Gender, Religion and Caste
Gender and Politics
Sexual division of labour:- System-all work inside the home is done by women or organized by them through the domestic helpers.
Result of division of labour :-
-- Although women constitute half of the humanity, role in public life-esp. politics is minimal.
-- Only men allowed to participate in public affairs, vote, contest for public offices
-- Gradually gender issue raised in politics – women(different parts of the world)organized and agitated-equal rights.
-- Agitations – different countries for extension of voting rights to women, improving their education and career opportunities – more radical women-movements in improving personal and family life-Feminist(A woman or a man who believes in equal rights and opportunities for men and women.
Political expression of Gender division:-
-- Helped to improve women's life, role in public life-women work as doctors, scientists…which were not considered suitable for them.
-- In some parts of the world, Scandinavian countries-Sweden, Norway, Finland – women participation is high.
Ours is a Patriarchal Society, Women face oppression and disadvantage in many ways like:-
-- Literacy rate: women-54%, men-76%, girls perform as well as boys, even better in some places-but parents prefer spending more on boys.
-- Proportions of women among highly paid and valued jobs are very small-at an avg. a woman works an hour more than a man worker-yet they are not paid and valued.
-- Equal wages act-equal wage to equal work-but, women are paid less than men in all fields.
-- India-many parents prefer sons and get the girl child aborted before she is born-decrease in the child sex ratio.
Women's political representation
“Unless women control power, their problems will not get adequate attention." Proportion of women in legislature very less-Lok Sabha-ne'er reached 10% of the total, state assemblies-less than 5%: India among the bottom of many developing nations-Africa, Latin America, etc.
Women's political representation is low-ways to solve the problem. Other suggestions are:-
-- Legally binding the fair proportion of women in the elected bodies. eg. Panchayati Raj and Municipalities in India have reserved 1/3rd of the seats for women.
-- Women's organisations have been demanding a similar reservation in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies-a bil with this decision has been pending in the parliament since a decade.
-- Gender Division-some form of social division needs to be expressed in politics-disadvantaged groups do benefit when social decision becomes a political issue.
Religion, Communalism and Politics
Division based on religious differences-not as universal as gender, but religious diversity is fairly widespread in the world-unlike gender differences, religious differences are often expressed in the politics,
Political acts are not wrong as long as they treat every religion equally, as:-
>> Gandhiji's opinion-Religion can ne'er be separated from politics, religion a set of moral values. He believed that politics must be guided by ethics drawn from religion.
>> Human rights groups have argued that most of the victims of communal riots in our country are from religious minorities.
>> Women's movements have argued that Family Laws of all religions discriminate against women; government has ordered to make these laws more equitable.
>> All these instances involve relationship between religion and politics, but they do not seem to be wrong or dangerous. Ideas drawn from different religions should play a role in politics, people should be able to express in politics their needs and demands as a member of religious communities.
Problem arises when(Communalism becomes acute when- ),
Religion is seen as the basis of a nation; When religion is expressed in politics in exclusive terms; When one religion and its followers are pitted against the other; When demands of one religion are formed in opposition to other; When state power is used to establish the domination of one religious group over the other.
Communal politics-idea:-religion is the principal basis of social community. Communalism-followers of particular religion must belong to one community, their fundamental interests are same, (in extreme form)-people belonging to different nations can't live as equal citizens, either has to dominate over the other.
Communalism can take various forms in politics:-
-- Most common expression is in everyday beliefs- involve religious prejudices, stereotypes, of religious communities and beliefs in superiority of one's religion over the other.
-- Political dominance of one's own religious community-for those belonging to majority community, it takes the form of majoritarianism, for those belonging to minority it take the form of a separate political unit.
-- Political mobilization on religious lines-involves the use of sacred symbols, religious leaders, emotional appeal, and plain fear in order to bring together followers of one religion ion the political arena.
-- Communal Violence, riots and massacre-most ugly form. eg. During
How India is a secular state?
-- No official religion in India, unlike Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Islam in Pak, Christianity in England, our constitution doesn't give any special status to any one religion.
-- Freedom to all individuals and communities to profess, practice, propagate any religion or not to follow any.
-- Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion.
-- Constitution allows the state to intervene in the matters of religion in order to ensure equality among religious communities. eg. It bans untouchability.
Caste and Politics
•All societies have some form of social division of labour, most societies occupations are passed on from one generation to other; caste system is an extreme form of this; ‘Hereditary occupational division was sanctioned by rituals'-makes it different from other societies.
•Members of same caste group were supposed to form a social community that practiced the same occupation, married within the caste group and did not eat with members of other caste group.
•Caste discrimination was based on exclusion of and discrimination against the outcaste groups. They were subjected to the inhuman practice of untouchability. Reformers like Jotiba Phule, Gandhiji, B R. Ambedkar and Periyar Ramaswamy worked to establish a caste inequality free society.
•Partly due to( their efforts + socioeconomic changes), castes and caste system in modern India have undergone changes.
Definitions of important terms
>Urbanisation – shift of population from rural areas to urban areas.
>Occupational Mobility - shift from one occupation to other, usually when new generation takes up occupations other than those practiced by their ancestors.
>Caste Hierarchy - a ladder like formation in which all the caste groups are placed from the ‘highest' to the ‘lowest' castes.
Caste in politics
• Caste is the sole basis of social community.
• Caste can take various forms of politics:-
-- When parties chose candidates in election they keep in mind the caste composition of the electorates and nominate candidates from various, castes so as to muster necessary support to win elections
-- When govts. are formed, political parties usually take care that representatives of different castes and tribes find a place in it.
-- Political parties and candidates in the elections make appeal to caste sentiments to muster support.
-- Universal Adult Franchise and the principle of one-person-one-vote compelled political leaders to gear up to the task of mobilizing, and securing political support; brought new consciousness among people who were hitherto(till then) treated as inferior.
• ‘The focus on caste in politics – politics all about caste and nothing else': wrong thinking, as:-
-- No parliamentary constituency in the country has clear majority of 1 single caste-so candidate has to win majority of more than one caste to win the elections.
-- No party wins the votes of all the voters of caste or community; caste-vote bank of one party, means a large no. of voters are from that caste for the party.
-- Any political leaders may put up candidates from the majority or same caste – some voters have more than one candidate from their caste and many have none.
-- The ruling party or the sitting MP or MLA frequently lose elections in our country-could not have happened if all castes were frozen in our political preferences.
• While caste matters in state politics, so do many other factors :-
-- Voters have stronger attachment with the political parties than their own caste/community.
-- People within same caste or community have different interests depending on their economic condition.
-- Rich and poor, men and women of same caste often vote very differently.
-- People's assessment of the performance of the govt. and polpularity rating of the govt. often decisive in the election.
Politics in Caste
• Politics too influences the caste system and caste identities by bringing them into the political arena => politics not caste-ridden but caste gets politicized as (caste plays different role in politics) :-
-- Each caste tries to become bigger by incorporating within it neighbouring castes/sub-castes which were earlier excluded from it.
-- Various caste groups are required to enter into a collaboration with other caste and commodities and thus enter into a dialogue and negotiation.
-- New kinds of caste groups have come up in the political arena as ‘backward' and ‘forward' caste groups.
• Exclusive attention to Caste :-
+ve effects :-Expression of caste differences in politics gives space to demand their share of the power to disadvantaged communities like Dalits and OBC to get better access to their decision making; political & non-political organizations demand - end to discrimination against particular castes, more dignity, more access to land and resources.
-ve effects :-politics based on caste not very healthy in democracy, can divert attention from other pressing issues like poverty, development and corruption; also in some cases caste division leads to tension, conflict and violence.
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