Chapter 11: Institutional Impediments to Women’s Empowerment in Rural India
Kartik C. Roy INTRODUCTION Institutions set the conditions under which the process of empowerment works. The lives of poor women in rural India are governed by a number of such institutional factors, the most prominent among them being social customs and taboos. These exercise strong inﬂuence on other institutional factors aﬀecting women’s empowerment such as education and property rights. In this chapter, we discuss how the ‘ideology of seclusion’ embodying social customs and traditions imposes gender-based discrimination on women in their daily lives within and outside the surroundings of their homes, in pursuit of education and in exercising their property rights. The forces of the ‘ideology of seclusion’ need to be weakened to facilitate the empowerment process. Globalisation, by lessening the forces of the ‘ideology of seclusion’, can facilitate the empowerment process of women. Economic empowerment is crucial to the success of any empowerment programme. But even when a woman is economically empowered, her social status may not improve because of lack of conducive social institutions. On the other hand, a woman may not be economically empowered if there is a lack of conducive economic institutions. Institutions therefore, are rules both formal and informal that bring predictability and stability in modern economic exchange. The absence of contract empowerment and property rights comes down harder on the poor, since they often lack secure property and have limited, if any, political connections. Among them, poor women suﬀer most as they receive limited support from institutional factors. The lives of...
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