Fertility Declines and Shifts in Gender Equality in Tamil Nadu, India

Anju Malhotra, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
Rohini P. Pande, Independent Consultant
Sophie Namy, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

This paper is a historical analysis of shifts in gender relations with fertility declines and socio-economic change in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu over the last 40-50 years. Using data, literature, and interviews with experts, we examine how fertility decline in Tamil Nadu manifested in changes in the value of children, the desire to invest in children, and the shrinkage of women’s lifespan devoted to childbearing, and how these changes have influenced specific domains of women’s lives and gender relations, specifically, investments in girls’ education, marriage and domestic relations, and economic opportunity for women. We also explore how Tamil Nadu’s history of progressive social activism, combined with economic poverty until recently, has influenced fertility-gender relationships. We find that, following fertility decline, women’s lives and gender relations have improved in some, but not all, spheres of their lives. However, these changes have yet to be transformational in overcoming gender inequalities.

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Presented in Session 128: Demography with a Gender Lens