Women and Democracy in India

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Institutionen för kultur och kommunikation


The purpose of the thesis is to present how twelve women from different segments of society define democracy and how they experience democracy in their daily life. Through meetings and interviews I wanted to learn what these women consider democracy in India to be, how they recognise democracy and rights associated with democracy in their daily lives and how they reflect upon gender equality in relation to democracy.

This thesis is the result of a two-month field study in Maharashtra and interviews with twelve women from different segments of society. The women have been divided into three different groups based on educational level, aiming to find patterns of similarities and differences in how democracy is defined and recognised.

Women from the first group, illiterate or with only a few years in school, are aware of their right to vote in elections but not all of them have heard the word democracy. None of them are involved in any kind of organisation or self-help group, they either lack interest in politics or have relatives not allowing them to enter the public sphere. Democratic rights and gender equality are not recognised in their daily lives. Their opportunity to change their situation is limited.

Women from the second group are active in either politics or in an organisation. They know the word democracy and their rights associated with the concept. All of these women have basic education and families supporting them in their political engagements. Family is very important in India, in all endeavours of a woman’s life; education, job and whom to marry.

The third group includes women with higher education, a vocational degree. They are much aware of their democratic rights, but recognise difficulties for women to claim upon them in different stages and situations of their lives. The situation of women is complex, they have the possibility to enter the public sphere, but women with careers inevitably have two jobs: the employment and the responsibility over the household. Women can enter the public sphere earlier dominated by men, but men entering the private sphere and taking part in household chores seem not to be possible in the near future.

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