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Barriers to higher education: commonalities and contrasts in the experiences of Hindu and Muslim young women in urban Bengaluru.
Compare. 2016 Sep 15; 1-15.Gender inequalities in educational attainment have attracted considerable attention and this article aims to contribute to our understanding of young women’s access to higher education. The article is based on our in-depth interviews with 26 Hindu and Muslim young women attending colleges in urban Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), south India, and explores the barriers they confronted in fulfilling their aspirations. We highlight the similarities amongst the young women, as well as the distinctive experiences of the Hindu and Muslim interviewees. Financial constraints, lack of safety for women in public space, and gender bias, gossip and social control within the family and the local community affected Hindu and Muslim interviewees in substantially similar ways. For the Muslim interviewees, however, gender disadvantage was compounded by their minority status. This both underlines the importance of incorporating communal politics into our analysis and undermines popular discourses that stereotype Muslims in India as averse to girls’ and young women’s education.
Journal of Biosocial Science. 2016 Jun 13; 1-26.Hindus and Muslims together account for 94% of the population of India. The fertility differential between these two religious groups is a sensitive and hotly debated issue in political and academic circles. However, the debate is mostly based on a period approach to fertility change, and there have been some problems with the reliability of period fertility data. This study investigated cohort fertility patterns among Hindus and Muslims and the causes of the relatively higher level of fertility among Muslims. Data from the three National Family Health Surveys conducted in India since the early 1990s were analysed using a six-parameter special form of the Gompertz model and multiple linear regression models. The results show a gap of more than 1.3 children per woman between those Muslim and Hindu women who ended/will end their reproductive period in the calendar years 1993 to 2025. The socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of Muslims explain 31.2% of the gap in fertility between Muslims and Hindus, while the desire for more children among Muslims explains an additional 18.2% of the gap in fertility.
Assessing Hindu–Muslim Fertility Differentials in West Bengal: insights from the National Family Health Survey-3 Data.
Journal of Family History. 2016 Apr 1; 41(2):192-224.Religion, class–caste factors, and sociocultural norms influence fertility rates, largely determining reproductive behavior. Hindu–Muslim fertility differentials in West Bengal, India, are examined through characteristics and interaction hypotheses tests using National Family Health Survey-3 data. Results reveal most Hindu women have at least two births while Muslim women are likely to have at least four births, before avoiding subsequent births. Multiple classification analysis implies prevalent socioeconomic characteristics cause this fertility differential. Fertility differences are also noticed between lesser- and better-educated women groups, implying a strong religion–women education level interaction effect. The same holds true for the religion–son preference interaction effect as well.
Population and Development Review. 2015 Sep 15; 41(3):439-463.This article studies early childhood health in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, focusing on inequalities in anthropometric outcomes by religious adherence. India and Nepal have Hindu majorities, while Bangladesh is predominantly Muslim. The results suggest that Muslim infants have an advantage over Hindu infants in height-for-age in India (for boys and girls) and in Bangladesh (for boys). However, this advantage disappears beyond 12 months of age, at which point Hindu children in all three countries are found to have significantly better anthropometric outcomes than Muslim children. We report tests that rule out mortality selection and undertake falsification and robustness exercises that confirm these findings. Further results suggest that exposure to Ramadan fasting in utero may lead to positive selection of Muslim male infants, partially explaining the Muslim infant health advantage, but this does not fully explain the shift from Muslim advantage in infancy to Hindu advantage in childhood in all three countries.
Culture, Health and Sexuality. 2014 Apr 4;  p.Menstrual stigma has been demonstrated in many societies. However, there is little research on menstrual attitudes in South Asia, despite religiously-based menstrual restrictions imposed on women. To understand menstrual stigma in this context, we conducted qualitative research with women in Nepal. Nepali Hinduism forbids menstruating women to enter a temple or kitchen, share a bed with a husband or touch a male relative. During menstruation, women are ‘untouchable’. There has been virtually no research on how Nepali women make meaning of these practices. The current study employed focus groups and individual interviews to understand how some Nepali women experience menarche and menstrual stigma. We explored how women describe their experiences and the strategies they adopt to manage age-old stigma in a rapidly modernizing society where they have multiple roles as workers, wives and mothers. Participants reported they experienced menarche with little preparation, which caused distress, and were subjected to ongoing stigmatization as menstruating women. They described coping strategies to reduce the effects of this stigma. This study provides a unique perspective on coping with menstrual stigma in South Asia.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 1999; 67(1):1-32.There is a well known practice in India during which a man sets fire to a wife who did not fulfill his “needs and expectations.” The ideal man is cruel to his wife, repeatedly rejecting her despite her faithfulness to her husband. Furthermore, the ideal woman maintains her loyalty and devotion to her husband despite this treatment, and does not shy from the tradition of fire. This article discusses the Hindu phenomenon that is still embraced by many Hindus, both male and female. Various types of literature praise the practice as a “fundamental of [the] culture.” However, experts are beginning to look deeper into the women, men, and society who engage in such behavior to determine the true worth behind the tradition.
Development of leadership self-efficacy and collective efficacy: adolescent girls across castes as peer educators in Nepal.
Global Public Health. 2009 May; 4(3):284-302.Local nongovernmental organizations developed a peer education program in three districts of Nepal that paired girls from different castes and different educational levels. The program sought to increase peer educators' (PE) leadership and collective efficacy for informing peers and adults about the effects that menstrual restrictions and HIV awareness and prevention have on women and girls. In total, 504 girls were selected and trained as PEs. They conducted targeted discussion sessions with other girls and organized mass awareness events, reaching 20,000 people. Leadership self-efficacy, which was a central theoretical construct for the program, provided a strong predictor of both increased HIV knowledge and of practicing fewer menstrual restrictions. The project demonstrated that girls from different castes and educational backgrounds are able to work together to change individual behavior and to address socio-cultural norms that affect their lives and well-being within their communities.
Communal violence in Gujarat, India: Impact of sexual violence and responsibilities of the health care system.
Reproductive Health Matters. 2008 May; 16(31):142-152.Situations of chronic conflict across the globe make it imperative to draw attention to its gendered health consequences, particularly the violation of women's reproductive and sexual rights. Since early 2002 in Gujarat, western India, the worst kind of state-sponsored violence against Muslims has been perpetrated, which continues to this day. This paper describes the history of that violence and highlights the mental and physicial consequences of sexual and gender-based violence and the issues that need to be addressed by the police, the health care system and civil society. It draws upon several reports, including from the International Initiative for Justice and the Medico Friend Circle, which documented the reproductive, sexual and mental health consequences of the violence in Gujarat, and the lacunae in the responses of the health system. The paper calls for non-discrimination to be demonstrated by health personnel in the context of conflict and social unrest. Their training should include conflict as a public health problem, their roles and responsibilities in prevention, treatment and documentation of this "disease", and focus on relevant medico-legal methodology and principles, the psychological impact of sexual assault on victims, and the legal significance of medical evidence in these cases. (author's)
Risk of HIV infection but not other sexually transmitted diseases is lower among homeless Muslim men in Kolkata.
AIDS. 2007 Oct; 21(16):2231-2235.The objective was to compare the risk of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) among homeless Muslim (circumcised) and Hindu (uncircumcised) men in Kolkata, India. Many observational studies and clinical trials in Africa have demonstrated that male circumcision provides protection against HIV acquisition, but there are sparse data on circumcision and HIV in India, which has the largest number of HIV cases in the world. Using a two-stage probability proportionate to size cluster design among homeless men aged 18-49 years in Kolkata, India, data were obtained on religion, behavioral risk factors, and HIV/STD prevalence, by administering an anonymous questionnaire. Rapid HIV tests and testing for syphilis were performed on blood, and urine samples were obtained to test for gonorrhea. The odds ratio for HIV among Muslims (circumcised) compared to Hindus (uncircumcised) was 0.43 (95% confidence interval 0.29-0.67). Despite Muslims having more partners and visits to commercial sex workers, the rates of syphilis and gonorrhea were similar. The results suggest that a biological effect of circumcision protects against HIV infection. The beneficial effect of circumcision should be communicated to high-risk groups, as well as to the general population. (author's)
Anthropologist. 2006 Oct; 8(4):275-281.This review illustrates that differences in kinship system between north (by an large patrilineal) and south (by an large matrilineal) of India is an important factor to bring about regional disparities in sex preference of children by the Hindu parents but not by the Muslim parents in whom Kinship system is traditionally unique as it shares similarity with Dravidian system in marriage pattern and inheritance from paternal side and similarity in kinship terminology with Indo Aryan system of the north while among the Hindus it is traditionally based on patrilineal inheritance, not withstanding the Hindu succession Act of 1956'. Though dowry and sex selective abortion are the determinants of status of women among the Hindus, they are generally not practiced among the Muslims. However, the lower education status, economic status and social status (due to patriarchy and religious ideologies) respectively and together produce circumstances leading to son being seen as the best socio-economic insurance by the Muslim women. This review of studies conducted on the above topic shows that high fertility among the Muslim women is also a consequence of son preference arising out of socio-economic compulsion in the traditional absence (due to strict religious prohibition) of sex selective abortions. (author's)
[Unpublished] 2007. Presented at the Population Association of America 2007 Annual Meeting, New York, New York, March 29-31, 2007.  p.Much political and intellectual energy has been expended in India (and by outside researchers interested in India) on the higher fertility of Muslims than Hindus in the country. There have been numerous attempts to explain the long-standing finding that Muslim women have more children than Hindu women, even after controlling for a range of socioeconomic variables. And several public pronouncements by political leaders as well as private discourses by citizens use the higher fertility of Muslims as one more alarming piece of evidence of their social backwardness and their potential to eventually outnumber the Hindu population. By this reckoning alone, given the much-explored demographic relationship between fertility and child survival, one would expect infant and child mortality to be higher among Muslims than Hindus in India. This expectation is buttressed by the fact that Muslim women also display so many of the other features of high mortality situations - relatively low levels of education, greater conservatism in medical matters, higher levels of poverty. (excerpt)
Indian Journal of Community Medicine. 2006 Oct-Dec; 31(4): p..In developed countries, delayed child bearing particularly the first child has attracted much attention in recent years. Gradually the thinking has been to delay the age at marriage so that the first childbirth occurs during twenties and early thirties. The gap between marriage and first live birth is termed as "first birth interval". First childbirth, an important event in the reproductive life of a female, has a direct relationship with number of factors such as couples' educational and occupational status, age at marriage etc. In addition to these factors, incomplete conceptions occurring prior to the live birth also have a definite bearing on this. For instance, in some rural parts of India, the first birth is usually delayed because of temporary separation of married partners with the female partners going over to their parents' place for some time even after marriage. This social custom plays an important role in delaying the first birth. The age at which women in developing countries like India have their first child has important consequences on the demographic character of the population. Early child bearing contributes to population growth in two ways. Firstly, in the absence of any intentional contraceptive practices, women who begin bearing children early in their life have more births than equally fecund women who begin so at older ages. Secondly, child births occurring at younger ages imply a higher rate of fertility and population growth because of the shorter length of time between generations. The present study attempts to analyze the various factors/determinants of delayed first childbirth in the capital city of Kerala. (excerpt)
Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism. 2006; 7(1):183-190.On January 15, 2005, three weeks after the Tsunami, I visited relief camps in and around North Chennai, India, with the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), which was in the process of assessing damage and reconstruction needs. AIDWA, a national organization with 450,000 members in the state of Tamil Nadu alone, was able to provide its services in the immediate aftermath of the disaster in a highly coordinated effort across the coastal areas of the state. On the very day that the tsunami hit, December 26, AIDWA activists had already begun to visit hospitals, towns, and villages to help people. Their fundamental goal to help others simply survive was evident in the city of Nagapattinam, in the Thirukkadaiyur area, where a large group of refugees from local areas had gathered for safety from the flood waters. When local officials could not agree what to do with the sudden influx of destitute people, two AIDWA activists broke the lock of a public school and opened the door to the survivors. They then mobilized their city members to collect over 800 pounds of rice to feed the refugees. January 15 was the last day of Pongal, a harvest festival in Tamil Nadu in which rice is boiled with milk until it overflows. The ritual symbolizes community hopes for a year of plenty, but in the wake of the avalanche of aid for tsunami victims, it appeared to also represent another kind of plenty: individual greed and official corruption in the distribution of resources. (excerpt)
Indian Journal of Gender Studies. 2005 May-Dec; 12(2-3):189-216.In this article I explore how diasporic matrimonial arrangements among Tamil Brahmans are settled. In recent years the preference for 'America varan' marriages has increased on account of a large number of short-term working professionals going to the US. Along with changes in the Immigration and Naturalisation Services rules, the nature of marriage-related migration of women has also changed, as many now migrate with some degree of uncertainty about their permanent stay there. Here we explore how the search for suitable partners is conducted and the kinds of social expectations that currently prevail. Marriage within the kin group, which is the distinguishing feature of Dravidian marriages, is almost wholly eclipsed by matchmaking through horoscope compatibility outside the kin circle. It is argued that while diasporic matrimonial opportunities have certainly opened up new avenues for Brahman women to move into the modern world, the matrimonial strategies deployed and accepted still reflect deep gender asymmetries in the process in spite of the changes in the nature of 'arranged marriages'. (excerpt)
Indian Journal of Gender Studies. 2006; 13(2):247-274.The ICPD advocated a new approach to population policy in the Plan of Action, one that was not demographically driven, but instead emphasised the empowerment of women, and an approach to reproductive health care. Reflecting this, the National Population Policy (NPP) enunciated in 2000 was premised upon the reproductive and child health (RCH) approach, though to the neglect of primary health care. Thus, it was not framed in demographic terms, and was committed to a voluntary, target-free approach that abjured incentives and, in particular, disincentives. Yet even before this approach, with all its limitations, could be given a fair chance, there was already manifest impatience, a call for giving greater teeth to the programme, reflected in a slew of policy initiatives with various disincentives and a two-child norm to contest elections to the panchayats. At the same time neo-liberal economic policies implemented over the same period have meant that health budgets have been substantially reduced, leading to the collapse of the already underfunded system of health care. It would thus not be an exaggeration to say that what we have is a situation of state-led collapse of the public health system, just as we have had state-induced growth of the largest and least regulated private health sector in the world. Data also indicates deceleration of employment in both rural and urban areas, a significant casualisation of the workforce, especially that involving the female labour force, and a sharpening of income inequalities with a contraction of incomes in the lower deciles of the population. Per capita calorie consumption has also declined. Thus, as health care becomes more inaccessible, expenditure on health care is emerging as the leading cause of indebtedness. Together these explain the stagnation we witness in health indices such as the infant and child mortality rates. Along with the spread of Hindutva ideologies, state policies are also actively contributing to the reinforcement of anti-female ideologies and engendering masculinity, reflected in the steep decline in the child sex ratio and the sharp increase in violence against women. It would thus perhaps not be an exaggeration to state that despite Cairo, the more things change, the more they remain the same. (author's)
Journal of Adolescence. 1994; 17:461-470.Recent evidence suggests that Asian adolescents living in the U.K. have unhealthy eating attitudes, compared with Caucasians. This study investigates whether religious affiliation (the Hindu and Muslim faiths) and gender are important factors in explaining that difference. Muslim adolescents had the most characteristic pattern of eating psychopathology, including generally less healthy eating attitudes and behaviours but more favourable scores on a scale assessing body satisfaction. The Muslim boys' eating attitudes were particularly poor relative to those of the other boys. Clinical and research work into ethnic differences in adolescents' eating attitudes should take account of the individual's religious orientation and gender. (author's)
Indian Journal of Gender Studies. 2006 Jan-Apr; 13(1):1-35.This article analyses the power of peripheral urban spaces in the creation and dissemination of a culture of female militancy. I show how poor women in the Bombay slums, by affiliating themselves with the aggressive Shiv Sena movement, came to violently control a range of physical, material and social spaces, in the process moving away from positions of subordination to occupy roles that allowed them to affect the male exercise of authority. I explore the importance of women's oral narratives by analysing the stories of migrant Shiv Sena women and their crippling encounters with a harsh slum life. The slum became a complex space that redefined and reconceptualised social groupings, and migration and relocation of unemployed people created new social and kinship networks. While sustaining a facade of being structurally muted within such an environment of constant transition, my ethnography illustrates how women (over two overlapping generations) tacitly and explicitly resisted naturalising discourses on femininity and 'the home'. I argue that slum women strategically chose to infuse their physical environments with the threat of conflict, as women's presence in (and patrolling of) these contested urban spaces became a source of real and symbolic power. (author's)
Anthropologist. 2005; 7(3):217-219.A comparative study on anthropometric measurements and adiposity indices among adult (18 - 23 years) Hindu (n=100) and Muslim (n=100) females showed significant difference (p<0.001) except maximum hip circumference. The study also revealed that Hindu females had higher overall and abdominal fat deposition than Muslim females. Comparison of body mass index cut off values (WHO, 1995) revealed that among Muslim females frequency of under nutrition was higher on the other hand among Hindu females frequency of overweight was higher than Muslim. (author's)
Journal of Social Sciences. 2005; 10(3):153-157.Marriages among the Sikh minority of the Districts of Swat, Bunair and Shangla (NWFP, Pakistan) were studied where the frequency of consanguineous marriages was found to be 21%. Marriages with distant relatives were 29.4% in the population. The inbreeding coefficient for the population was calculated to be 0.0127. Only three types of first cousin marriages (MSD, MBD and FSD) were recorded. Marriage with father's brother's daughter (FBD) was not found in the population studied. Mean inbreeding coefficient was higher for the low socioeconomic group (0.0181) and lower for the high socioeconomic group (0.0125). The trends of marriages of the minority Sikhs and majority Pukhtun populations are mostly similar. An increase in the incidence of consanguineous marriages over the years has been observed. The per cent frequencies of premature mortality and abnormality among the offspring of consanguineously married couples are higher as compared to those among the offspring of non-consanguineously married couples. (author's)
Journal of Social Sciences. 2004; 8(2):87-92.My paper explores issues of female agency within the context of popular religion in the folk culture of Orissa. June McDaniel in her study of ecstatic religion in Bengal suggests that religion has been both the way in and the way out…for women. It has been the way into a ritual tradition that supports subservience, lowered status, and a limited sphere of activity. But it has also been a way out, for religious knowledge and practice have given women freedom and a wide range of action…Religious experience serves to create and justify their religious status. The role of the holy woman allows the woman some freedom and self-determination. She has forged an independent spiritual life for herself following the commands of the goddess. (excerpt)
Reproductive Health Matters. 1996; (8):70-76.Unlike most nationalist movements, which invoke gendered images of women while repudiating their activism, Hindu nationalism has encouraged the emergence of several prominent women leaders. This paper focuses on three of the most powerful women within Hindu nationalism: Vijayrae Scindia, Uma Bharati and Sadhvi Rithambara. Having renounced their own sexuality, these three women have used their religious aura to achieve their political ambitions. Locating themselves outside the domain of political power, they speak from a position of moral superiority. They convey the message that women can assume activist roles without violating the norms of Hindu womanhood as they themselves have done. While Hinduism and Hindu nationalism may have provided them the opportunity to pursue their ambitions and develop their capabilities as women, they have not gained a deep understanding of gender asymmetry or the limits of their own power because they are women. (author's)
Journal of Human Ecology. 2004; 16(1):17-24.The importance and application of demographic studies is ever increasing. Keeping this in mind, a demographic study was conducted on Hindu Gujjars. No detailed demographic study has been conducted on Gujjars of Delhi so far. Population composition of Gujjars residing in Delhi was evaluated. The survey was conducted in five Gujjar predominated villages. Data was collected by interviewing ever-married women in the age group 15-49 years from a sample of 558 households. Sample Gujjars represents a young population which has recently experienced fertility decline. Sex ratio is high. All the females and nearly all males have ever been married by age of 29 years. There is no case of divorce or separation. Overall, among Gujjars though the literacy is high, the level of education attained is low. Younger Gujjars particularly the females show improvement in the level of education. Negligible proportions of females are employed. Many of them have combined their traditional occupation of pastoralism and marginal cultivation by working in private sectors, government offices and small businesses. Residence characteristics indicate semi-urbanized nature of settlement. (author's)
Journal of Human Ecology. 2004; 15(1):31-39.Physical growth assessment best demonstrates the health and nutritional status of children. Populations having low dietary intakes experienced a pattern of growth characterised by slow growth rate. However, slow growth is also an indicator of poor environmental conditions affecting past, present and future health. Again, a well marked seasonal effect on growth velocity has been observed in the industrialised countries of the temperate areas. Growth in height and weight are on average are fastest in spring and autumn respectively. The average velocity of height from March to May is about twice that from September to October in most of the older western European data (Tanner, 1999). Panter-Brick (1997) has shown that growth velocity among children is affected by seasonal changes and to previous growth status. Cole (1993) is of the opinion that in addition to seasonal changes, food availability, parasitic load, infection, etc. affects growth rates of children. (excerpt)
Child: Care, Health and Development. 2006 Jul; 32(4):415-421.Immunization has played a major part in reducing childhood morbidity and mortality worldwide. Knowledge of vaccine coverage and reasons for poor uptake are essential for the achievement of herd immunity. An observational study was carried out in September 2003, in 10 villages in the Vikas Nagar area around Herbertpur Christian Hospital in Uttaranchal, North India. We aimed to assess vaccination rates and potential socio-cultural, economic and religious influences on vaccine uptake. A total of 470 families were visited and details of immunization status of the oldest child under 7 years in each household were taken. Age range of children included was 9 months to 6 years. The overall primary immunization rate was 77.2%, children receiving the first booster was 73.1% and children receiving the second booster was 58.4%. The most common vaccinations to be missed were the diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus at 18 months and diphtheria, tetanus at 5 years. Measles was the most frequently omitted vaccination in the primary course (19.4%). Poor education was the most frequent reason given by parents for failure to vaccinate. Immunization rates did not differ according to gender of the child. A lower immunization rate was found in Muslim families (65.4% primary) compared with Hindu (85.2%). Parental literacy had a beneficial effect such that up to 20% more children were immunized. These results highlight the potential importance of literacy, and religious or cultural influences on the success of the Expanded Programme of Immunization, and will have important implications for areas with similar cultural demographics. (author's)
Asian Journal of Women's Studies. 2001 Dec 31; 7(4): p..This paper analyses the reproductive behavior pattern and practices prevalent among migrants of two religious communities, Hindus and Muslims, living in a slum of Delhi. It focuses on the fact that reproductive processes in general need to be viewed from a gender perspective in order to understand the sociological roots and the dynamics of existing power relations between men and women. These help reveal some of the ways in which culture transmits and reinforces ideological beliefs related to the worthiness of men and women in a particular socio-cultural context. This study thus attempts to establish that gender roles and socially given norms, rather than faith in a particular religion, prescribe an institutionalized and restricted behavior pattern for women and control reproductive processes. (author's)