Final Chapter 4 - In the previous chapter we noted that the...

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Gender, Religion and Caste 39 Chapter 4 Gender, Religion and Caste Overview In the previous chapter we noted that the existence of social diversity does not threaten democracy. Political expression of social differences is possible and sometimes quite desirable in a democratic system. In this chapter we apply these ideas to the practice of democracy in India. We look at three kinds of social differences that can take the form of social divisions and inequalities. These are social differences based on gender, religion and caste. In each case we look at the nature of this division in India and how it gets expressed in politics. We also ask whether different expressions based on these differences are healthy or otherwise in a democracy.
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40 Democratic Politics Gender and politics Let us begin with gender division. This is a form of hierarchical social division seen everywhere, but is rarely recognised in the study of politics. The gender division tends to be understood as natural and unchangeable. However, it is not based on biology but on social expectations and stereotypes. Public/private division Boys and girls are brought up to believe that the main responsibility of women is housework and bringing up children. This is reflected in a SEXUAL DIVISION OF LABOUR in most families: women do all work inside the home such as cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, tailoring, looking after children, etc., and men do all the work outside the home. It is not that men cannot do housework; they simply think that it is for women to attend to these things. When these jobs are paid for, men are ready to take up these works. Most tailors or cooks in hotels are men. Similarly, it is not that women do not work outside their home. In villages, women fetch water, collect fuel and work in the fields. In urban areas, poor women work as domestic helper in middle class homes, while middle class women work in offices. In fact the majority of women do some sort of paid work in addition to domestic labour. But their work is not valued and does not get recognition. The result of this division of labour is that although women constitute half of the humanity, their role in public life, especially politics, is minimal in most societies. Earlier, only men were allowed to participate in public affairs, vote and contest for public offices. Gradually the gender issue was raised in politics. Women in different parts of the world organised and agitated for equal rights. There were agitations in different countries for the extension of voting rights to women. These agitations demanded enhancing the political and legal status of women and improving A poster from Bengal affirming women’s strength. Sexual division of labour: A system in which all work inside the home is either done by the women of the family, or organised by them through the domestic helpers.
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Final Chapter 4 - In the previous chapter we noted that the...

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