This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

In This Rajasthan Village, Wives Are ‘Shared’ Within Families To Save Land

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Anish Gupta and Trishna Sarkar:

Mankhera is a small village located about 66 km from Alwar, Rajasthan. Its population comprises mainly the Jat community with only a handful of Brahmin and Dalit (mainly chamar and balmiki) households. We were in Mankhera to study the agrarian crisis that has gripped India, and conducted two surveys – in June 2007 and in June 2013. But we stumbled upon some unusual social patterns during our surveys – female infanticide and polyandry. However, what was most striking was the link between landholding and marriage.

One may find it difficult to connect these two dots, but as the story of Mankhera village unfolds, the relationship becomes clear and alarming. Mankhera has a falling sex ratio. The sex ratios of Dalits, Brahmins and OBCs were 876, 865 and 813 (females per 1000 males) respectively in 2013. The Jat community, comprising 60% of the population, is mostly involved in agricultural activities on ancestral properties. Besides the Jats, the Brahmins also own land, though they are not solely dependent on agriculture despite having the highest average landholding. Most Dalits are completely landless. The average landholdings, too, are small and highly fragmented: Brahmins own 1.4 hectares of land, Dalits own two hectares and OBCs (mostly Jats) about one hectare. The division of land through many generations has been cited as the reason behind falling per-capita landholdings and high fragmentation.

For representation only. Image source: Wikimedia commonsFor representation only. Image source: Wikipedia commons

Sex Ratio Vs Marriage

Owing to small landholdings, many men are unmarried. In 2013, about 8.1% of the households had at least one unmarried male member – up from 5.7% in 2007. Emerging trends show that if there are two brothers in the family with very small landholdings, then the family voluntarily does not marry one child. In other words, one child “sacrifices” his marital life to stop further division of the family land, paving the way for the other brother to get married in a wealthy family and with dowry. Surprisingly, no woman more than 19 years of age was found to be unmarried.

The “sacrificial” theory does not hold water if confessions of a bold household are to be believed. In reality, it is the informal arrangement of sharing the wife between the two brothers. The household further disclosed that this has become the accepted norm, unofficially, and is now an “open secret” in the village. As polyandry doesn’t have any legal backing, reliable data cannot be obtained, as is the case with female foeticide, female infanticide and early marriage. This trend was most prevalent among those agricultural communities for whom land was the only means of production. However, the trend was comparatively less prevalent among Dalits and Brahmins.

During our survey in 2013, six years after the first one, we found that the number of unmarried males above the age of 28 had increased to 12. The unmarried males we counted in 2007 were still unmarried. Additionally, five new unmarried males had entered the loop. The division of land has had a cumulative effect.

On the one hand, it has become an uneconomic proposition – and on the other, it signalled poverty or the incapacity to run a family. Empirical data on polyandry could not be obtained from the households since it was a matter of family pride and because of the illegality it carries. We realised that the issue of polyandry was not just related to small landholdings, but also related to the pride of the community. For instance, members of the landlord’s caste never work as labourers, and the belief is that a small family with consolidated landholdings is a better option. Members of the agricultural communities, too, neither want to work as labourers, nor are they educated, like the Brahmins, to get an alternative work. The high dependence on land and the pride associated with it, along with falling sex ratio, have encouraged the practice of polyandry. This harsh reality of Mankhera is becoming more pronounced by the day.

While surveying in a very cooperative Jat household, we filled the details of a baby girl (just 17 days old) along with other family members. A few minutes later, her grandmother requested us very politely to delete the information related to the girl. Initially, we could not understand the reason. Without hard evidence, we do not wish to speculate on the possibility of female infanticide in this case.

The survey also found that inequality (as far as landholdings were concerned) had increased, both inter-caste and intra-caste. The unpredictable monsoon, depleting water levels, unproductive landholdings and uncertainty, especially in the prices of the guar crop, had shifted the tenancy pattern from ‘fixed rent’ to ‘shared crop’. The purpose of our survey was to understand the agrarian crisis, but instead, we learnt about polyandry and female infanticide.

This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Down To Earth

By Down To Earth

By Down To Earth

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below