Urban Planning and Gender Inclusivity

Cities: The home to many, but not "inclusive" enough for all?


The course of human development has been marked by the revolutionary concept of urbanization. It’s origin dates back to the Neolithic Period, which is around 10,000 B.C.E. Since then, there has been an exponential increase in the proportion of the urban population. In India, the urban population comprises 35.39% of the total inhabitants. The cities are expected to account for 70% of the country’s GDP by 2030. Seeing the growing importance of urban settlements, the administration devised various plans to economically enable the urban areas. However, the speed and scale of urbanization is accompanied by multifarious challenges. The paper titled “Urban Planning and Gender Inclusivity” covers one such prominent issue of gender equality in the urban planning systems of India. The research aims to highlight the facets of urban planning that inhibit women's socio-economic capabilities. The question addressed is how urban design fuels the rising level of gender imparity and concurrently what can be plausible ways by which government policies can be made more gender sensitive.

Keywords: gender inclusivity, planning, development, women, aspects


1.     Introduction

Urban planning is a macro-level conceptualization that deals with an urban locale's economic, infrastructural, architectural and ecological framework. The presence of equitable rights and opportunities for all the residents is deliberative of gender and a socially encompassing city. Men and Women both have diverse requirements and use the resources differently depending on their socioeconomic status and priorities. Although widespread urban city initiatives have been taken to incorporate the exigencies of all, yet, there are a lot of feminist critiques indicating that not all voices and opinions are being heard. Currently, our plans are discordant with what women want. Moreover, the fact that men dominate the decision-making in the planning projects that may be targeted toward female users often leads to the non-fulfillment of their goals.  


2.               Literature Review

The growing interest in the socio-economic status of women throughout the world has resulted in a steady rise in studies addressing the ‘gender-biased’ nature of urban planning policies (Moser and Peake, 1987; Brydon and Chant, 1989; Dandekar, 1993). Women’s access and safety across cities have seen credible research carried out in the early 21st century (Low, 2005; Whitzman, 2008; Falu, 2009). It has been noted that the introduced legislation across nations failed to consider the difference in the gender requirements and how they arbitrarily benefit the men while women suffer (Swantz, 1985; Chant, 1989). There are also restrictions on the exact information and data (at the moment) of the impact of the policies on different social groups, especially women.  The developing nation’s goal of sustainable development is hardly attainable since their development policies remain systematically biased against women (Ambe J.Njoh, 2010).  Also, there is an absence of a consolidated and integrated approach for inclusive urban governance, especially in regions of South Asia (GSDRC, 2012). Overcoming such deficiencies is directly correlated to an increased cognizance of women’s economic and social roles and responsibilities in an urban society (Rakodi and C., 1991). The urbanization and migration processes are composed of gender roles and relations. Therefore, this urban sprawl acted as a catalyst for growing insecurities and sexual harassment against females in cities (Swapna and Omkar,2015). International forums like The United Nations have expressed concerns over building inclusive, resilient and safe cities as part of their Sustainable Development Programs adopted in 2015. Furthermore, the World Bank, DFID and ADB have also stressed on the presence of gender mainstreaming in the course of planning and development through the notion of ‘gender budgeting’ i.e viewing budget through a gender lens, and involvement at all tiers of a decision mechanism (Nasruddin and Singh, 2016). A detailed and extensive handbook on “Gender Inclusive Urban planning and design” released by the World Bank, illuminates on the relation between gender and built cities and lay out a menu of simple, practical approaches toward inclusive cities.







3.     Research Objective

This exploration would like to find out what aspects of civic planning cause gender variations and how critical backing from the leadership will help bridge the gender gap in India.
 4. Research Methodology
 It's a descriptive- exploratory study. The paper will try and describe what civic planning is and its possible relation to gender inclusivity. It's an open- concluded exploration of disciplines of gender equality that the administration should check while contriving megacity plans in India. The experimenter tries to give practical results grounded on the (at the moment) available data. Unnaturally, the experimenter is interested in disquisition and in-depth exploration of the problem.
 5. Socio-Economic status of women in India
 The socio- profitable status of Indian women remains a cause for dismay. The fairly depressed profitable position of women is a product of deeply embedded conceptions and an ideological socio- profitable system. The “ places ” performed in the “ domestic ” and “ public ” spheres came to the identity of individualities. Market conditioning, particularly, domestic work, generally performed by women is considered anything but productive and profitable conditioning.
 This particular work structure led to an emphasis on the gap between the power of Indian men and women. This discrepancy has not gone unnoticed.
 The Indian constitution, the largest in the world, guarantees equal rights to men and women. The country’s functionary station about combating demarcation against women has been competently laid down under the vittles’ of abecedarian rights.
 papers 14 and 15 enjoin the state from differencing grounded on coitus; Composition 15( 3) states that nothing in the below papers prevents the state from making particular arrangements for women and children.
 “Article 16 (1) guarantees equal opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any state offices.”
 Part IV of the Indian Constitution contains the Directive Principles for State programs, which bear, among other effects, that the state shall strive to insure gender equivalency. papers 39( d) and 41 of the Indian Constitution accentuate the principles of" Equal Pay for Equal Work" for men and women, as well as the" Right to Work."
 Table 1 reflects how multitudinous government programs have failed to uphold justice for women and significant action is still demanded to attain the development pretension.


Table 1: Status of Women in India (selected indicators)

 | Women as % of the total population | 48 (2020)
 | Adult female Literacy Rate (%-15 and above) | 66 (2018)
 | Female participation (% of the total workforce) | 20.3 (2021)
 | Women in national legislation (%-lower chamber) | 14.4 (2019)


Source: The World Bank, IPU Parline


How does planning as an essential function of the state impede the full and productive participation of women in economic, political and cultural development efforts in India? After addressing the question, we identify the numerous aspects of urban development which need to be taken into account for policy formation as well as examine the policies introduced in the past by the center and state governments for meeting this challenge of deeply implanted inequalities. Before concluding, we suggest actions necessary to eliminate gender-biased attributes in the country’s urban planning goals.


6.               What is Gender-inclusivity and why is it needed


A gender and socially-inclusive city design promotes equitable rights and provides opportunities for all residents to participate in urban life. Traditional city and village designs and planning failed to recognize the complex and unequal relations between men and women in our society. Rendering the women’s specific needs and demands invisible has pushed their socio-economic status below that of men. This right for equitable urban planning correlates with women’s quality of life, as well as the safe use and enjoyment of urban spaces and common assets when moving about the city. Furthermore, demands are not only made about economic well-being, but also about political participation, and equal access to work, land, housing, infrastructure, transport and security. While planning dynamic infrastructural and city projects, it is necessary to view them from a gender lens and overcome all physical, cultural, and social barriers that hinder the full implementation of females’ rights, in particular for the poorest women. 

The bottom line is that the economic and social costs of ignoring such factors are significant. When faced with such hindrances, gender minorities of all ages and abilities often:

 • Struggle to accumulate wealth and attain economic independence 

 • Spend more on basic services 

 • Have fewer social freedoms


7. Aspects of gender inclusivity 

The following four issues punctuate the disciplines where girls and women face disproportionate burdens given the socio-economic inequalities. In other words, these four areas are what the administration should keep in mind while concocting plans for gender-inclusive civic installations.
 a. Access: Using public realms free from walls and constraints.
 Due to certain scarcities in the planning, it discourages women and girls from completely penetrating or feeling welcome within the public realm. “Numerous women around the world have internalized sense of discomfort in public spaces” (Ranade, 2007). Lack of sanitation facilities also had a negative spiraling effect on women’s presence in social areas, reducing it by almost 15%( APS, 2015).
 b. Mobility: Moving around the public spaces freely, safely and affordably.
 Women are less likely to have access to a car Kunieda and Gauthier, 2007) and thus switch to public transportation at further feasible and out-peak timings. Along with this, women are more likely to walk (Peters, 2001), and tend to be slower trampers due to poor structure similar to “uneven paving or a lack of crossings and check cuts which can disproportionately limit their mobility.” Another prominent aspect that restricts women’s access to transportation is safety enterprises. For case, women are more likely to consider not going out after dark (Hsu, 2011), not walking alone (Keane, 1998), and not choosing specific routes to avoid putting themselves at threat of violence. A check conducted by ‘We the People Foundation’ in early 2012 set up that 80% of women in Mumbai faced sexual importunity with the maximum cases taking place in crowded areas similar to trains and railway platforms.
 c. Safety and Freedom from Violence: Free from real and perceived troubles in the public spheres
 Non-intimate mate violence against women tends to be more advanced in metropolises, and particularly informal agreements, than in pastoral areas. Factors similar to the unattainability of lighting and the unavailability of effective forces’ backing lead to fear of violence in the public realm.
 d. Health and Hygiene: Leading a healthy life free from habitual ails.
 Reduced access to the public realm in general, has a direct impact on the well-being of individuals and in this case, women. Lower presence in public transportation or public premises is linked with lesser lifespan and reduced happiness (Aspinall et al., 2015; Beyer et al., 2014; Roe et al., 2013; Thompson et al., 2012; Hobbs et al., 2017). Lack of mobility, access, and comfort in similar spaces may explain why, encyclopaedically, 32 of adult women are rightly physically inactive compared to only 23 of men( WHO, 2016a). 






8.  How have the specific problems women face due to insufficient attentiveness paid to gender in urban planning interfered with their socio-economic status?


i.                 Due to the prevalence of “double shift” of women wherein they are involved in both caregiving and income-generating activities where the former is unrecognized and unpaid. This severely reduces their access to education and employment since most of their time and efforts are spent on household chores (Lee and Waite, 2005)


ii.               Dearth in easy mobility deprives women of quality education and employment, reducing their economic status. In Delhi, studies indicate that women choose lower-quality universities over higher-rated programs and pay significantly higher transportation costs to take safer routes to reach their destination (Borker, 2018). In developing countries, the lack of safety in public transport reduces the probability of women’s participation in the labor force by 16.5% (ILO, 2017).  


iii.             Gender-based violence affects women’s productivity levels (physically and mentally) thereby reducing their economic opportunities. 


iv.             The chronic health challenges women are faced with due to reduced access to parks, and improper sanitation facilities are directly linked with increased obesity and high transmission of diarrhea respectively making them unfit for many jobs.


v.               Women favored property rights led to better involvement in family decision-making. Females are more likely to prioritize spending on the family to reduce poverty (Quisumbing et al., 1999); more likely to put funds towards education (Katz and Chamorro, 2002), and less likely to see high levels of malnutrition among their children (Landesa, 2012). Such decisions impact the overall socio-economic progress of the city.



9. How did the country’s administration try and deal with these challenges?


                                                                   i.          In 1992, the 74th Amendment of the Constitution mandated the reservation of a minimum of 33% seats for women in Urban Local Bodies for direct involvement in decision-making. States like Kerala, Maharashtra, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh decided to reserve 50% of the ULB seats to ensure much greater parity between genders.


                                                                 ii.          The Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) launched in June 2015 wishes to uplift the standards of living in urban regions through the availability of basic amenities such as water supply, well-maintained open spaces like parks and constructing of non-motorized transport facilities for cycling or walking. Another aspect of this is building stormwater drains to make cities more climate resilient. However, the scheme doesn’t have a specified gender aspect to it.


                                                               iii.          The Smart Cities Mission 2015 aims to make the cities more sustainable and economically and socially empowered through modern solutions involving the integration of technology and connected data systems, such as AI to address complex multifaceted urban security challenges. For public safety, many of the 100 Smart Cities have invested in surveillance solutions, including the procurement and installation of CCTVs and the development of Integrated Command and Control Centres to analyze real-time data which will make the public spaces safer for everyone, especially women.


                                                               iv.          The National Policy for Women 2016 draft suggested that attention should be given to affordable, safe and adequate housing facilities for women in urban areas. State-run shelter homes need to improve their living conditions for female victims of violence. 


                                                                 v.          Under the UP-Government’s Mission Shakti Program launched on October 17, 2020, the Lucknow police will deploy five AI-enabled CCTV’s across the city where there is maximum footfall and complaints received from women. The cameras will be activated after the facial recognition of women and alert the nearest police station so that can dispatch relief forces immediately.



                                                               vi.          DMRC is training 300 women to drive e-autos being introduced on the feeder routes. This will strengthen last-mile connectivity and make it safer for women to travel to and from metro stations. 



                                                              vii.           In India, states like Tamil Nadu have increased the number of all-women police stations to make females feel safer in the city and more comfortable while reporting crimes against them. 


10.            Suggestions

The paper established the correlation between urban planning and it’s impact on the socio-economic standing of women in society. Furthermore, we briefly examined the already introduced programs that will help bridge the gender gap. Based on the understanding of the paper and the available data, here* is a list of practical and efficient solutions that will help tackle the prominent concern the country is faced with:


·       Better implementation of existing policies: Before bringing new plans to the table, the existing programs should be strengthened. This involves:

ü  Street Lightening National Program (replacing traditional street lights with LED) aimed at conserving power while guaranteeing maximum brightness should be fastened and effectively carried out in all states.

ü  Response timing to street harassment/ violence complaints needs to be improved along with frequent patrol rounds during the night.

ü  Like the Delhi Government’s CCTV project, other states need to deliberate upon the installation and effective monitoring of different public spaces through CCTVs.

ü  Increasing the number and improving the maintenance of toilets on streets, metro stations, and railways can make women feel more comfortable in public.

ü  Improving the loopholes of already existing laws about violence against women in public realms.


·        Safety Circles: Improving coordination between different tiers of government to identify the potential crime-prone, secluded areas and installing ‘safety circles’ - demarcated areas that will be under effective* vigilance such that any woman, if feeling unsafe, can enter this area and immediate relief response is achieved from the forces.


·        Last-mile connectivity: The center and state government should come into collaboration with NGOs to build confidence among women travelers by increasing the availability of women e-rickshaw and auto drivers. The center and state governments can support Azad Foundation’s Women on Wheels and DMRC’s women on e-autos for feeder routes initiative or expand Jaipur’s Pink City Rickshaw Company idea to a pan-India level.


·        Involvement in decision-making: Participation and inclusion of women representatives at all levels of urban governance either through quotas or dedicated offices ensure their increased presence in policy-making and legislation. As well as resorting to the top-down approach, governments should collaborate with women-led think tanks to build the capacity for poor-vulnerable women to participate in decision-making.





Three pressing issues permeate the discussion in this paper. First and foremost, there is the anti-women biased nature of infrastructural policies in India. Second, are questions about how women’s accessibility, mobility, freedom from violence and Health can be enhanced. Third, there is an inextricable link between the status of women and urban-rural planning. 

India is on the path to becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Therefore, it is necessary to understand that development is not only needed in the field of technology and sciences but in the social outlook as well. Hence, strengthening the policy instruments by making them more gender-inclusive is the need of the hour.







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