Prof (Dr) Nirupama Prakash of BITS, Pilani, India is holding a Summer course here in Maryland. The course (WMST 498A/SLCC 498I) is titled “Culture, Caste and Women in Indian Society”. For the ones to be more interested, “this course is intended to examine the status of women in Indian society and explore the issues & challenges in process of empowerment. Uniqueness of Indian women stem from the social location which apart from being post-colonial also represents the global character of modern achievers.
I am assisting the professor in some minor ways and preparing to show a movie or two to encourage a class discussion. The course will explicate the inherent complexities in progression of Indian women from being rendered a subject status by a patriarchal society dominated by male rulers, to the subjugated women’s struggle to reclaim centrality in modern India.
Women’s status in India is bound with social, cultural and economic factors that influence all aspects of their lives. There are strong cultural influences on fertility, preference for sons, education of the girl child, age at marriage, dowry system, widowhood, decision-making, child-bearing practices, nutritional status, access to health care and degree of access to the outside world. All these factors have profound implications on the status of women in India. The course also reflects on various facets of Indian culture, viz., institutions of caste, tribes, family, marriage and also highlights the policy issues for development of Indian society with focus on gender issues.