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Research Paper: The Implications of Patriarchy in Indian Culture
Patriarchy is present in many cultures and has helped civilization move forward. Patriarchal groups relied on men to defend and protect them from various forms of harm. It gave male group members heavy responsibility which helped in the development of societal systems. However, as civilization continued to progress, the patriarchal culture became unnecessary and outdated. Individuals acknowledged the system’s neglect of the capability of the population’s other half. Despite the outdated nature of the patriarchal system, its effects are still prevalent in modern society. Individuals often associate the concept of governmental leaders with male figures while perceiving women as caretakers of children. Patriarchal culture has supported this form of idea and is still in effect in various countries, such as India.
India has a patriarchal society that has caused various negative implications for Indians, especially Indian women. The country has high rates of infanticide, rape, and other women’s rights violations. These factors led to India becoming the most unsafe country for women (Vaze, 2021. The practice of various patriarchal traditions has led to the status. However, during the Vedic period, Indian women experienced equal status with men (Sivakumar & Manimekalai, 2021). When the Aryan and Mughals invaded India, the foreigners brought the patriarchal system to the Indian culture which is persisting today. Indian culture suffers from the implications of inter-caste marriages, child marriages, dowry deaths, and India’s missing girls.
India utilizes the caste system to define the different classes of society. The caste system divides the Indian population into five groups which are Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras, and Dalits. The Brahmins are the highest class which includes the priests and teachers while the Dalits are the lowest class composed of the street sweepers and cleaners. The system promotes social class bias as well as the purity of each class. Traditional Indian parents forbid their children to marry a lower class as it can affect their social status. A Pew Research Survey revealed that Indians do not prefer to have inter-faith and inter-caste marriages (Srinivasan, 2021). This is due to the deep installment of the caste system in the beliefs of traditional Indians despite the various laws against caste class bias.
While the caste system both affects the male and female children of traditional Indian parents, women experience greater scrutiny as they hold an important role in society. According to Mitra (2021), the caste system operates through its control over the rights of Indian women. Male figures in the family take responsibility for securing an Indian woman’s sexuality, reproduction, and husband choice. Alternatively, Indian society measures a woman’s worth through the standard of beauty (Pandian, 2020). Indian culture perceives women as a measuring factor in a man’s cultural capital making them a cultural currency for Indian men (Lo, 2015, as cited in Pandian, 2020). This pressure forces Indian women to adhere to the standards of being slim, fair, and tall. Some Indian women utilize unhealthy methods, such as bleaching and bad eating habits to achieve these standards. The patriarchy in Indian culture encourages women to achieve a beauty standard to promote the societal worth of men.
India’s caste system and rejection of inter-caste marriage have led to the creation of two types of inter-caste marriage. These are the “anuloma marriage” and the “pratiloma marriage”. The “anuloma marriage” is when an upper-caste man marries a lower-caste woman. For example, a Kshatriyas man marries a Dalit woman. This type of inter-caste marriage is acceptable for some traditional Indian parents since the man will still retain his social class. In contrast, the “pratiloma marriage” is a marriage between an upper-caste woman and a lower-caste man. Traditional Indian parents dislike this type of inter-caste marriage as it risks the social class of the woman. A statement from a Sikh committee leader implied that the Indian government should establish laws that will ban faith conversions and inter-caste marriages (Srinivasan, 2021). In some parts of India, “pratiloma marriages” are punishable offenses that can lead to the man and woman’s ex-communication and death (Mitra, 2021). However, the Indian government has strict laws against these forms of discrimination and does not enforce these punishments but the traditional Indian parents. Additionally, Uma Chakravarti stated that “anuloma marriages” are natural while “pratiloma marriages” go against the natural order which causes complexity and confusion in the caste system (as cited in Mitra, 2021). This perception indicates that India’s patriarchal caste system compromises the rights of Indian women and encourages them to follow traditions.
The caste system promotes endogamy since Indian parents aim to protect their family’s class and religious purity. This then leads to aggressive control over Indian women’s rights. Inter-caste and inter-faith marriages often lead to violence in Indian culture (Mitra, 2021). In a “pratiloma relationship”, the low-caste man will endure lynching and abuse from his father and brother while in public. This is to show the family’s disapproval of the relationship and allow the public to know that they do not condone the action. A low-caste man’s family may also ex-communicate him to force the end of the relationship. The practice of honor killing also exists in traditional Indian families. The families perceive pratiloma relationships as a disruption of the woman’s role as a repository of honor and a cultural currency. An upper-caste woman’s family may attempt to perform an honor killing and murder her low-caste partner. A traditional Indian family will perceive the action as the removal of a man that can harm the purity of their family honor. These aggressive and violent actions are the result of the patriarchal ideologies that the caste system promotes through its control over Indian women’s rights.
India’s issue of child marriages is a result of the patriarchal culture that influences the decisions of Indian families. India faces an issue regarding its sex ratio where the male population is significantly higher than the female which is a contributing factor to child marriages (Pathak & Frayer, 2020). This imbalance sex ratio is due to the rampant practice of female infanticide in India as well as the male child preference of Indian parents. The Indian government has passed laws to address these issues along with rape, dowry, and other crimes against women (Sivakumar & Manimekalai, 2021). With the imbalanced sex ratio, adult male Indians cannot find suitable partners within their age range - this forces them to choose younger females consequently leading to the issue of prevalent child marriages in the country.
Along with the imbalance in the sex ratio, the effects coronavirus pandemic has caused some Indian parents to consider marrying off their daughters. According to the Western Indian State of Maharashtra, there have been 208 attempted child marriages in western India between April 2020 and August 2020 (Pathak & Frayer, 2020). These child marriage attempts are due to desperate Indian parents exchanging their daughters for financial compensation. With Indian parents losing their jobs due to lockdowns, the temptation to accept compensation for their daughters is much higher. Additionally, some Indian parents choose to marry off their daughters to adult men to ensure their future well-being (Pathak & Frayer, 2020). Indian parents are afraid that the coronavirus pandemic may lead to their deaths and leave their children without sustenance. This makes the concept of marrying off a child to an adult more acceptable for Indian parents.
The dowry system is a common practice in India despite the government’s effort to abolish the tradition. The persistence of the system leads to various issues that affect the welfare of Indian women and their families. The dowry system is one of the contributing factors to India’s high female infanticide rate since poor parents cannot pay a dowry for future marriages. Indian parents may also prefer male children since they can expect a dowry from the wife’s family. The payment and collection of dowry have caused issues between Indian husbands and wives as well as violence against wives. These acts of violence include coercion, abuse, and in some cases, death.
Recent reports of dowry deaths involved the Indian women Vismaya Nair, who died in June 2020, and Anissia Batra, who died in 2018. Authorities found Vismaya Nair dead in her husband’s family home with no clear evidence to support suicide or murder (as cited in Sood, 2021). However, Nair’s family filed a complaint against her husband under the Dowry Prohibition Act. Under the act, the law may punish an individual responsible for the death or suicide of a woman due to the dowry system (Sood, 2021). In Batra’s case, the Indian woman experienced abuse from her husband due to the payment of a dowry. Batra’s family has already paid the dowry, however, her husband further coerced her to pay more. According to the Guardian, dowry death victims tend to be women whose family has already paid the dowry (as cited in Selby 2018). Despite initial payments, some Indian families expect a high-valued dowry which causes them to resort to violence against women and their families.
India’s dowry system has led to various violent acts against women in the country. Certain Indian families resort to aggressive coercion to force the bride and her parents to pay the dowry. Dowry-related crimes vary from verbal harassment to various degrees of murder. The issue led to the legislation of the Dowry Prohibition Act in 1961. However, the practice persisted among traditional families. The Indian government amended the act along with other laws multiple times to include proper punishments and define dowry-specific crimes. The World Bank stated that 95% of rural Indian marriages between 1960 and 2008 involved the payment of a dowry (Sood, 2021). This data shows that the Indian dowry tradition strongly persisted despite the active efforts of the government. In 2019, the National Crime Record Bureau of India recorded 7,100 dowry-related deaths (as cited in Sood, 2021). These included murders, abuse, and suicides where women are the victims. Indian society’s acceptance of the dowry system despite its legality has contributed largely to these crimes (Pillai, as cited in Sood, 2021). The country’s patriarchal culture made it socially acceptable for men to harm their wives as they perceive women as simple cultural currencies belonging to a man.
“Missing Girls” of India
India’s “missing girls” is a term that experts use to describe the unnatural deaths of young women and female infants in the country. As mentioned earlier, India has an issue regarding an imbalanced sex ratio which is a result of the “missing girls”. These unnatural deaths are due to India’s high female infanticide rate, infant malnutrition, and childbirth-related deaths (Somaia et al., 2020). India’s female infanticide problem is due to the practice of sex selection. Indian parents prefer to have male children to gain the benefits of the dowry and caste system. The dowry system allows parents with male children to expect a large sum of money during the marriage. In the caste system, male children are able to maintain the family’s class purity which is important for upper-caste families. Male children in India have more access to better opportunities and freedom which makes them preferable to female children.
The practice of sex selection in India has also led to disregarding the nutritional needs of female children and childbirth-related deaths. Disregarding the nutritional needs of female children is a form of female infanticide. Parents allow their female children to die of starvation to avoid raising a daughter. Childbirth-related deaths are due to parents aborting their children through unsanitary and illegal practices. India has passed various laws, such as the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, to regulate the high rate of female abortion. However, these laws have forced some parents to undergo unsafe abortion methods which lead to a high fatality rate. Alternatively, some Indian women experience coercion from their families to have multiple pregnancies until they produce a male child (Somaia et al., 2020). Multiple and consequent pregnancies can lead Indian women to develop poor physical and mental health . These factors led to the disappearance of female Indian girls as well as the death of mothers.
Patriarchal ideologies and practices greatly influenced Indian culture through the caste system, child marriage, the dowry system, and missing girls. The caste system promotes social classes and the active role of maintaining one’s class purity. This led to a hostile reaction against certain types of inter-caste and inter-faith marriages. India’s patriarchal society, which provides better opportunities to male individuals, produced an imbalanced sex ratio where the male population is significantly higher than females. This resulted in the practice of child marriages since adult male Indians cannot find female partners within their age range. Dowry-related crimes are also issues rooted in the patriarchal system of India. Husbands’ families resort to violent coercion which leads to wives committing suicide or dying from physical abuse. Furthermore, the male preference of Indian parents result in female infanticide which led to the “missing girls” of India. These patriarchal implications in Indian culture have caused the country to progress during the early periods, however, it fails to promote the capability and freedom of India’s female population.
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