Understanding Hegemony through Caste in UP

Caste and gender are the major structural elements of Indian society. These two elements are the tools through which hierarchy is maintained. Caste in India is a type of social stratification, hereditary by nature. In this system, the status of a person is ascribed, not achieved, based on the status of the family into which he/she is born.

The hierarchy of caste systems is rigid and is strictly maintained through socio-cultural practices. It restricts the mobility between different caste groups by practicing endogamy. For rigorously maintaining endogamy, women have to be kept under stern control. So, women are covered under the dual identity of caste and gender. In order to understand the status of women we need a caste-class –gender lens. It is only by adopting this three- fold lens that the intersection of gender and caste discrimination can be understood. By understanding caste and gender dynamics, a true comprehension of key social relations and social inequalities, faced by women in India emerges. This analytical lens highlights how women become instruments through which the social system replicates itself and systemic inequality is maintained: how they were denied opportunities, choices and freedoms at multiple levels, that undermine not only their dignity and self-respect, but also their right to development.

We need to understand the dynamics of caste, since patriarchy is a common denominator in all caste, sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit. Prior to understanding the horizontal suppression of gender within the caste, we must understand the vertical suppression of caste in our society. In order to understand, the effect of caste on women, we have to be aware how caste shapes the lives of women. We must investigate why the concept of caste makes women subordinate everywhere in Indian society. Caste works as a tool to construct a close structure, to preserve land and women. Purity of caste can only be maintained by closely guarding women. Such notions are repeatedly maintained by the dharma sastras and manusmriti. Hegemony of gender is closely connected to caste hegemony. So, to understand gender hierarchy, we should know how caste is constructed and functions in Indian society.

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