Patriarchy is a social system in which men hold primary power, predominate in the roles of political leadership, moral authority, special privilege and control of the property. They also hold power in the domain of the family, as fatherly figures.
Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that the male lineage inherits the property and title. Here, the female alternative is a matriarchy. Historically, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, and economic organization of a range of different cultures. The analysis of patriarchy and its effects is a major topic within the social sciences and humanities.
Nowadays, patriarchy is a well-known term. It possesses everyday resonance, when used in casual conversation or a descriptive sense, whether, in English or any of the several languages spoken in the Indian sub-continent. At its simplest, the term means ‘the absolute rule of the father or the eldest male member over his family’.
Indian debates on socialism and patriarchy are complicated by a significant shift in the analysis. The subject of research and debates was not just capitalism and its relationship to patriarchy. Rather, patriarchy came to be discussed in term of the modes of production and reproduction, specific to Indian realities. These were understood regarding the family and household; kinship and caste; culture and religion, and the Indian state, whose policies have a dynamic beaming on all other social structures. Indian discussion addressed and added their concerns to the more substantial feminist arguments.
Indian feminist analysis and arguments linked the family and the economy to demonstrate, how the economic power of men and their domination of production was crucially linked to, and determined by, the organization of the family and the household. The household thus emerged as an important constituent of both production and patriarchy.
The sphere of reproduction was understood in terms of a sex-gender system, which identified with concrete social structures and relationships, in this case, kinship networks. Along with the household, kin networks were seen as central to both the exercise of male power in the familial and social contexts, as well as a women’s status, or the lack of it, at home and outside.
Both production and reproduction were seen as involving exploitations of human labour on the one hand, and of female reproductive capacity, on the other. The caste system was seen as central to both forms of exploitation and as linking them in explicit ways, and it has been argued that distinctive caste patriarchies exist in India.
Debates about capitalism and women’s sub ordinance often became debates on developments and the role of the modern states. This led to the theorizing of the state as both patriarchal and as a potential challenger of patriarchy.
Various studies are available which is documenting the same. Their invisibility, position of women in the social, political and economic system, is clearly more an outcome of the ideology governing public policy relating to women. Hence, women are noticeably absent from the discussions of development theory too.
India is one of the countries where the female population is less than the proportion of the male population. According to UNICEF India’s Report on Child Sex Ratio, the birth of female’s children is declining steadily. Figures from 1991 showed that the sex ratio was 947 girls for 1,000 boys. Since 1991, 80% of all districts in India had recorded a declining sex ratio, with the state of Punjab being the worst in leading the statistics. States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana have recorded more than a 50 point decline in the child sex ratio in the same period. Kerala is the only one in India where the overall sex ratio is constantly in favourable to women. However, the numbers today, have started to improve once again.
Women form about half of the population of the country, but their situation has been grim. For centuries, they have been deliberately denied the opportunities for growth in the name of religion and socio-cultural practices. At the social-political plain, women suffered from the denial of freedom even in their homes, repression and unnatural indoctrination, an unequal and inferior status, rigid caste hierarchy and even untouchability. Religious tradition and social institutions have a deep bearing on the role and status of women.
Protest movements within the Hindu fold, like Buddhism, Jainism, Vaishnavism, Veera Shaivism and Sikhism contributed to some improvement in the status of women. Particularly regarding religious activities. However, they continued to regard women primarily as mothers and wives, inferior to the men in the society. From the middle of 19th century, reform movements like Brahma Samaj, Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission, etc. championed the cause of women, but nothing concrete could be achieved. It is also significant that upliftment of women was an important item in the agenda of MK Gandhi.
A woman in Indian society has been a victim of humiliation, torture and exploitation. There are many episodes of rape, murder, dowry, burning, wife beating and discrimination in society. Men predominate the Indian society, hence women are a victim of male domination in the respective sphere of life; especially in economic life, over decision making on resources, on the utilization of her earnings and her body. Hence, a woman’s life lies between pleasures at one end and danger at another end.
The condition of women is more miserable in rural India with respect to various socio-economic aspects:
Poverty is one of the important characteristics of India, and nearly 45% of rural people are below poverty line. Most of them are just surviving with their day-to-day earnings. If we take the International Poverty Line (1994) into consideration, in India, there were 47% of the population at below $1 a day category and 87.5% at below $2 a day category. Better healthcare and higher educational opportunities are far reaching dreams for their children. She (girl child) is treated as a ‘silent lamb’ born to suffer all evils in male-dominated societies.
Culture and tradition have bound the Indian society since ancient times. The patriarchal system and the gender stereotypes in the family and society have always shown a preference for the male child. Sons are regarded as a means of social security and women remained under male domination.
Due to her subordinated position, she has suffered fears of discrimination, exploitation and subjugation. She became the victim of several social evils like child marriage, sati, polygamy, purdah system, female infanticide, forced pregnancy, rape etc.
In such incidents, many times, the mother-in-law of the woman also has a role to play. This discrimination and violence against women affect the sex ratio in India also. The main causes of violence are unequal power relations, gender discrimination, patriarchy and economic dependence of women, no participation in the decision-making process etc.
In the world, women and girls together, carry two-thirds of the burden of the world’s work, yet receive only a tenth of world’s income. The condition of women in India is also miserable in every field of social life. They are paid half of the money their male counterparts earn for the same job. In India, a predominantly agricultural country, women do more than half of the total agricultural work. But their work is not valued. On an average, a woman worked 15 to 16 hours a day unpaid at home and underpaid outside.
In India, the literacy rate of women is much lower than men because boys receive more schooling than girls. India is one of the 43 countries in the world where the male literacy rate is at least 15% higher than female rates. Educational deprivation is intimately associated with poverty.
However, in India, modest improvement is gradually coming up in the educational level of women. After the independence, many steps have been taken to improve the lots women. The present govt’s program “Beti Bachao, Beti Padao” is also remarkable step by the government to fulfilment the need and aspiration of the girl child. Many laws have also been passed. A National Commission for Women was set up to act as a watchdog on the women issues in 1992. Many programs in the areas of education, health, and employment have been initiated for development of women, rural as well as urban.
The review of the status of women in India tells the story of a fall in the status of women to an abysmally low position from a relatively high-status and notability of the Vedic times. The fall in status has led to a socio-economic and religious-cultural deprivation of women.
Of course, there are certain initiatives in the country, especially after the independence towards raising the status of women. But still, there are many miles to go to reach out the goal of gender equality.