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The Status Of Women In Patriarchal India

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 4191 words Published: 8th May 2017

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India is a country with a history of multiplicity inequality, where customs and culture practise had and still have strong influence on the social and political life of the population. India is also a country with a social caste system, with variety religions believers. This social mixture makes difficult for Indian women to escape discrimination, reach better opportunities and empower themselves not only inside the household, but also in a village and in a community, or even on the country’s political stage. On another hand, India has modern approach to technology and development with fast growing economy reaching 7,7 percent GDP in 2009 and further forecast of growth to 9 percent this year. (Trading economics


Indian family structure.

The most outstanding feature of India is a strong patriarchal and patrilocal character of this state. Majority of Indian states are patriarchal with only few examples of matrilocal and matrilineal structure like Kerala.

In patriarchal society both boys and girls take their identity from the father. But while the son is recognize as a permanent member of the family, the girls are more luckily be viewed as a transit element of this unit to another predominantly husband’s family. This also influences inheritance and resource distribution inside family. The land and properties are usually inherited by male successors and transmitted throw them to the next generation. According to the traditional legal practice a daughter has only rights of maintenance the land during her life in a family. As soon as she got married her right of land use are dismissed and taken back to family unit. Only a son has rights to property and land at birth. Women position in patriarchal India is reduced to good daughters, good wives and mothers. Wifehood and motherhood are commonly accepted as key roles for women in an Indian society and by those implications they should not pursue any different profession. Especially this once required by higher education or specialised trainings, which make them, lose focus on main household duties.

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Patriarchal system in an Indian society also means that the family unit is based on the joint household structure, where only one male is a head of house. Usually this role does belong to a father. He does make choice in terms of marriage alliance, both daughters and sons, decision about buying and selling properties, and maintaining family property day-to-day life. In terms of domestic arrangement the elder woman in a family is in charge. The new bride has the lowest and submissive position in this family chain (p70-76 Women status in India and Empowering them throw Education Dr Bijayalasini Prahary 2010).

In addition a patrilocal character of the Indian family means that a married couple will be leaving in a husband’s father house or in close distance to a natal home. And because an inheritance in India is usually traced through man, not a woman, the whole family sets are related to males who live together and share a property or even in case of tribal groups a wife. As a consequence of a male dominated role in a family and kinship system women are treated as a less important tool in a kin, and often an easy disposable member, simply replaceable by new brides. For example, in cases where a woman is childless common practise for husband is to send her back to her maternal family and replace by a new wife. The daughter situation is much more difficult. As daughters’ position is concerned, their residence in the father’s household is temporary and they do not have rights to family assets. Especial as girls quite often are subjects of early age arranged marriages, so their lives in a unit are short. In case of a wife, the husband family treats her as an outsider who is descended from some other patriarchal extended kin. Interesting enough with age and giving a birth to son a woman can gain better setup inside the household, but she will always be perceive as an outsider.

Legally the minimum ages at marriage are 18 for women and 21 for man, but in practise, according R C Mishra, close to 60 percent of women of rural India are married before reaching legal age. Especially that the legal provisions are rarely enforced by local authorities, what allows prohibition against child marriage to be continued and it seems wildly accepted in pure areas of India. We have to remember that Indian population is strongly influenced by custom and religious believes. As a consequence of early married many of girls, who are not ready physically and mentally to give a birth at young age, are dying during pregnancy (p94-97 women in India towards gender equality R C Mishra Authorspress Delhi 2006).

The patrurialchal structure of the family clearly influences the relationship inside a household. Any women’s decision-making power is restricted by their low positions in a house. For example, if the mother-in-law lives in a house, a new woman in a unit has to ask her for permission and approval in domestic arrangements. If the brother-in-law is there, he is the person to ask for consent to leave the house. Also at presence the sister-in-law in a household, a new bride needs to submit herself to her decisions. Many of women in joint families are enable to take any independent decision in respect to their own daily activities. The wife has to live by her husband’s and often his family wishes. The daughter has to live by father and family arrangements. (Indian Journal of Gender Studies, Bilkis Vissandjée 2006).

According to studies made by R C Misha nearly 90 percent of women in Uttar Pradesh, and over 80 percent in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh need permission before they can leave the house. Even in matters of cooking, a third of interviewed women in Uttar said that they had been excluded from decision-making on cooking. ((p94-97 women in India towards gender equality R C Mishra Authorspress Delhi 2006)

Indian’s family structure means that it is a bride responsibility to make major adjustments in a marriage. Girls should be prepared to make sacrifice in terms own needs, be modest, hard worker and always contribute to new family wealth being. Many Indians strongly believe that not only young girls should get married early but as well be less educated than the males in the family. The reason behind this is to preserve the male-based hierarchy and perception of man roles in a household as a breadwinner and security provider. Another factor is that unmarried innocent girl symbolises family honour and purity, and is considering as a blessed gift for the whole house.

In India, especially in pure regions, rural areas, girls specialise in domestic work such as looking after siblings, preparing and cooking food, cleaning the house and fetching water and firewood. Boys on the other hand are manly involved in working on the family farms, looking after livestock and engaging in income-earning activities. (p1-11 statues of rural women in India Dr S C Shama 2009) But due to economic situation quite often girls are taking over also boy’s responsibilities in farming and earning money for family needs.

Also social discrimination has a huge impact on women rights to land. Norms of female dependence on males are justified through a range of social mechanisms. About one in third of households have been run by women alone as they husbands left in research for jobs outside agriculture industry. Still women get less paid then man for the same work done. Two third of women in India can’t read or write. They can’t sleep before the man in household (p1-11 statues of rural women in India Dr S C Shama 2009). (p 40-44 Gender Discrimination in Indian Society, L Packiam, Allied Publishing Privet Limited 2006 New Delhi)

In addition, even among Indian women exists huge inequality related to treatment at work place and on social stage. Women belonging to the privileged and dominating classes enjoy mach more freedom and opportunities than they are often denied even to man from subordinated and unprivileged casts and groups. Women for the privilege cast are more educated and can place themselves in better position on an employment market. Still it does not change the fact that women are on the bottom of the order in every social group and casts, landless people, displaced and migrants (p1-11 statues of rural women in India Dr S C Shama 2009) Dali women are the hardest touched by discrimination not only at home but as well at Indian society. As the lowest cast they suffer every day form injustice and wrongdoing. The case of a girl student from Gujarat is only one of many examples of hash treatment by upper class and Indian traditional authorities. The girl made a mistake of joining the dancing in the main square of her village, in which most of the participants were of the upper caste. The upper caste boys pulled her out and threatened to rape her. For interfering, her mother was slapped. In the hope for justice, she forced her parents to file a complaint to the police against her assailants. For complaining to the police constantly the upper caste families in a village intimidated her mother and members of her family until it had been withdraw. This only one from many examples showing how difficult is for women from lowest cast to deal with disadvantages to be born into Dalit cast. It is estimated that around 50 thousand Dalits girls were sold every year to Hindu organizations that are involved in the Devdasi system as a female servants of “god” and are sexually exploited. These women from the poorest cast have no control over life, wealth and they cannot expect help from Indian justices’ system and local authorities.

Human Right Watch Report in 1992,

http://aapf.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/mahey-the-status-of-dalit-women-in-indias-caste-based-system.pdf (The Status of Dalit Women in India’s Caste Based

System Sonia Mahey, University of Alberta)

Women in Indian population.

India is one of the countries where the female population is counting in less proportion to male population. According to UNICEF India’s Report on Child Sex Ratio birth of female’s children is declining steadily. Figures from 1991 showed the sex ratio was 947 girls for 1000 boys. Ten years later it had fallen to 927 girls for 1000 boys. Furthermore, since 1991 in 80 percent of all districts in India had recorded a declining sex ratio with the state of Punjab being the worst in leading the statistics. States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana have recorded more than 50 point decline in the child sex ratio in the same period.


Delhi recorded sex ratios 821 while Haryanan 851 and Uttar Paradesh 898 (p6 http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/7602/1/MPRA_paper_7602.pdf). The Karela state is the only one in India where overall sex ratio is constantly in favourable to women. According to MPRA’s data sex ratio was in 2001 1058 as per 1001 census (MPRA 10 march 2008)

The fact is that more then 1 million pregnancies are aborted every year after the identification as females. Female children, who escape abortion or infanticide, get into social, economical and political discrimination. Through socialisation female children are throwing into women role expectations in Indian society. From the moment of birth girls are subjected by parents’ reinforcement to take on traditional role in a society and secondary position after male. From the birth girls are view as a weight responsibility and son as a valuable resource. This discriminations continue throw the girls whole lives and effecting ever aspect of they daily existence. At home patents give priority to needs and interest of their sons then daughters. The teenager girl is denied involvement in decision making in the family. She hardly takes any decision, which affects her life directly. Even in terms of relationships girls are restricted. A son can choose and love a girl of his choice, even refuses to marry parent’s choice of a bride, and whomever they selects the final world would be his. On contrarily, the daughter has to submit herself physically and mentally to family decisions. Every her movement is watched by relatives and in huge measure by the whole community, especially in a village environment. She is strictly instructed to behave herself. Expression of love towards a boy even of the same cast is not possible (L Packiam 2006, p16-18). Of course the restriction towards girls can be more loosen up in economically privileged and higher cast families. Although India is going throw an intensive economical and in same point political changes, which impose social transformation on girls right to education, the elimination of traditional and still strong dominated view on women lower position seems to be unattached by those changes.

Girl’s education

The conventional view on girls’ upbringing has huge impact on their formal education. India has the largest population of non-school-going working girls. The country literacy rate for women is 39 percent versus 64 percent for man. For example in Uttar Pradesh is even lower, around 25 percent for women. This low rate of girls in an education lies down to parent’s view that the educated girl brings no returns to her future roles, mainly as a homemaker and perhaps agriculture labour. The point is that girls increasingly are replacing brothers on farm duties while carrying domestic responsibilities at the same time. This is significant reason for not sending daughters to schools. A large proportion of nonworking girls is kept at home only because they household responsibility. Also next point for not sending girls to school is to protect their virginity. Especially when schools are communal for both: girls and boys. In addition long distance to education institutions with travel expenses makes impossible to change paten of basic education for girls (Dr Priyanka Tomar 2006, p 10-13).

The reality is that women literacy rate stands less than 50 percent for whole India. United Nation had estimated that 245 million Indian women cannot read or write and furthermore this number covers wide throw states, religion groups and casts. For instance, while 95 percent of women in Mizoram are literate, only 34 percent of women in Bihar can read and write. The average Indian female has only 1.2 years of schooling, while the Indian male spends 3.5 years in school. More than 50 percent girls drop out by the time they are in middle school. On the other hand life expectancy has increased for both: males and females to 64.9 years for women and 63 years for men. According to UN Statistic Division (2000) also the workingwomen population had risen from 13 percent in 1987 to 25 percent in 2001 and still grows.

Another confirmed point of strong male dominance in an Indian society is the fact that only women belied to be responsible for childless marriages or giving successive birth to female babies. In those cases it is common to expect a wife to find a second wife, for her husband, which is natural in rural areas that she is coming from her own family kit (L Packiam 2006, p35 -37). In such traditional country like India with strong male role perception as a head of large family it is important to have sons who continue family line and look after their assets.

Work and women

A further aspect unequal right for women and men are related to workplace and conditions they are work. Women work longer hours than man and their work is less paid or not paid at all. Women contribution in agriculture, whether it is farming or commercial agriculture, is far more demanding as they need to as well concentrate on domestic duties and ruining household, fulfilling they traditional roles as a mother and wife. It had been found (Andhra Pradesh 2006, p.12-17) that the working day of a woman labour in agriculture during the farming season last 15 hours from 4 am to 8 pm, while man work from 5am to 10 am or 11 am and from 3 pm to 5 pm. It means that women have to work in difficult weather conditions (Dr Priyanka Tomar 2006, p 12-17). Both transplanting and weeding required from women worker to spend the whole day working in mud. What is more they work under hit of sun, while men’s work such a ploughing and watering the fields is always carried out early in a morning (Neera Bharihoke 2008, p. 41). Still women labour contribution is barley recognizable as an economic productivity and input to a family household (Dr Priyanka Tomar 2006, p 12-17). In rural India women get paid 60 percent or even less than men for doing the same work. Table 1 shows the wage rate in agriculture between male and female workers between 2004 and 2006 register by Government of India. According to this table women get only 41.58 rupee for ploughing work while men are paid almost double. Also in another jobs women do seems to be paid less than men.

Table 1: Wage Rate in Agricultural occupation 2004-2006


Wage of Men

Wage of Women
















Source:Ministerof Labouer, Gov of India

Women play significant role in agriculture, taking on any job required in land farming. Table 2:1 shows percentage of distribution of female labour in cultivation, agriculture and household in 2001. According the chat around 51 percent women are involve in household industries work while 43 is employed in agriculture, and only 6 percent in cultivation. Table 2.2 shows percentage of male worker participation in cultivation, agriculture and household. The diagram picture that 59 percent men are employed in cultivation in compared to 43 percent women labour. In addition male labour continues 38 percent employed in agriculture. This number is less than 51 percent women labour. Not surprisingly only 3 percent men worked in household as this sector is consider being a female duty.

Source : National Sample Survey Organization, 55th round (July 1999 – June 2000)

Source : National Sample Survey Organization, 55th round (July 1999 – June 2000)




According to the UNFPA State of World Population report on India, published in 2005, about 70 percent of graduate Indian women were unemployed taking under consideration that women represent 90 percent of the total minor workers of the country. What’s more, rural women engaged in agriculture farming constitute 78 percent of all female with regular paid work, making they a third of all labour involved in farming on the land. Furthermore, the report point it out that due to the traditional gender division of labour these women get on average 30 percent lower wages than men. Also the total employment of women in organised sector is only 4 percent even though that industrial production increased since the 1980s with more jobs in factories and outside household. Evidently data shows increased trend among companies to rely on using cheap labour in production stage, mostly women and children. It is well known that women and children work in huge numbers in bangle making weaving, brassware, leather, crafts and other industries, including clothed and technology factories. Yet, only 3 percent of these women are recorded as manual worker. They are forced to work for almost charitable wages and are excluded form all social security benefits like a health care or a pension. A study organised by SEWA in fourteen Indian trades found that 85 percent of this women earned only 50 percent of the official poverty level income.

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Another feature of women unequal treatment in Indian society is limited access to health care. Giving complicity of underlying factors like sons preference in a family, early marriages, lack of access to hospitals, education and general women position in a household, is not surprising that life expectancy of females is lower than males. For majority of Indian states the average women life expectancy is 60 years. However life expectancy age for Indian women had been altered for different states, regions in India. In Kerala, for instance, women life expectancy is 75 years of age, while in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, the poorest states of India, women’s age expectancy is even lower – 57 years (R C Mishra 2006, p.85-87). This shows as well that other factors like women religion and a cast they belong to, political and economical environment do have huge impact on life expectancy this particular gender.

In addition women are quite often subjects of sexual and gender related violence within household, but also outside family walls. They low position make them easy target for raps, molestation, kidnapping and abduction, dowry deaths and domestic violence. Especially illegal practice of dowry existing in many cast groups, quite common in rural areas, causing concerns as legislation reinforcement seems to be powerless in execution women rights and protection.

Women in politics

Furthermore on political stage it seems women are seriously underrepresented, The fact that Indian government accepted the Representation of the People Act from 1951, which reserves one third seats in national and states parliaments for women, makes milestone in acknowledging women participation in a society and they needs for changes. This is a positive step that gives women political rights to be represented and ability to influence legal policies of this country. On the other hand the Act can be viewed as a need for enforcement democratic India to accept women basic human rights to be equalised with men in area like education, workplace, household and marriage, inheritance of properties, land. However in reality women are not even count for a quote of Indian representatives on a political stage. For instance in a list of the Communist Party of India only three out of sixty candidates are women. Even worse situation for female representation can be found in Karela’s parliament. On a list of the Congress Party’s for Karela only one woman has been listed in election among seventeen candidates taking part. The main opposition party, Bharatiya Janata Party, has just twenty-six women among its one hundred sixty six candidates. Just six women among 71 candidate seats represent the Samajwadi Party.


Throw the years the number of women parliamentarians has never exceeded 15 percent of all seats. Participation of women in the Parliament – Lok Sabha (lower house) after election in 1999 was only 8,8 percent, while in Rajya Sabha (upper house) was 8,2 percent (Source: Election Commission of India’s Website) This shows that women’s participation in political processes is slow and almost invisible, can be even recounted as exclude form the state life. It is mainly due to various social, economic, historical, geographical, political and cultural factors. Illiteracy, lack of access and control over income and other resources including land, restrictions to public spaces and legal systems in favor of a man continue to harm women any effort to political contribution.

In the Indian culture women have always been in a lower status than men and in this terms Indian women display great reserve, respect and submissive mannerisms when they speak to men. The rule “Being a male-dominant society, men rule and women follow ” applies in every aspect to Indian society structure (A male participant Women’s Political Participation in Rural India p.437).

The Indian constitution grants women equal rights with men, but strong patriarchal traditions persist, with women’s lives shaped by customs. In most of Indian families a daughter is viewed as a responsibility, a problem, which needs food and protection. On the other hand sons are idolized and celebrated. “May you be the mother of a hundred sons is a common Hindu wedding blessing”. This has influenced women access to education, to gaining power in household and a community. It seems that without strong reinforcement of traditional custom and values any government legislation cannot be productive. Recognition of women imputes into Indian economy and politics is another step towards improvement their lives.



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