Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Women's rights: a stand alone agenda?

By Noushin Arefadib - Centre for Social Research
Following the recent rape and murder of the 23 year old medical student in Delhi, India and the International community at large, have commenced a more consistent discussion around women’s human rights in India. However, what seems to have fallen off the radar of most is that a woman’s access to human rights in India is often entirely reliant on her geographical location: urban vs. rural, and her social status: caste and class.

While social inequality is still a relevant topic in most countries, India’s long standing caste system continues to play a significant role in women’s ability to access basic human rights. Although the caste system is technically known to have been abolished, the reality is that this is something which is still very prevalent in Indian culture and everyday life. As such, a women’s place in modern day India stands at a crossroad of class, caste, and patriarchy.

Sadly, despite the fact that local, state, and federal policies exist pertaining to caste and gender based violence in India, there remains a significant discrepancy between written policy and policy implementation. Ancient practices that have come about as a result of the caste system and patriarchy are deeply embedded in Indian culture and cannot just be uprooted because of new government policies and legislations. Given this fact, is it really possible for one to discuss gender based violence in India without also exploring existing links between caste and gender, particularly when the subservience of women is central to the preservation of the caste system?

For example, women who reside in rural India face gender inequality on a different level than women in urban India. Such inequalities are further amplified by existing caste and class systems which result in women from rural areas having lesser access to education and health services, while concurrently facing increased levels of gender based violence. Women from lower castes are also more vulnerable to maternal and infant mortality, and have little decision-making power, all of which are indicators of women’s empowerment, or lack thereof.

In an India where the empowerment of women requires a multidimensional approach that recognizes the feminization of poverty, particularly in rural areas, is it enough to simply discuss women’s rights without acknowledging and addressing underlying causes of the current status quo?

1 comment:

  1. I'm continuously looking at how people don't connect the dots when they look at oppression .. It's like being anti rape and saying midi is a great development leader. Spoke to a random stranger just yesterday who said caste is not discriminatory and just a great way to organise society. Genuinely believed that nobody discriminates on the basis of caste.. It's all politicians agenda. People need to look at marginalization as a structural and cross cutting issue.