Gender, Religion and Caste

Gender, Religion and Caste in Politics

It is often said that in politics nothing happens by accident. To garner votes, politicians use every arrow in their quiver. Some bases on which they deploy vote bank tactics are gender, religion and even caste. Let us see how all these factors play a big part in politics.

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Gender and Politics

There is never any doubt that men and women are different on the basis of biology. And this differentiation also carries through to our society as various stereotypes. But one field which is often ignored when it comes to gender bias is that of politics. In the current political scenario of the world, and especially of  India women are very poorly represented.

The problem really stems from the role women play in India’s patriarchal society. Education of women is not a priority for most families in India. Their role is considered to be of household work and raising children. This is unpaid invisible work, and our society is a culprit of ignoring this work that women do.

Unfortunately, due to this perception of women, the participation of women in politics of the country also suffers. Did you know that the number of women in the central government crossed the barrier of 10% representation for the first time in 2009? Even today compared to other developing countries of the world, India’s gender gap in politics is one of the worst in the world.

Steps have been taken to remedy the situation. In our lower level of governments, i.e. the panchayats and the municipalities there is a reservation of one-third seats for women. This ensures that women have their representative and a chance of their voices being heard. But the same needs to be done at the state and central levels. A bill proposing this has been pending for almost a decade.

Religion and Politics

Religion in politics(Source: HubPages)

The Indian Constitution very clearly states that India does not have an official religion. We are a “secular state”. People of all religions in India have the right to practice any religion they may choose. And there can be no discrimination based on these rights. But in reality, religion plays a huge part in Indian politics.

It starts with the idea of Communalism. The idea behind communalism is that one religion or ethnic group will consider itself superior to another. And the members of this religion will always align with their own party, rather than think about the wider society. As you can imagine this feeling of communalism perpetuates easily.

Ever since the introduction of political parties in our country, this communalism has been exploited to gain political power. For them, it is a way to gather votes on the basis of religion. And more often than not they bring up the issues of majority versus minority religions, to stoke the fires of communalism. This creates separation among the people, rather than a uniting spirit.

Surprisingly forming a political party on the religion or caste is not illegal in India. Freedom to practice any religion gives them the right to assemble such groups and parties. But in the name of protecting the interests of their members, at times these parties spread intolerance and communal bias. And we as alert citizens should not fall into this trap.

Caste and Politics

Just like religion, caste to plays a big part in Indian politics. But this aspect is actually quite unique to our country. Nowhere else in the world is caste and casteism so deeply embedded in the society and politics of a country.

Our caste system, which has prevailed since the ancient times, was so rigid and widespread it has been difficult to eradicate it completely. We have made progress due to urbanization and modernization, but we have not been successful in eradicating it completely. While it is almost non-existent in major cities now, the caste system still somewhat prevails in villages and towns.

Political parties take advantage of the fact that people from one caste tend to vote alike. They choose a candidate based on his caste rather than his qualifications. You will notice during an election, if the demographic is largely comprised of people from one particular caste, all political parties will field candidates from the same caste. This could be at the expense of more qualified candidates.

One positive effect of this has been that people from the so-called lower caste or suppressed caste now have a voice at the policy level. They have representatives from among their own, who understand their struggles and problems. Because these people and their votes are important to the political parties, they finally have a say in our countries politics.

Caste and politics also have a reverse effect. Politics also affects caste in our country. One major change it has brought about is that many smaller castes and sub-castes unite for political reasons. They realize that they will have strength in numbers, and form alliances within themselves. There is also a further segregation happening according to political powers enjoyed by the group. We often see tags attached such as backward caste groups or forward class groups.

Solved Questions for You

Q: Literacy rate among women in 2011 was

  1. 72%
  2. 55%
  3. 82%
  4. 65%

Ans: The correct answer is option “D”. The literacy rate among women is 65% as compared to 82% among men. This is because a smaller proportion of girls go for higher studies, as parents prefer to spend their resources on the boy’s education.

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