Women in Comparative
Bare Branches Chpt. 3
India's "Missing Females"
In 2001, India's sex ration was 107.2 males to 100 females
Women's status varies according to religion, position within the social
hierarchy, region, economy, within each family (i.e., by birth order)
These variations explain the variations in sex selective abortion and
female infanticide from region to region, group to group
1500 BC, Dravidians
invaded by Aryans, others from east, west
Rivalry with Muslim kingdoms (997-1175)
Mughal invasions (1556-1707)
Marathas and Sikhs dominate through mid-19th C
British colonization mid-19th-mid-20th C
Regional, Ethnic, Linguistic, Religious Complexity
28 states, 7 union territories
15 national languages, >1600 spoken languages or dialects
6% Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain
Untouchables (scheduled castes)
other tribes (near Himalayas), non-Hindus outside of caste system
*Marriage is the most public statement of caste status (70)
purity, women not allowed to marry down
the higher the status of the woman's family, the fewer her options for
What kind of hypothesis does this suggest for the incidence of
infanticide by caste?
Women's Status in India
Vedic period (1500-800 BCE)
enjoyed equal status with men, could be priests, choose marriage
partners, rule their households
widows could remarry
women were warriors, rep'd in folktales as warriors
could accompany men anywhere
their activities were valued, considered nec. for survival of future
Evidence of status changing by 900 BC
Rig Veda mentions dowry, polygyny, bride-price, wife capture
Deteriorated further after 600 BC
no longer permitted to be priests, not educated, marriageable age
introduction of purdah (isolation, especially in north and among upper
literature suggests that men must control women
Code of Manu states:
By a young girl, by a young woman or even by an aged
one, nothing must be done independently even in her own house. In
childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her
husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be
Why? What are they afraid will happen?
Code of Manu also states women are suspect, disloyal, no matter how
What would create this impression among men living at the time?
What would create these fears?
Women's Status in India Today
1991 men's literacy 53%
Labor force participation
women comprise 29% of paide workforce
only 16% in urban areas
Son preference intense
aggravated by practices of dowry giving, economic support from sons in
the "ideal" one daughter for every two sons
Regional patterns of "missing females"
where are there the most "missing females"
Why does the state of Kerala have a sex ratio of 96.7?
History of Female Infanticide
some say it's always been
some trace to Muslim invasions of Sind (SW Pakistan)
others to upheaval resulting from Mughal gov't
disintegration (*18th C)
British discover the practice, find it to be most prevalent in north
Why does it take the Brits so long to discover the practice?
What do the British do about it?
Does the British policy affect the practice?
Early Hindu texts make no mention of infanticide; imply equal joy at
birth of son or daughter (75)
Code of Manu