Tata Institute of Social Sciences
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Sixth National Conference on Intersectionality, Religious Minorities and Development of Women in India


March 26, 2019 10:00AM - March 27, 2019 6:00PM

Venue: TISS

Despite significant innovation and improvement over the years in legislations and social practices related to women, gender justice remains a far cry. For a majority of women in the country, irrespective of their class, creed and regional locations, the ‘right to property’, ‘education’ and ‘freedom’ remain distant dreams and their lives revolve around the male dominated social practices. The question of their security and equity is also in complex ways linked with their identity of caste, religion, region and ethnicity. They undergo a complex oppressive process perpetuated both by the larger society as well as internal patriarchal and unequal practices of their own communities. The opposition to women’s right in India shows that none of the religious groups have attempted to empower the women in holistic ways where they can fully enjoy their right as ‘citizens’. Women have been prisoners of the communities regulated by the personal laws of the specific religious groups.

Further, the women of the marginalised communities have often been targets of oppression and violence by the dominant groups. Rape, murder and women targeted violence during caste and religious violence in the country provide ample evidence for this. This shows that women in India are undergoing double and triple oppression. First, as women in the overall patriarchal system of the country and deprived of their right to equality through various traditional practices and by the national laws; second, varied subjugation by religious and ethnic groups and torture and tormentations within the communities; third, women belonging to minority communities, during the time of conflicts, suffer maximum violence on their mind and body. This results in overall deprivation of women – poor health, education and even access to justice. The challenges to women’s right need to be viewed from various perspectives: the intersectionality and location of ‘women’ in the complex social matrix becomes very important to understand their deprivations. Therefore, where one needs to talk about the situation of overall well-being of women as citizens, one also needs to look into their situation as members of specific communities, and the social and economic location of the communities itself. The efforts, as such, need to be calibrated accordingly for empowerment and overall well-being of the women.

The data related to various aspects of women’s lives very well supports the above arguments. The overall sex ratio in the country is critical. It is medically proved that girls are able to survive more than boys and nature does not discriminate in terms of sex in reproduction process. However, due to use of medical technologies in sex biased abortions, the sex ratio of women has been significantly lower in the country. Available data show that there is a deficit of about 6 women per 100 men (943 female per 1000 male). More worrisome is the child sex ratio, wherein there is a deficit of about 8 females child per 100 male child, that is 918 female child (0-6 years) per 1000 male child (Census of India 2011). It is ironical that the communities who are economically more developed, educationally more advanced and politically more dominant have lower sex ratios than those communities which do not perform well in these indices. For instance, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains in 2011 had sex ratio of 939 (931 in 2001), 903 (893 in 2001) and 954 (940 in 2001) respectively, while relatively under-developed communities like Muslims and Buddhists had sex ratio of 951 (936 in 2001) and 965 (953 in 2001), respectively in the same years. While child sex ratio for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains in the same year was 913 (925 in 2001), 828 (786 in 2001), and 889 (870 in 2001) respectively, in comparison to 943 (950 in 2001) and 933 (942 in 2001) for Muslims and Buddhists respectively. This shows that economic and political development may not correspond with the gender-just development.

However, in contrast to overall female literacy rate of 55.97% for Hindus, 84.92% for Jains, in 2011, the female literacy among Muslims in the same year was only 51.89%. The female work participation rate in 2011 was least among Jains (12.0%), followed by Muslims and Sikhs, with only 15.0% each. Among Hindus and Buddhists it was 27.0% and 33.0% respectively in the same year.

Both domestic and other crimes against women in India have significantly risen over the years. Data available show that the annual rape rate (number of rape per 100,000 persons) in India has increased from 1.9 to 2.0 over 2008-2012 period. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 24,206 rape cases were registered in India in 2011. The latest estimate suggest a new case of rape being reported every 22 minutes. In 2012, the conviction rate for rape was 24.2%. This shows that most of the perpetrators of crime against women are not brought to justice.

Although Constitution of India ensures gender equality and it is well enshrined in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles, the social and political reality over the past decades is far from being ‘gender-just’. The representation of women in state legislative assemblies and in parliament is still very low. In Panchayat Raj institutions, by the virtue of reservation, their percentage has risen, but the male relatives (husbands, brothers, fathers etc.) of these female representatives still largely rule as proxies. This shows that empowerment of women in the country is still a far cry.

Personal laws related to different religious communities still present challenges to the rights of women in India. The family and property laws are the major components of personal laws in the country. These laws are yet to be reformed adequately and updated to provide equal rights to women in property-ownership, family matters, rights against exploitation by husband, divorce, domestic violence, etc. The personal laws in India are at various stages of evolution and need quick reforms. There is no doubt that the specifics of religious matters need to be protected but obscurantist and gender unjust practices and manipulation of even religious laws by the patriarchal clergy need to be overcome. India will not be able to take the advantage of its demographic dividend and develop unless the women are assured their rights and provided equal and just share in benefits and burdens the country has to offer.

However, there are some religious minority communities like Muslims who from the very beginning have had women centric and favourable religious laws and customs which have been over the time distorted and changed in favour of men. Further, the progressive sections of Muslim community in recent years have been making efforts not only to bring back the religion enshrined women rights but also to bring out a reformative change in those practices, as have been undertaken in many Islamic countries. Muslims women are now increasingly coming to the public sphere and are making their presence felt in education and employment sectors.

It is, therefore, felt that there is a need for effective academic engagement for helping policy formulation and sensitisation of the society around the themes related to women’s right and development in India. In other words, The proposed National Seminar (on 25-26 March 2019) will attempt to discuss and deliberate on socio-economic situation of religious minority women in the country and how minority women can use the government development schemes for their progress. In this regard, the broad themes, though not only limited to, for deliberation and discussions will be:

  • Socio-economic situation of religious minorities and women belonging to the weaker section of the society in India
  • Entrepreneurship, work participation, educational attainments and political representation
  • Constitutional provisions and rights of women
  • Community resources and Waqf in development
  • Government Schemes for women development
  • The way out and learning from other societies/countries

Papers are invited on the above-mentioned themes. The last date for submission of Abstract (at least 500 words) is February 28, 2019. It is expected that all the papers in draft form would be submitted to the Convenors of the Seminar on the day of the seminar. Selected papers would be published in a volume.

The abstract should be emailed to: ci.seminar2019@gmail.com

There is no registration fee for the seminar. Participants are requested to make their own arrangements of travel and stay.


Professor Abdul Shaban
[Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Deonar, Mumbai -400088]

Dr. TF Thekkekara [IAS, Retd]
[Former Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, Mumbai]

Ms. Zinat Aboli
[Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Media, Mithibai College, Mumbai]

For seminar related logistics, please contact

Mr. Rinku: 9892262779

Ms. Meghamrita Chakraborty: 9967644177

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