Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Gender Studies: Gender

Indian society is structured along the axis of Caste, Religion and Gender. Do you agree? Explain with contemporary examples. 

Gender Studies Caste, Gender and Religion

The ancient Indian systems have been very biased towards the patriarchs. Practices of “Pardah” or veiling of the Indian women in public places were mostly practiced in the North side, along with minor groups in the south. Restriction and restraint for women in virtually every aspect of life were essential to purdah, limiting women’s access to power and to the control of vital resources in a male-dominated society. Sequestered women had to conceal their bodies and even their faces with modest clothing and veils before certain categories of people, avoid extramarital relations, and move about in public only with a male escort. Poor and low-status women often practiced attenuated versions of veiling as they work in the fields and on construction gangs.

Back to the contemporary times, the purdah system has diminished. However, chastity and female modesty are still greatly valued. The idea of honor that had been linked with the female bodies of the house along with limited power control is one of the reasons and has been responsible for female feticide over the years. 
Although India boasts many eminent women and was once led by a powerful woman prime minister, Indira Gandhi, and while goddesses are extensively worshiped in Hindu rituals, statistics reveal that girls are, in fact, disadvantaged in India. The 2001 Census counted only 933 females per 1000 males, reflecting sex-selective abortion, poorer medical care and nutrition, and occasional infanticide targeting females. A decade later, i.e. 2011, the census shows the total female sex ratio in India is 940 per 1000 males and the female child sex ratio is 944 girl children per every 1000 boy children of the same age group. The overall female sex ratio has increased by 0.75 % in the Census 2011 as compared to the previous Census of 2001! 

So in spite of contemporary job opportunities and ‘freedom’ for women, they still continue to fall back. Let’s talk about the practice of widowhood in the Indian society. Sati system has been abolished however whether a widow decides to remarry or just live a single life, holds great relevance in the society. Even during divorces, women face major problems with the society. 

Lets not forget how over the years violence against women haven’t declined. Brutal rape cases such as Dec 12, Delhi gang rape, domestic violence, molestation, work-place discrimination, etc., continuously prevail. 

Gender biases, a huge problem in the contemporary times. Bias for good, or for bad, both exist. The Indian law itself for instance, codifies itself with the idea of patriarchy, where a child born out of an inter-caste marriage, has to take the father’s caste. And in other circumstances, the child get’s the father’s last name.

Gender Studies Caste, Gender and Religion

In workplaces, women are paid less salaries, during interviews are asked questions about their future plans in terms of marriage, regardless of the talent they hold. Very few escape this. Another example is of many work places not giving paternity leave to fathers as they take it to be unnecessary. 

On the streets, the women are expected to dress “appropriately” so as to not get “unwanted attention” from the male-gazers of the society. The very popular attack by Shiv-Sena on women partying in Mumbai, says much about where the Inidan society is going with gender. 

Yes, now some educational institutions have reservations and preferences for women, but very few get to benefit. Most, specially belonging from the rural or semi-rural areas doesn’t have education. They are made to believe that marriage would be their only way out eventually. 

Currently, there are many NGOs and initiatives looking into to women education where they provide women with tools to learn and understand the importance of learning.  Others work to provide work opportunities to women of rural areas such as FSD initiatives in Rajasthan, where women are trained to think like entrepreneurs.  However, more efforts are required. Not just for women but for men as well

Gender plays part in other areas, such as sports, as well. Even though women cricket, women football, etc., are gaining popularity, the lack of opportunities for them is a major problem.

The many restrictions on women even after many years of independence, is saddening. A society where police officers and politicians say things like “Women should be home before 8 or we are not responsible”, shows the amount of prejudices women face. 

It is also significant to realize that gender doesn’t exist alone. It exists along with caste and class. A Dalit woman faces much more hardships than a Brahmin woman.  A woman might face difficulties however the “creamy layer” over her, can still help her. But majority don’t have this privilege. 

Article 377 is another slap on the Indian society that makes our legislature a bunch of homophobes. Where the LGBT faces multiple issues such as harassment, lack of job opportunities, etc., where is the diversity India so proudly holds? Shouldn’t it apply on gender as well? 


In India’s vociferous democracy, different groups are increasingly demanding their share of scarce resources and benefits. There are Industrial as well agricultural advancements in the country but social advancement is much needed. As competition grows, political, social, ecological, and economic issues are hotly contested. Justice in matters pertaining to class, gender, and access to desirable resources remains an elusive goal.
India much like other countries facing conflicts of gender, caste and religion, is trying to seek solutions but requires an assertive stance.