for a loan of up to Rs. 1 lakh under the MUDRA Scheme. Seventy per cent of beneficiaries under MUDRA scheme are women,” the Finance Minister said. She emphasized that the Ujjwala Yojana to provide clean cooking gas connection to women who are below poverty line and the Saubhagya Yojana to provide electricity to every household has been a major success in uplifting the condition of women.
Aspects to be considered
The connotation of gender budgeting is usually pro- women. However, it is important that gender is not understood as being binary-male and female-but a spectrum. There is enough scope for a nation to extend the ambit of defining the disadvantaged gender to include LGBTQA.
It would be useful to note the positive externalities created due to gender budgeting for other marginalised segments or the population in general. For example, the Ujjwala Yojana would have positive externality for men who live below the poverty line because when woman will use this facility and cook, it would be for all family members.
The current gender budgeting is not holistic enough to take all considerations into account. Gender is a spectrum, and if you’re making provisions for women, it is important to realise that these provisions too have impact on other marginalised communities. This needs to change.