Diplomatic Correspondent

Bangladesh has topped the South Asian countries in gender equality for the second consecutive year.

It ranked 72nd among 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report 2016 published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Tuesday.

Iceland topped the index for the eighth consecutive term, followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden.

In last year’s index, Bangladesh was 64th among 145 countries, leaving behind all the other countries in the South Asian region. It was 68th among 142 nations in 2014.

The new report placed India at 87th position while Sri Lanka at 100th, Nepal at 110th, the Maldives at 115th, Bhutan at 121th and Pakistan at 143th position.

Bangladesh also topped the list of countries in the world for number of years with a female head of state (for the last 50 years). “Female head of state” is used to describe an elected female head of state or head of government.

The country is followed by India, Ireland, Iceland, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Norway, Finland, Liberia and the UK.

Bangladesh again holds the first position jointly with several other countries when it comes to enrolment in primary and secondary education, shows the report by the Geneva-based WEF.

Bangladesh is also the South Asian region’s top performer, recording progress this year on the political empowerment gender gap but recorded a widening of the gap on women’s labour force participation and estimated earned income.

It is followed by India, which reports progress this year on closing the gender gap with regard to wage equality and across all indicators of the educational attainment sub-index, fully closing its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps.

With an average remaining gender gap of 33 percent, the South Asia region is the second-lowest scoring region on this year’s Global Gender Gap Index, ahead of the Middle East and North Africa and behind the Sub-Saharan Africa region.

No country in the region has fully closed its educational attainment gender gap, and only one country, Sri Lanka, has fully closed its health and survival gender gap. However, the region is also home to Nepal, one of the top five climbers over the past decade on the overall index and on educational attainment, says the report.

As per the report, Bangladesh has been positioned in the lower-middle income group.

The report also shows that Bangladesh ranked 135th in Economic Participation and Opportunity index. It was 107 in 2006.

Bangladesh’s global rank in literacy rate is 110, health and life expectancy 103, women in parliament 74, women in ministerial position 124 and wage equality 122.

Pakistan has been ranked the second-worst country in the world for gender inequality for the second consecutive year and also the worst performing state in South Asia.

Through the Global Gender Gap Report, the World Economic Forum quantifies the magnitude of gender disparities and tracks their progress over time, with a specific focus on the relative gaps between women and men across four key areas: health, education, economy and politics.

More than a decade of data has revealed that progress is still too slow for realising the full potential of one half of humanity within our lifetimes, the report observed.