So where are the women??

The appalling statistics of male:female ratios in most Indian states is a matter of considerable public debate and concern. Today-Raksha Bandhan- there is a particularly poignant story in the papers, of a village in Rajasthan where the 10 girls will tie rakhis on the wrists of all the young men, some 250 of them, since none of the boys have sisters. Surviving, at any rate... With these numbers, it is perhaps just as well that Article 377 has recently been quashed!

At the same time, the overall invisibility of women is another matter of concern. Invisible Women, Visible Histories: Gender, Society and Polity in North India (VII to XII Century AD) by Devika Rangachari is a recent publication from Manohar that examines history from a gendered viewpoint, studying "the early medieval period in north India through a study of prominent - but representative - regional kingdoms located in Kashmir, Kanauj and across Bengal and Bihar. The book shows that the role and status of women differed considerably according to their regional contexts. The picture, therefore, is not a unifies one, thereby stressing the fact that sweeping statements on women cannot be made to apply to early medieval north India as a whole. The pivotal importance of gender in any historical reconstructions of the early medieval period in north India is thereby underscored."

Rawat Jaipur, one of the major publishers in the social sciences, have a number of books that examine such questions. For instance Bhaswati Das and Vimal Khawas (Eds.) volume, Gender issues in Development: Concerns for the 21st century. "Gender issues are wide and spread over the entire gamut of development. Over the decades it appeared to be the most intriguing for development plans. The present book, which is an outcome of a national seminar, held under the auspices of Council for Social Development, New Delhi, is an attempt to look into the gender issues involved in different development activities. The contributors are drawn from different social science backgrounds such as economics, sociology, demography, geography and anthropology. This is done purposely to have perspectives of all these disciplines in one single book."

Sangeeta Bharadwaj-Badal, in her Gender, Social Structure and Empowerment: Status R
eport of Women in India asks the all important question, " Is the persistence of female-male gaps in human development in India indicative of the low status assigned to women in that cultural setting? Are the various gender ideologies rooted in the different kinship structures leading to a subordinate status of women in India? Does economic development interact with kinship patterns to produce spatial variations in gender relations in India? Do these structural processes affect women's status differently in different parts of India? In other words, does place play a role in the constitution of gender differences in India? The book focuses on the mutual interdependence of gender relations, development levels, and social stratification without underestimating the full significance of each in Indian society.

The earlier narrow focus that considered status as a unitary construct and sought a universal explanation of the low status of women has been replaced in this work by a multidi
mensional view that argues for conceptualizing status broadly in terms of its economic, social and political dimensions. The contrasting performance of specific states/districts on each dimension clearly indicates that the dynamic and variable nature of women's status cannot be captured by any one dimension. It is observed that women's status is affected by kinship structures, development levels and social stratification, which vary over space and time individually and in interaction with each other. It is this variation that leads to differences in women's position from one region of India to another."

The Sage list on Gender issues is as diverse and as interesting. Prem Chowdhury's edited Gender discrimination in land ownership "analyzes the different degrees of discrimination meted out to women by the country’s inheritance laws and the corresponding customary practices in tribal societies. It also exposes the current socio-legal structure in the country, which systematically denies women the accessibility to and ownership of productive resources.

This book is eleventh in the series ‘Land Reforms in India’, initiated by the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. The volume contains 14 well-researched chapters through which distinguished scholars look into the discrimination faced by women in various states of India. Highlighting the fact that different regions subject women to varied forms of discrimination, these chapters reveal that these emanate from various customs and practices, Shastric prescriptions and the Muslim personal laws (Shariat) which were crystallized during the British regime and further consolidated in the post-colonial period through various union, state and concurrent laws."

And finally, Living the Body: Embodiment, Womanhood and Identity in Contemporary India by Meenakshi Thapan which "explores the development of a sociology of embodiment in the context of women’s lives in contemporary, urban India. Through a critical analysis of gender and class, the author unravels the complexities that are intrinsic to the multi-layered and fluid construction of woman’s identity in relation to embodiment. Living the Body: Embodiment, Womanhood and Identity in Contemporary India is the first book that unfolds an understanding of women’s experience of embodiment by a careful analysis of the facts gathered from an Indian metropolis. The author brings out numerous voices representing multiple subjectivities through interviews of working class slum women, professional upper class women, adolescent young women in secondary schools and in a slum, and the visual and textual representation of women in a women’s magazine in English."

In our Gender Studies section.

Invisible Women, Visible Histories, Rs 1295, hardcover, 532 pages, ISBN: 9788173048081 
Gender issues in Development, Rs 750, hardcover, 328 pages, ISBN: 9788131601914
Gender, Social Structure & Empowerment Rs 625, hardcover 232 pages, ISBN: 9788131602393
Gender discrimination in land ownership Rs 795, hardcover 352 pages, ISBN:9788178299426
Living the Body Rs 550, Hardcover 220 pages, ISBN: 9788178299013