Women in Comparative Societies
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

Historical setting
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
82% Hindu
12% Muslim
6% Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain

Caste System
Castes (Varnas)
Jatia (Subcastes)
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 marriage

What kind of hypothesis does this suggest for the incidence of infanticide by caste?

endogamy, hypergyny

Women's Status in India
Vedic period (1500-800 BCE)
enjoyed equal status with men, could be priests, choose marriage partners, rule their households
sati unknown
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 generations

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 lowered
introduction of purdah (isolation, especially in north and among upper castes)
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 independent."

Why?  What are they afraid will happen?

Code of Manu also states women are suspect, disloyal, no matter how closely guarded

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%
women's 32%

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 old age

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
several theories
    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 and northwest

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?

Hindu belief system
Early Hindu texts make no mention of infanticide; imply equal joy at birth of son or daughter (75)

Code of Manu