It is our culture that has built many stereotype images of men and women, and over a period of time and most people accepts it as the right image.

As women are just for staying at home and take care of children and man must focus on career and take all the responsibility of the house. This stereotype has been indented into the minds of our population and needs to be dismantled.  This stereotype is not only amongst men, even most women internalize their position in society as a fair description of their status through the ages.

Women can thus be described as a social category; low access to productive resources, medical facilities, educational and employment opportunities and various other social and economic discriminations faced by them.

Women play various roles from a mother to that of a breadwinner but are almost always subordinated to male authority; largely excluded from high status  occupation and decision making both at work and at home.

Indian society is such where women goddesses are worshipped, but women are denied an independent socio economic-identity and status. A paradoxical situation faced in India.

In this section we will comprehensively cover various dimensions concering women , their role in society , role of women organizations etc.


  • Sex is a biological term referring to a specific human species . Terms males and females are biological terms referring to biological differences
  • Gender is a sociological term referring to different values attached to sections of society . The terms masculine or feminine term represents gender . These values generate traditional role expectations leading to what are known as gender roles i.e what men and women are preferred / expected to do in a society .
    • Gender roles involve idea of preference i.e. men should do ‘X’ job , women ‘Y’ job etc .
    • Geneder roles helps to know nature of society eg masculine or feminine
    • Division of labour on basis of sex is not a problem . But problem in society occurs when society starts curtailing freedom of either gender or we call either of gender’s role as inferior or superior.
    • Gender roles are seldom treated as equal rather the values of superiority or inferiority are attached leading to gender discrimination . Gender discrimination must be understood in terms of various disabilities or restrictive practices imposed upon women .
    • Gender discrimination leads to gender disparities referring to differential achievement of male and female in society . The overall situation is one of overall gender inquality in terms of roles , discriminatory practices etc .


With establishment of welfare state and growing influence of participatory political system , it was considered essential that the welfare of all sections of population is a prerequisite for a modern state . In this context understanding the role of women becomes important as women constitutes almost 50% of total population.

    • Traditionally role of women in society was influenced by various cultural prescriptions governing the status of women in society. Primarily these cultural prescriptions originated from religion which acted as grand ethical system aiming at controlling the behaviour of people .
    • Traditionally role of women is a housewife . She is expected to bear and rear children and take care of household affairs like food , clothing etc .
    • Her role in decision making was considered to be limited . She also played significant role in supporting families . eg Taking care of animals and agriculture
    • In wider society role of women was considered to be limited . It was not customary for women to go out and work . However millions of women continued to work on farms , collect fuel , fodder and water etc along with their men .
    • Her role in political system was negligent apart from instances of some political rule by women Kings
    • Even in context of education role of women was almost neglected
    • In traditional society role of women was considered important . For eg Household work was considered very important for society but traditional patriarchal system imposed some restrictions , discrimination and disabilities among women.


In modern society role of women had underwent a drastic transformation . This cannot be understood in absolute terms but must be understood in terms of change and continuity . India being a transitional society , traditional and modern element influence role of women in society.

    • There is increasing incidence of working wives. Both husband and wives have their own professional lives
    • Women role in decision making is very significant now a days and both husband and wife share responsibilities for taking care of household
    • Enhanced participation in all spheres of social life redefines her role in society . Women is more actively participating in economic system in terms of jobs in public and private sector
    • There are growing instances of women entrepreneurs
    • Women’s presence in political system is low but process of increasing role is visible
    • Within family inspite of working women , she is expected to perform traditional role of houselhold management single handedly leading to double burden
    • In case of scarce resources the education and economic roles of women are often restricted
    • In wider society still women’s participation in employment is more in those spheres which are extension of their traditional role or suit the needs of traditional role expectation from family eg. nurses, nursery teachers are quite often women
    • Political role of women are considered restrictive which is reflected in her low participation in parliament and state legislative assemblies. Even in case of Panchayati Raj institutions there are instances in which women sarpanch are merely performing nominal roles like rubber stamps

Finally, restrictive role of women in society shows its presence occasionally. Following factors adversely influence the increasing role of women in society:-

  1. Practices of female infanticide or foeticide.
  2. Instances of violence against women in form of sexual harassment, rape, molestation etc.
  3. Lower role of women in decision making in terms of her own preferences for education and employment in family
  4. Lack of physical infra which restraints the movement of women. For eg Our city’s infrastructure is gendered biased (working hours are according to male workers convenience, no toilets for women , poor street lightening , poor transport etc )
  5. Continuing cultural notions about inferiority of women.


  • Sex Ratio &Mortality Rate–Sex ratio is used to describe the number of females per 1000 of males. As per census 2011 sex ratio for India is 940 females per 1000 of males
  • Health –It has been found that males get more medical care compared to girls. 51% of the female population is 12% of the female population of the country suffers from repeated pregnancy (80% of their productive life is spent in pregnancy) & lack of nutrition. Maternal Mortality Rate in India has dropped from 167 to130
  • Literacy – The female literacy levels according to the Literacy Rate 2011 census are 65.46%
  • Employment – Of the total female population 21.9% are a part of Indian Majority of women are employed in the rural areas and in agriculture. Amongst rural  women workers 87% are employed in agriculture


1.Women and Indian caste structure?

  • The subordination of women was crucial to the development of caste The higher the caste the greater were the constraints on women. It is observed that the development of gender division, based on the control of female sexuality, was integral to the formation of the social structure.
  • The control on women comes from two major aspects-
    • Women’s disinheritance from immovable property, removing them from the public sphere and limiting them to the domestic sphere in the form of seclusion.
    • Far greater control is exercised by men over women’s sexuality through arranged marriage, child marriage, the prohibition of divorce, and strict monogamy for women, leading to sati and a ban on widow remarriage, including infant or child widows.
  • These strictures were enforced most strictly by the upper castes to maintain ritual purity, biological purity, caste supremacy and economic power. Lower caste groups attempting to achieve upward status mobility with improvement in economic power, also imbibe upper caste norms of constraining women’s freedom.
  • One could hardly see men and women of different castes marrying together in traditional times due to stringent caste system


  • Family performs the function of continuity of generations and the transmission of private The role of the family in procreation  is closely intertwined with the pattern of descent and religious prescriptions/priorities. Descents are of two types: patrilineal and matrilineal.
  • In the patrilineal descent system the property of the family is transmitted through the male offspring for example, father to son. In the matrilineal system the property is transmitted through the women, for example, mother to daughter.
  • The Nairs of Kerala, the Khasis of the north-east, the Garos of the North-eastern India, and certain tribes in the Lakshdweep, practice matrilineal descent The worship of mother goddesses is prevalent in all parts of India.
  • Women were kept separate from immovable property, since such property would pass to their husband’s family on marriage. Instead women were given a portion of movable property (like jewelry) to take with them, known as dowry.
  • This provides material reason for anxiety over the birth of daughters.
  • The religious scriptures, especially the Hindu religion place a high preference for According to the code of Manu, a man could achieve merit only by protecting the purity of his wife and through her, of his sons. A son is necessary for lighting the funeral pyre of the father, propitiating the souls of agnatic ascendants through ‘shradha’ and thereby enabling the father and agnatic ascendants to attain moksha (to be relieved from rebirth).  The role of the women is to beget sons, perpetuate the male descent and facilitate the performance of rituals.
  • This hierarchy of male and female roles create differential evaluation of children with a strong son preference on the one hand and daughter neglect on the other, in terms of access to food, health care, education, freedom, rights and justice.


  • Socialization performs the function of transmitting culture, tradition, social values and norms. Apart from parental socialization in the family, various agencies like the schools, peer groups, literature and films play a role in early socialization and adult socialization.
  • Girls and boys receive differential socialization, which further perpetuate asymmetric roles and Boys are equipped with higher education and skills in order to  perform  the ‘breadwinner’s’ role and the girls are initiated into domestic chores at an early age,  given lesser education, trained to work hard and to develop low self-esteem.
  • Boys receive a status of permanence as against girls who are seen as temporary members of the Very few families enable their daughters to develop an independent identity and dignity. The family ideology which determines ‘suitability’ and ‘unsuitability’ of certain jobs for women is also reflected in job stereotyping in labour market.
  • It has been observed that school books perpetuate images of mother as the ‘housewife’, father as the ‘breadwinner’; boys playing with guns and trucks and girls playing with toys and dolls. Though several schools encourage involvement in sports for boys and girls, there are stereotyped patterns of Boys play football, basketball and cricket and girls skip and involve in restricted games. Media messages about women and girls perpetuate stereotyped sexist images which enable the media industry to maintain its market.


  • Class is defined primarily by the ownership of property or capital or economic resources. In simple terms, in a capitalist structure hierarchy is determined by wage, relation viz., people who work for a wage and people who hire workers for wages in rural areas, where the social, economic and political power coincide with caste structure.
  • The constraints on women that vary from upper to the lower castes are reinforced by the class structure as well. Women of upper castes/classes are secluded, and participate in activities in the domestic sphere.
  • Women from middle castes with medium and small holdings are more likely to work on their own fields and in certain cases work for Women from artisan castes/classes contribute to the home-based production. They belong to the bottom of the hierarchy where seclusion and restriction on social mobility are not practiced.
  • The family within the class structure also derives status from women’s education and Women perform status – maintaining and enhancing activities to the family – as educated housewives, mothers and earners. Advertisements in matrimonial columns are ample evidence of this trend.


Women do various types of work. Their work remains invisible, unrecognized, unpaid and not accounted for in the data for workforce participation.

Women were the major producer of food, textiles and handicrafts throughout human history and continue to provide a major labour input where production is still in the small scale subsistence sector.

Components of women’s work include housework, paid and unpaid work related to home- based craft activities, family enterprise or business and paid work outside home. The kind of work women do is determined by their position in the society and family’s status in the social hierarchy.


  • Economists distinguish between production for self-consumption and production for the market. Only the latter is counted as ‘work’. The parameters of work used in official data reflect this bias.
  • Much of the work that women do in household industries and processing of agricultural products, if unpaid, is not recognized as ‘work’.
  • Women engage in various activities such as cooking, processing of food for household consumption, dairying, small animal husbandry (poultry, piggery, goatery ) fisheries, handloom weaving, handicrafts, pottery etc. are family activities storing grains, childcare, fetching fuel wood, fodder and water, collection of forest produce, preparation of cow dung cakes,  care of livestock and cattle and house repair and maintenance.
  • As this work is unpaid and is not accounted for as productive work as it is meant for self-consumption. The conventional definition of ‘work’ does not include activities, which are of ‘use-value ‘and do not have exchange value
  • Non-valuation of women’s unpaid work within the home results in non-recognition of women’s crucial economic contribution.


It is astonishing to know that only 20.5% women employed in organized sector as of 2011.

    • Increased income of men: as men start to earn more, women tend to cut back their work to concentrate more on household activities.
    • Caste factor: in some upper castes, there is a stigma attached to women working outside the home.
    • Safety issues and sexual harassment at work place.
    • Increasing numbers of women of working age are enrolling in secondary schools.
    • Nature of economic growth which has not been able to create large number of jobs in sectors that could readily absorb women, especially those in rural areas.
    • Creating employment opportunities in male dominated sectors.
    • Ensuring skill training for women in key sectors
    • Increasing reach of financial sector in order to service the women entrepreneurs better
    • Strengthening legal provisions for women and the enforcement of these laws (like harassment at workplace)
    • Reshaping societal attitudes and beliefs about women participation in the labour force


  • Girls continue to provide free labour in home-based production system.
  • More girls are being inducted into work while more boys are sent to school thus widening the gap. Girls are employed in large numbers in carpet industry of Kashmir, in lock making in Aligarh, in gem polishing in Jaipur, in match industry in Sivakasi and in bidi rolling. In fact, in the match industry of Sivakasi, ninety per cent child workers are girls under the age of fourteen, working under hazardous conditions.
  • Female children working in home based industries are beyond the purview of child labour working prevents them off from schooling, literacy, learning technical skills and improving their job prospects.
  • Girls also work for wages in fields, forests, mines, factories, offices, small-scale and household industries


  • In the latter half of the twentieth century there was very little structural change in women’s The proportion of female agricultural workers which was less than one-third of the total workforce in 1951 rose to more than fifty per cent, which means greater dependence on agriculture sector.
  • In 1993-94, as many as 86.2 percent female workers were engaged in the primary sector, which includes agriculture and allied sector such as forestry, livestock , in the rural areas. Within agriculture they mostly work as agricultural labourers or cultivators.
  • The wave of Industrialization has created more work opportunities for a small section of educated women but at the same time reduced work opportunities for unskilled women workers working in textiles, jute industries As a result, women workers got concentrated in plantations, food products, tobacco and textiles,  cane and bamboo  work, silk worm, rearing coir products, domestic services, education and health services.
  • While the males migrate to urban centers during agricultural off seasons. The high concentration of women in household industries rather than factory-based production affects their status as workers with no control on their labor and earnings.


  • As far as women in services and professions are concerned there is no wage discrimination but they are concentrated in certain types of soft skill jobs like teachers, nurses, typists and stenographers and very few occupy higher positions in administration, business and technical jobs
  • Despite impressive increase in the number of educated women in urban areas the gap between men and women in the services and professions is large. It can be attributed to the following factors-
    1. Girls are generally socialized for their domestic roles.
    2. Less investment in the vocational and technical training of women
    3. Male stereotypes determine attitude to work and differential expectations from girls education, which is rarely seen as an investment for future
    4. Higher concentration of girls is found in humanities and social sciences rather than vocational and technical courses.
    5. There is less physical mobility among women after marriage.
  • However many big corporate today are headed by women, example Pepsi by Indra Nooyi, Axis Bank by Shikha Sharma, ICICI Bank by Chanda Kocchar


Despite the prominent and high visibility of few women at all levels of political leadership women remain under-represented . There number has never gone > 20% in Lok sabha or state assemblies . One of the weakness in political strategies of women organization has been the inability to mobilize ordinary women and issues which concerned them . Lack of efforts to reach masses and expand base of women movement limited its effectiveness and agenda for action.

 Political Status of Women

  • The number of women in the Parliament has never crossed the 20% mark till 50% of the population is represented by less than 20% participation is a clear indication of the poor political status of women.
  • The government had proposed a reservation for women in the Parliament, but the bill has still now been passed.
  • In the Panchayats, 33% of the seats are reserved for This has led to development of many women leaders, but in many places the concept of sarpanch pati has emerged where the women is just the nominal sarpanch, whereas her husband is the real decision making authority.
  • Such practices needs to be discouraged, and women should be provided with more political empowerment.
  • Political empowerment to women can have the following impacts:
    • More focus on women related issues
    • More sensitive handling of women related issues at the top level can have an immense impact on the status of women
    • It would help in inspiring other women to take up such roles, and thus it can help create multiple women leaders

WOMEN AND PANCHAYTI RAJ: 1 million women entered panchayats after 73rd constitutional amendment act . 40 % represented marginalized sections and most of them had no previous political experience . So there were apprehensions regarding women being manipulated by men . Despite these apprehensions large number of women in panchayats had indeed a deep impact on gender equity.

  • Status
    • The constitution prescribes only a minimum reservation of 33% seats for women in panchayat . But states have leeway to mandate more than that level . eg In Bihar , Chattisgarh , Madhya Pradesh etc has 50 % reservation at Panchayati raj level
    • Reservation has inspired and prompted women to take up 1st elections and its withdrawal (Reservations are rotated after 5years is a big problem) , an important reason for not contesting the elections again.
    • Now majority (> 50 % ) of women representatives are no more proxy of their male patrons and taking decisions independently . This is a big achievement.
    • Though attendance of women in Gram sabhas is increasing but issues related to planning for rural development , identification of BPLs is mainly done by male patrons.
    • Many women belonging to Self Help groups have stepped Into Panchayats . These women are bringing their experiences in governance of state . Thus making state sensitive to the issues of poverty , inequality and gender injustices.
  • Issues
    • It is easier to legislate representation but rather a complex and difficult task to create conditions for participation . Proper representation does not automatically lead to proper participation. Elected women representative ( EWRs) have to be in position to take decisions and implement schemes for economic and social development.
    • Surrogate participation of women : Where cultural and social system is highly patriarchal , proxy participation continues.
    • Lack of availability of forums and proper grievance redressal mechanism for gender related issues implies that EWRs are playing only minor roles in decision making.
    • Reservations in favor of women do not make much sense in a situation where emphasis on consensus on decision making as in decision making usually only the strongest voices are heard.
  • Suggestions
    • There should be a separate quorum for attendance of women at Gram Sabhas metting. Provisions may be made that meetings of gram sabhas be preceded by Mohalla sabhas so that gender concerns and preferences get fully reflected in proceedings of gram sabhas.
    • Intervals between rotation of reservation for women need to be extended . If reservation is rotated after every 5 years term , it leaves very little incentive for a member elected on reserved seat to perform ( as she knows , next time less or no chance to win).

Constitutional Rights to Women

The rights and safeguards enshrined in the constitution for women in India are listed below:

  • The state shall not discriminate against any citizen of India on the ground of sex [Article 15(1)].
  • The state is empowered to make any special provision for women. In other words, this provision enables the state to make affirmative discrimination in favor of women [Article 15(3)].
  • No citizen shall be discriminated against or be ineligible for any employment or office under the state on the ground of sex [Article 16(2)].
  • Traffic in human beings and forced labour are prohibited [Article 23(1)].
  • The state to secure for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood [Article 39(a)].
  • The state to secure equal pay for equal work for both Indian men and women [Article 39(d)].
  • The state is required to ensure that the health and strength of women workers are not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their strength [Article 39(e)].
  • The state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief [Article 42].
  • It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women [Article 51-A(e)].
  • One-third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat shall be reserved for women [Article 243-D(3)].
  • One-third of the total number of offices of chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level shall be reserved for women [Article 243-D(4)].
  • One-third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality shall be reserved for women [Article 243-T(3)].
  • The offices of chairpersons in the Municipalities shall be reserved for women in such manner as the State Legislature may provide [Article 243-T(4)].


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