Prejudice is a disease of the society that has persisted since the dawn of civilisation. The word prejudice is derived from the Latin word “Praejudicium“, from prae ‘in advance’ + judicium ‘judgement’. According to Sherif (1969), “Group prejudice refers to unfavorable attitudes held by the members derived from their group’s norms that regulate treatment of the out-group.”
Prejudice develops as a result of the environment we live in. Aren’t we all judging each other all the time? Small children, we see, are free of discriminatory tendencies. As they grow older, they gradually learn to discriminate, whether from the environment, or the culture in which they are brought up. Prejudice is like a disease because it creates misconception and misunderstanding between people. Even the environment adversely affects prejudices and bias. When the poor and the destitute live in small, dirty and ramshackle places, rich people coming from a different environment altogether develop strong prejudices towards the poor.
Prejudice can be of different types: social, economic, political, racial, caste and gender. But gender prejudice is what must be emphasised the most because it is solely psychological. We know that women form roughly half the population of the world. Men and women both live together in this world, and they have intimate relationships with each other; now, what people usually end up having a misconception about is the word ‘intimate’. ‘Intimate’ means a close relationship with your loved ones. This can be between a husband and a wife, a brother and a sister, a mother and a son; it need not necessarily mean anything more although that, too, would not be a reason for prejudice.
Prejudices surrounding women started from historical times, and in spite of all round development of the world, women are still not given a chance to take part in political affairs. They are seen as a weak link of society. They have been excluded from jobs, training and social organizations due to overt discrimination, negative attitude, beliefs and stereotypes.
In India, research on prejudice is of special significance because of the wide variety of castes, creed, community and religion in Indian society. Caste discrimination is one of the most severe forms of prejudices practiced in the nation. There is prejudice regarding inter-religious relationships and marriages. This is obvious from the Hindu-Muslim conflicts, riots, discrimination against Christians, lower and higher caste taboos and prejudices.
Prejudice are stronger in the disadvantaged sections of society. It is a disease of society, like a centipede eating away at the brains of people and society, making them discriminate and hate their fellow humans. Prejudices need to be rooted out; one must try to understand and know others before forming preconceived notions. Hearsay and passive acceptance of what society as a whole imposes on us, leads to more complex prejudices and discriminatory practices.