Showing posts with label Gender Studies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gender Studies. Show all posts

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. 

Gender Studies: Religion

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

“India is not a nation but a complex secular civilization. Its demography tells part of its impressive story.” – Rajeev Dhavan

Rajeev Dhavan

The religious paradigms of the Indian people, gives rise to the religion systems of India. Communalism has played a key role in it’s shaping.

According to the 2001 census, 80.5% of the population of India practice Hinduism. Islam (13.4%), Christianity (2.3%), Sikhism (1.9%), Buddhism (0.8%) and Jainism (0.4%) are the other major religions followed by the people of India. There are also numerous minor tribal traditions, though these have been affected by major religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity.

Religion dwells in almost every aspect of the Inidan society, some at a larger ground. Over the years many religious clashes have taken place. The Babri-Masjid clash followed by the Ayodhya verdict, The Gujrat riots of 2002, Communal clash in UP, all are massive examples of religious clashes that have occurred in Indian history. 

It is significant to the note the role politics plays along with religion to shape the contours to Indian civilization. Politics merges the identities of caste and religion giving it a much more complex structure. Where Jinnah left India because of religious reasons, Ambedkar protested because of caste discrimination. 

The Hindu-Muslim clash: The secular stand that India often takes, is only limited to politics, whereas, these communities stand on their own.  Religious conflicts exists based on socio-economic levels along with religious beliefs.  During contemporary times discrimination exists at other levels in other parts of the country. Decline in the status of Urdu in north India, widespread use of Hindu mythologies and symbols in school textbooks and continuing controversy over the foremost educational institution of Muslims, the Aligarh University, have indeed done much to provoke Muslim fears. Evidence that the police and administrative machinery in recent riots have sided with violent Hindus has further deepened widespread feelings of discrimination. 

The massive decentralization of States in India has only increased religious conflicts along with caste. Their correlation and hype have gravely influenced the structure of the Indian Society. Even as late as Sep 9,2013, religious riots broke out in the country killing 31 people. There have been conflicts against the  Bengalis as well in Assam.  

Contemporary India, then, is experiencing a systematic attack against various expressions of religious and cultural plurality. The move to project and promote a nation, which is unitary by way of its common Hindu-ness, is gaining ground like always. The Hindu ideologies have post independence been of prime significance in the culture, where most public holidays or festive holidays are based on Hindu system. 

Gender Studies: Caste

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

“Unity in diversity” which has often been used to describe the Indian society, might have some loopholes. The Indian society stands, on a complex conjunction of multiple facets of division where one can call caste, religion, class, gender, ethnicity, etc., its various pillars.  However, over the years, these pillars have collectively managed to shake the foundations of the Indian society from time to time. 

Thus, the Indian society is structured along the axis of Caste, Religion and Gender. Here’s how. 


Gender Studies Caste, Gender and Religion

Though social inequality persists around the world, within the Indian institution, is perhaps, most daunting. Our nationalist leaders hadvision post independence; avision that sought to create a state free social discrimination of any sort. The profound practice of “un- touchability “ against minor caste groups was a major cause. To eradicate this, the lawmakers bestowed upon the country a socialist, secularist and democratic framework, which separated caste from religion. 

Indian society is a hierarchical one; therefore, caste also exists in hierarchy. Castes are ranked, named, endogamous (in-marrying) groups, membership in which is achieved by birth. There are thousands of castes and sub-castes in India, involving hundreds of millions of people. These large kinship-based groups are fundamental to South Asian social structure. Caste membership provides a sense of belonging to a recognized group from whom support can be expected in a variety of situations.

Traditional occupations have often been associated by caste;such as priests, potters, barbers, carpenters, leatherworkers, butchers, manual scavengers and launderers. Members of higher-ranking castes tend to be more prosperous than members of lower-ranking castes, who often endure poverty and social disadvantage. The so-called “Untouchables” were traditionally relegated to polluting tasks. Since 1935, “Untouchables” have been known as “Scheduled Castes,” and Mahatma Gandhi called them Harijans, or “Children of God.” Today, the politically correct term for these groups, who make up some 16% of the population, is Dalit, or “Oppressed.” Other groups, usually called tribes (often referred to as “Scheduled Tribes”) are also integrated into the caste system to varying degrees.

In the past decades, Caste had been used by the Colonial British to sustain them in India. This pre-modern era holds keys to current caste scenarios too. It’s also important to note here that the caste discrimination that was primarily restricted to rural villages earlier has now permeated throughout the country, thereby blurring the gap between urban and rural. Even though the urban middle class claims which is about (50-70%) of the Indian population, claims to have overcome caste barriers, the statements are not very convincing. 

In 1963 C.T Kannan did a full-length study on inter-caste marriage. He states:

"Just 25 years ago the instances of inter-caste marriage were very few; and those individuals who dared to marry outside the caste had to undergo truly great hardships. Today the situation is altogether different. Not only has the prevalence of inter-caste marriage become considerable, but even the difficulties the inter-caste couples have to face have become comparatively quite mild" (Kannan, 1963).

Kannan does talk about a prevalent factor that existed in the society; however, his study consisted of many sub-casts and a small number of couples. The results were, hence, not very accurate. Following this, inter-caste marriages do exist, and have shaped the society into new forms and instructions. However, they still tend to be the province of a liberal few. For much of the country, with its penchant for arranged marriages and close family ties, caste is still a primary determinant in choosing a spouse.

Politics also that plays a significant part in shaping the Indian society, has in fact given a new name to the caste-game. Majority of the voters are concerned with the caste of their politicians, or their political parties – and this includes both the educated and the uneducated ones! 

To curb caste-gaps in institutions primarily with respect to eradicating “imbalance” in the job and education sector, the lawmakers, came up with the idea of “RESERVATION”. This program has been effective, in a fairly hit-or-miss fashion. Some say that nearly all university seats are reserved for lower castes, effectively blocking Brahmins from higher education. Others point out that the vast majority of high paying jobs are still in the hands of the top three castes. Taking example from the media industry, most Dalit journalists quit their jobs or start their own enterprises to avoid discrimination. 

The Government has gradually under amendments included new castes those that were not included in the original schedule and the percentage under reservation (for education and job opportunities in Government Organisation)also gradually increased from 20% to 27.5% both this two issues have gradually built resentment (why 27.5% reservation for 16.5% scheducale caste and tribe population) among those not covered under the caste based reservation and those already covered and still expecting for more. 

There are many other incidences of caste-discrimination and caste following that shapes the Indian society. In spite of rise of Mayavati, a women dalit leader of the BSP, DravidaMunnetraKazhagam party against the Brahmin platform in Tamil Nadu,  Ex-governor SurajBhan, etc., most backwards castes are still looked down upon. This affects the paradigms of stability, yet our policy makers create superficial balances, which may or may not help.

Independent India has witnessed caste-related violence. According to Government's report, approximately 110,000 cases of violent acts committed against Dalits were reported in 2005. The economic significance of the caste system in India has been declining as a result of urbanization and affirmative action programs. Upon independence from the British rule, the Indian Constitution listed 1,108 castes across the country as Scheduled Castes in 1950, for affirmative action. The Scheduled Castes are sometimes called Dalit in contemporary literature. In 2001, the proportion of Dalit population was 16.2 percent of India's total population.

Structure of Caste in Society

Thus, Indian society is structured on the axis of caste, that for now, has found its balance. A country where even the media is not free from caste-bounds, to establish a balance is difficult but not impossible.